Percy Main were not handed the kindest of draws in the first round of the Bill Gardner Cup as a trip to Carlisle City had been pulled from the hat.
The Cumbrians had already chalked up a 1-0 league victory at Purvis Park last month, and had done the double over the Villagers last season, netting nine times in the process.
Percy Main had to look back to September 21 for their last victory, a 3-2 home verdict over Gateshead Rutherford.
The main talking point over the last few days had been the appointment of managerial duo Chris Hunter and Richard Nugent, who had replaced Shaun Galbraith in charge of team affairs, and as to how the young squad would respond in what was seen to be a tricky first fixture.
However, any worries proved to be unfounded as those who played in claret and blue were visibly heartened and lifted their game to a much higher level than that which had resulted in a 4-1 reverse at Wallsend town seven days prior, and indeed could count themselves unlucky to go out of the competition to a goal three minutes from the end of injury time as City eventually claimed their place in the next round.
Added to the squad were Peter Bradley, who made the starting line-up, and Gareth Armstrong, who had to be content with a place on the bench, while Daniel Sneap, playing only his second game for Percy Main, looked sharp and scored the game’s opening goal, which for a brief period looked as though it might be about to cause an upset.
The early play on a well tended surface saw both sides test each other out, Ian Cummerskey’s flag kick for the home side was scrambled to safety and Villagers custodian Reece Dobie tipped over Tom Lucock’s effort from distance, while Main’s 18-year-old centre back Jack Taylor launched a few long range throw-ins reminiscent of former Villagers long throw expert, Luc Coiffait, which troubled the City defence.
There were half chances at both ends as the hard-working Matty Robinson saw his shot blocked on the line and Chris Laidlaw fired over for Percy Main, while the Cumbrians’ Ian Armstrong headed over from Josh Simpson’s right wing cross and the alert Dobie did well to thwart Peter Ferris.
Redmond Cockburn, who had an excellent game in the visitors midfield partnering the equally impressive Ryan McKee, came close to opening the deadlock on 46 minutes with a long range dipping effort, and Sneap saw his shot scrambled to safety, while in reply, Cummersky and Lucock linked up well, but the latter saw his low shot gathered at the near post by the goalkeeper.
The deadlock was broken on 58 minutes as Curtis Miller played in Sneap who shrugged off the attentions of a defender before firing past the dive of Michael Ballantyne in the Carlisle goal.
Buoyed by the goal, Robinson flashed a free kick just pasty the upright and McKee’s corner only half cleared fell to Bradley whose fizzing goalbound effort was parried by the goalkeeper, who quickly recovered in time to block Miler’s follow up.
However, Percy Main’s lead was to last only 13 minutes as City countered and upped the anti as Ferris ran through and was fouled just outside the area. Josh Simpson lined up to take the free kick and his unstoppable thunderbolt beat Dobie all ends up.
The latter stages of the game saw Simpson flash another free kick just past the post and Lucock was narrowly off target, while Laidlaw was upended in the penalty area sparking loud appeals for a spot kick by the visitors which went unheeded by the match referee.
With extra time under way, Villagers substitute Shaun Smith and Laidlaw went close, while Lucock again tested the visitors defence.
Martin Sheppard did have the ball in the net for City, but his effort was overruled for offside.
When it looked as though the game may go to the lottery of penalty kicks and with the clock ticking down, the home side scored the vital counter as Lucock’s corner was driven home through a crowd of players by Ashley Combe.
This Saturday Percy Main return to league action and will face Seaton Delaval at home. Kick-off is 2pm.