Town leave it late to set up Trophy replay with St Albans

Harrogate Town players celebrate with their travelling supporters after Joe Leesley, centre, bagged a late equaliser at St Albans. Picture: Town Pix

Harrogate Town’s FA Trophy adventure almost came to an end at St Albans City on Saturday, but Joe Leesley’s 93rd-minute equaliser earned his side a replay.

Simon Weaver’s men trailed their National League South opponents 1-0 with time almost up, but winger Leesley was in the right place to fire home a Dominic Knowles knock down from Ryan Fallowfield’s cross to even the scores.

And that late goal means that the sides must do it all again on Tuesday evening, this time at Harrogate’s CNG Stadium.

Boss Weaver made four changes from the midweek defeat to Nuneaton as Ryan Fallowfield, Lloyd Kerry, Toby Lees and Simon Ainge replaced Jack Vann, Josh Falkingham, Ben Parker and Mark Beck.

Louie Swain was first to go close for Town, driving forward from left-back inside the opening 10 minutes and shooting just wide of the post.

Ten minutes later, Jordan Thewlis had the chance to put his side ahead after Leesley’s accurate cross, but judged his header wrong and let St Albans off the hook.

Despite the early chances falling Town’s way, the hosts forced James Belshaw into a save just before the half-hour-mark, the stopper flying to his left to deny Rhys Murrell-Williamson.

The City number 11 threatened again seven minutes before the interval, cutting inside and sending a fierce low shot past the far post.

The first period ended on a sour note for Weaver’s side, who had already withdrawn Swain due to injury earlier in the half, as Belshaw signalled he was unable to continue and was replaced between the sticks by Joe Cracknell.

Murrell-Williamson threatened againshortly after the resumption, cutting inside on his left foot and firing just wide of the upright.

St Albans were enjoying the lions’ share of possession and though Town had dealt with everything thrown at them until that point, their resilience was broken in the 66th minute as Tom Bender nodded a corner into the bottom left corner.

The visitors instantly looked for a response and almost levelled eight minutes later when Ainge’s flick released Thewlis through on goal, only for a last-ditch block to keep the forward’s finish out.

Despite their lead, the Saints continued to apply pressure in the closing minutes and almost put the tie to bed through David Noble’s well-hit drive, but Cracknell was equal to the strike.

Them, with almost the last kick of the game, substitute Knowles held the ball up and was able to tee up Leesley who gladly accepted the invitation to fire home from close to the penalty spot and send the tie to a replay.

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