Holwell’s FA Vase came to an end at the first hurdle, but John Webster’s side could well have been in the draw for the first round proper with a little more luck.
The first match in the Vase is always important, not only for the prize money at stake, but for Holwell it normally kicks their season into gear.
This match was no different for Holwell’s league rivals Dunkirk who started the day 13 league positions higher than the home side.
New signing Tyler Sibson promised to add strength up front which had been missing in recent matches, and it was Holwell who had the first chance when Shaun Smith spotted Dunkirk keeper Mitchell way out of goal, but his audacious lob was just wide.
Aaron Ridout blocked Tom Maddison’s goalbound shot as Dunkirk looked certain scorers in an end-to-end opening as the hosts held their own against their lofty opponents.
Mitchell had committed a howler on his last trip to Welby Road, gifting Holwell an easy goal, and was doing his best to assist the home side again when he threw the ball straight to Smith, and then fouled the Holwell man in an attempt to win back possession.
But the free-kick came to nothing.
Dunkirk came close against after 24 minutes when Warren Clarke’s fierce shot from the edge of the box crashed down off the underside of the bar with Holwell keeper Lawrance well beaten.
The hosts came under pressure, but did well to restrict Dunkirk to long-range efforts.
Holwell’s best chance again fell to Smith, who was having a decent game up front, set clear on goal by Michael Stevenson’s through ball.
But as he came in from the right, with time to compose himself, his curling shot went just past the right-hand upright.
Holwell went close again for minutes before half-time when David Hazeldine’s throw-in found Mark Tinsley who broke into the box with defenders around him and squeezed the ball to Stevenson whose chip went agonisingly wide.
Dunkirk started the second half at a higher tempo and scored the winning goal six minutes in.
Holwell failed to clear their lines properly and the ball was picked up by Maddison on the left and Clarke nipped in between defenders to head in his cross.
In some matches this would have led to a capitulation, but Holwell showed stern resolve as they looked for a way back.
Defending well and trying to get the upper hand up top, Holwell gave as good as they got with Stevenson and Brad Smith trying to create a clear chance for the forwards.
Webster brought on Reek for Shaun Smith and Fontoura on for Sibson, and the latter sub had an opening, created by Ridout’s through ball, beating the keeper before Dunkirk’s defence recovered to clear.
As the visitors tired, Fontoura headed wide from full-back Wood’s good cross, and with seconds left, Holwell won a free-kick on the right.
Luke Underwood sent in a great delivery which Ian Bitmead headed down towards the back post where Fontoura’s last-ditch header agonisingly came back off the post.
No-one could fault the effort put in by the home side and on another day Holwell could have been celebrating a hard-fought win.
Bit the performance could give them impetus for the league tests to come with back-to-back home games against Birstall tonight (Tuesday - 7.45pm ko) and high-flying Aylestone Park on Saturday (ko 3pm).
Holwell: Lawrance, Wood, Bitmead, Ridout, Hazeldine, Underwood, Stevenson (Randall), B. Smith, S. Smith (Fontoura), Tinsley, Sibson (Reek). Subs not used: Black, Binns.