Lancaster City are only two games away from the first round of the FA Cup after they overcame National League North side Darlington 1883 2-1 on Saturday.
A frenetic first half saw the Darlington captain, Gary Brown, and Lancaster defender, Jacob Davis, sent off with the Dolly Blues arguably having the better chances.
But the massive crowd at Giant Axe had to wait until the second period to see any goals and it was the home side who drew first blood.
Within three minutes of the restart, Jacob Gregory had Lancaster in front as he drove into the box and smashed home from 10 yards, leaving the ‘keeper with no chance.
City rode their luck after going in front and it was up to Mike Hale to keep Darlington from equalising.
However, Phil Brown managed to calm his team and they doubled their lead with 15 minutes to go.
Some woeful defending from Darlington meant that Connerton found himself one on one with the ‘keeper, Paul Wollston, who he rounded with ease and slotted home from the edge of the penalty area.
Lancaster relaxed after this second goal and allowed Darlington back into the game and with five minutes to go the score was 2-1 as Amar Purewell’s free header was directed into the left side of goal.
Despite this late pressure, the game was already beyond Darlington who went home knowing they wouldn’t be involved in the famous competition any longer. The opening exchanges in this FA Cup 2nd qualifying round tie were quick paced and feisty and it was Darlington who had the first chance as Nathan Cartman blasted over from close range.
But it wasn’t long before both teams were down to 10 men. The first went to Brown for bringing down Connerton just outside the box while the second went to Davis for the exact same crime.
The sendings off led to a much more open and exciting game than anyone could have hoped for and it was Darlington who were really pushing for an opening goal as Terence Galbraith’s free kick was deflected onto the crossbar.
However, Lancaster City missed the best chance of the first half when Connerton couldn’t get a proper connection on the ball from five yards out and the ball was cleared off the line.
The game livened up even more just after half time as Gregory scored the opener after pouncing on a well placed ball by Connerton, turning a defender, running into the opposition box and smashing home from close range.
Both teams had chances to score after this first goal but neither could really get a proper grip on the game.
But it was Lancaster who finally doubled their lead when Galbraith failed to clear his lines and was tackled by Gregory who played the ball to Connerton in acres of space.
Connerton then rounded the ‘keeper and slotted into the net with ease.
The Dolly Blues seemed to think that was game over and allowed Darlington back into the game and they were given a lifeline shortly before the final whistle as Purewell was unmarked in the six yard box and headed past Hale and into the net.
Hale saved Lancaster on a number of occasions late on and earned himself the man of the match award but City survived the onslaught to put themselves into the hat for the next round of the FA Cup.
Lancaster City: Hale, Hudson (Henry), Clark, Wills, Davis, Mercer, Gregory, Crolla (McKenna), Connerton, Mayers (Westwood), Sumner. Subs not used: Anderson, Raybould, Russell.
Referee: Mr R. Wooton