GOALKEEPER Reece Francis marked his return to the Evesham United team with a sparkling performance to help the Robins to a dramatic Southern League Challenge Cup penalty shoot-out victory over Daventry Town.
Wednesday’s 4-2 spot-kick success at the Jubilee Stadium followed a 1-1 draw as Evesham finally won a League Cup tie after failures dating back to the 2010/11 season.
It was the perfect response to Sunday’s 2-0 FA Cup first qualifying round exit at the hands of Southern Premier South outfit Dorchester Town and sets Carl Abbott’s side up nicely for Saturday’s Southern League Division One South encounter at home to Winchester City, against whom the Robins will chase a third league win in six attempts this season.
Francis, back in goal for United for the first time since the opening day of the season, saved from Jack Finch and Luke Emery in the shoot-out and, despite an early miss from Matt Dodd, Paul Sullivan, Jordon Sangha, Danny Bragoli and Lee Chilton were all successful from 12 yards for Evesham to seal the hosts’ progress.
For much of the second half Evesham had been facing a second cup exit in the space of four days after Jordan Orosz’s 52nd-minute neat finish had put the visitors ahead just moments after Emery had been thwarted by Francis following an error by Aaron Roberts.
However, the talismanic Chilton saved Evesham’s bacon two minutes from time when he netted on the turn at the back post from Bragoli’s ball.
The match was an entertaining one and early on Adam Page had to clear off the line from Emery’s near-post flick before at the other end the Robins winger set up Mark Magee who just failed to make a proper connection with a close-range header.
Taylor Orosz wasted a fine chance for Division One Central side Daventry when he fired wide eight minutes before the break after a mistake by Chilton and in truth the visitors looked the more likely winners throughout the second half despite a battling effort from the home side.
Joe O’Neill fizzed an effort just wide for Evesham but Abbott’s side were grateful for Daventry’s profligacy in front of goal, particularly from Taylor Orosz.
On Saturday Evesham could take plenty of credit for their efforts against higher-ranked Dorchester who were matched throughout by the home side.
Sangha was particularly menacing and twice went close to opening the scoring before the visitors did just that on 41 minutes when a superb corner from Charlie Davis found the head of Thomas Bath whose strong header gave Evesham keeper Lochie Robertson no chance.
Chilton and Sangha continued to threaten in the second period and the latter thundered a 30-yard strike against the post before Bath netted his second goal on the break to put the outcome beyond doubt.