DENTON Town needed to show their battling qualities to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Manchester FA Challenge Trophy.
They looked to be coasting to victory when they raced into a 3-0 first-half lead against Stretford Paddock, from the premier division of the Lancashire and Cheshire League, at the Vestacare Stadium on Saturday, November 20.
Paddock reduced the deficit to 3-2 and Town had to defend resolutely for much of the second half of the tie that was played at a neutral venue.
Joint manager Phill Cooper remarked: “We went 3-0 ahead and took our foot off the gas.
“However, we defended well after they get it back to 3-2 to see out the game.
“Dave (Pollard, joint manager) remarked we showed a bit of grit, and we were up for a scrap, something we have only shown once before this season for the draw against Whalley Range.”
Town went ahead through goals from Ethan Whitbread, Luke Cotton’s follow up after Lewis Loughman’s penalty was saved, and Reece Skelton.
They will play in the semi-final on Saturday, December 4 as they bid to reach the final as they did in 2019, the only other season they entered the competition when they lost to Heyside in the final.
Cooper is hoping the cup exploits will spark a faltering push for promotion from the first division of the Cheshire League.
Their inconsistent form has been mirrored by a win, draw and loss in their last three matches.
Cooper said: “We don’t pay players at our level and have had issues with player commitment levels. At times we have had as many as 10 players missing which has left us struggling to put out a team.
“It is difficult getting consistency in the squad when so many players aren’t available. We are hoping that will change with competition for place for the cup semi-final.”
It is an important spell for fourth-placed Town who are at leaders Vulcan on Saturday, November 27 and home to Styal on Saturday, December 11 before the break for the holiday period.
Cooper said: “We have a must-win cup game and two big league matches.
“It would be good to go into the break with three wins from those matches and then hopefully we can make a push up the table when the season resumes.”
Town’s new striker Cotton, signed from Cheshire League, premier division side Poynton, has made an instant impact with three goals in his first three matches.
The need for a new striker was brought about by an injury to Kaylem Bateson and departure of Joe Knight who had travel issues. Bateson, who has had ankle and knee issues, returned on the bench on Saturday.
Cooper and Pollard have also reinforced their squad by signing central winger Ronaldo Brown and midfielder Nosa Iyamu from Ramsbottom United on dual forms.
They will be available whenever not needed by the Northern Premier League club.
“Both players are decent and have featured at a good level so will add quality to our team,” he said.