Wymeswold FC are still in the hunt for a prestigious league and cup treble after booking their place in the County FA Saturday Intermediate Cup final.
The North Leicestershire League side needed penalties to defeat their Premier Division rivals in Saturday’s semi-final and secure a swift return to Holmes Park.
They will play either Castle Donington Cobras or North Kilworth in this season’s final, having been beaten at the same stage last year.
Manager Shaun Wilkes said: “It’s an amazing achievement for the club. When I took the manager’s job on, the team had finished bottom of the North Leicestershire League Prem and were relegated to Division One.
“I kept the majority of the players who were involved at the club, and last season we won the league title and came runners-up in the County Cup final.
“To reach another county cup final, which involves Senior League Division One and District League teams, is fantastic.”
Wymeswold went into the game after two tight matches against Falcons in the league, drawing 3-3 at home after letting a 3-1 lead slip, and narrowly losing 2-1 away.
The semi-final started as a very cagey affair, setting the tone for much of the 90 minutes as both teams defended, leaving clear-cut chances few and far between.
Falcons’ main threat came from free-kicks and corners, but Wymeswold’s central defence of Joe Wardle and Danny Hulett stayed resolute to keep Falcons at bay.
The home team came close to scoring when the Falcons striker squandered a one-on-one chance, but Wymeswold arguably had the best chance of a goalless 90 minutes.
A free-kick from captain Sam Allen found the head of Joe Wardle who forced a great save, and Jake McEnery missed an open goal from the rebound.
After 90 minutes of a chess match, it was extra time’s turn to try and find a winner.
Wilkes sent on Greg Fletcher and Callum Payne from the substitutes bench and they linked superbly.
Fletcher went close with a header, while the pace of Payne caused problems for the tiring Falcons in the final stages of the game.
Wymeswold almost found a winner with five minutes of extra time left when Payne teed up Linford Harris.
The keeper again made the save, but a defender was adjudged to have kept out Allen’s rebound with his hand, earning him a straight red card and the visitors a penalty.
Top goalscorer Harris stepped up to take the spot kick, but the Falcons keeper guessed the right way and produced another fantastic save to keep his side in the game and force a penalty shoot-out.
Wymeswold’s first five attempts from Coggan, McEnery, Fletcher, Allen, and the gutsy Harris, all found the net in clinical fashion, but Falcons also netted all five, forcing sudden-death penalties.
The hosts struck their next attempt over the bar, leaving Payne to score the winner and start the celebrations.
Wymeswold will now turn their minds back to the league with a home game against second-bottom Rothley on Saturday (kick-off 2pm).
They currently lie fifth in the Premier Division, but have several games in hand on all of the teams above them.
The club’s reserve side is also having a season to remember and remain unbeaten and top of Division Three.
“We are in a competitive division,” added Wilkes. “Greenhill, East Leake, Falcons and we all have unique playing styles, and are all going for the league and league cup,
“The club has gone from strength to strength thanks to the commitment of everyone associated with the club.
“Chairman and secretary Adie and Angie Keogh dedicate so much time to Wymeswold, and the supporters come to watch rain or shine.
“We’re in a great catchment area of Loughborough and Melton Mowbray; the sky is the limit.”