JOSH March’s stoppage-time winner ensured defending champions Leamington kept their Birmingham Senior Cup aspirations on track at the expense of BanburyUnited.
The Brakes were 2-1 down at half time in Tuesday night’s tie but managed to instigate a second-half revival through James Mace’s leveller on the hour-mark and March’s last-ditch intervention to advance 3-2.
Leamington will now fancy their chances of reaching a third showpiece final in four years having reached the quarter-final stage, continuing the positivity generated by Saturday’s 3-0 win away to Bradford Park Avenue – their first victory in seven National League North games.
Dexter Walters was a livewire from the first whistle for the hosts and threatened Jack Harding’s goal time and again, first flashing an effort past the post, before nudging a free kick narrowly wide.
He went closer still with a strike that clipped the bar, which fell kindly for his teammate Jordan Murphy to tap in the opening goal.
Murphy almost doubled his tally when dragging a shot past the post, prior to a late rally from the visitors to end the half with the lead, following a Mace own goal and a drive from Connor Roberts which made its way in at the near post.
In a reverse of the first-half events, United were the side on top after the restart and were clearly buoyed by their surprise lead, although they were unable to fully test Jake Weaver in the Brakes goal.
Mace avenged his earlier misfortune by touching George Carline’s downwards header out of his feet before drilling the ball low into the net to restore parity and switch the pendulum once more.
It required a late corner to settle the game, one which was initially cleared but after being driven back into the box, was eventually turned in by March.
In Saturday’s win in West Yorkshire, the long-awaited win in the league provided a perfect ten-year anniversary gift to manager Paul Holleran, who was undoubtedly delighted by March’s hat-trick at the Horsfall Stadium.
It took all of seven minutes for the in-form striker to find the net, planting a header into the corner at the near post from a corner, before doubling the advantage two minutes later from the spot following a red-card challenge from Park Avenue’s Liam Hughes.
The game understandably quietened down after the fast start, but March continued to make inroads into claiming his hat-trick goal and did such five minutes after the restart, latching onto Carline’s through ball to power the ball underneath the Bradford goalkeeper.
Leamington had full control of the game, and while they did not add to the scoreline, were good value for three points.
Holleran’s side hope to continue their sudden upturn in form when hosting Spennymoor Town in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy on Saturday (3pm).