Oakham United went toe-to-toe with league leaders Netherton United before bravely going out of the PFA Senior Cup on Saturday.
Oakham eventually lost 3-1 away on Netherton’s artificial pitch but it took the free-scoring home side 75 minutes to break down the visitors’ stubborn defence.
The defensive effort was some achievement considering the PDFL Premier Division leaders have scored 86 goals in just 20 league games this season, including a remarkable 31 goals from their previous four matches.
Manager Wayne Oldaker said: “Obviously it is disappointing to be out of the cup but they are a good side and I think they will go on and win the league.
“But the good thing is we went there and matched them.
“You could tell by the look on their faces they were not anticipating that performance from us.
“The work rate and determination was all there and we really took the game to them.”
Oakham even had the better of the first half, with five shots on the opposition goal to Netherton’s three.
Oakham’s early success came largely thanks to an outstanding display by Stuart Lambie who kept Netherton’s central play maker Ben Daly quiet.
After the break the away side continued to pose a threat, with Robbie Dance rattling the Netherton bar with what Oldaker described as an “absolutely incredible strike” on the half-volley.
The strike capped a fine performance which was acknowledged by Netherton’s management.
Oldaker said: “Their coach came up to me at the end of the game and said Robbie Dance is by far the best player in the Peterborough Prem.
“I’ve been saying that for a long time but it really means something when the opposition say it.”
It took a goal out of the top drawer to finally beat Oakham.
Stephen Mastin drove the ball into the net for Netherton with a pure hit from distance.
Two minutes later Dan Fountain added a second, with a classy finish into the top corner.
However, Oakham valiantly chased the game and Ben Easson made it a nervy finish with a goal in the 87th minute.
Oakham chased for an equaliser and left themselves open to the counter which Netherton took advantage of. Mastin scored his second in injury time to seal a quarter-final place for Netherton.
Oakham play second-from-bottom Parson Drove at home at on Saturday.
With Drove having secured just one league win this season, Oldaker is marking it down as a must-win game.
He said: “With performances like Saturday’s we have set the bar high and must meet it every week.
“Parson Drove will scrap for everything they can but it is crucial that we get three points to take us 13 points clear of them. Although there is still almost half the season left, that would make us pretty safe, you would think.”