Famous night for Harpenden Town as they beat Stevenage in county cup
- Credit: TOBY HOWE
Pick up the record book for the Herts Senior Cup and there will be a big new entry that shows Harpenden Town have beaten Stevenage.
The two sides had drawn 0-0 after 90 minutes, the last 10 of which had the hosts down to 10-men after the sending-off of Jack Woods.
But two big saves from the returning Connor Sansom allowed Mulik Rickman to convert the winning spot-kick and give Harps passage to the quarter-final where Royston Town or Oxhey Jets wait.
Whatever happens next though, this will still be a famous night, long remembered by those at Rothamsted Park.
"It’s one for the memory bank," said manager Micky Nathan. "I can’t fault anyone. From start to finish, back to front, they were absolutely outstanding.
"To win on pens is a gamble but Connor pulled out two superb saves and we’re through to the next round.
"I’m absolutely delighted.
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"They are buzzing and the whole club was even beforehand. Look at the fans that came on a cold Wednesday night.
"There is a buzz around the town too about the club and that is down to the work by the people behind the scenes.
"Credit to everyone. It is outstanding where we are and where we are going and hopefully we can keep going in the right direction."
Stevenage fielded two recognised first-team players in Jack Smith and James Daly but the majority of their team was made for their young academy players.
However, despite long periods of pressure, they were stifled by the Harpenden defence who were well versed in the expected flow of the game.
Nathan said: "We went into the game knowing we’d be under the cosh for long periods and we knew we would have to be resilient.
"And we were that. The players handled it really well and I can’t remember them having many clear-cut chances in the game, apart from in the first half when Connor pulled off a one-on-one save and kept us in it.
"And as the game went on, we grew. We were confident on the ball and we were patient.
"At times we had our backs against the well because they are still a good side, even at a young age.
"They are coached really well by good coaches and they want to play a certain way.
"We had to be on our toes and on our game."
But as much as Stevenage were without recognised senior players, so too were the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side.
Sansom was included for the first time along with Woods and Sam Doolan, all three coming in from Colney Heath, while there were some of the reserve side who have been playing in the Herts County Senior League.
Nathan was delighted with how they all played.
He said: "It’s a cup competition and I’m not taking it lightly but the league is our priority and no player can every minute.
"This was a chance to see some of the youngsters and the reserves who have been playing well. It was an opportunity for them to play with the first teamers and see what it is like.
"You have to reward these players at some point otherwise what is the point of having them at the club.
"It is crucial we do that.
"It keeps the first teamers on their toes and they know they can’t rest on their laurels.
"We’re third in a very competitive league and it also gives them a breather so they can go again against Dunstable on Saturday."