Seventeen-year-old substitute Charlie Fitzsimmons came on to slot home a dramatic injury-time winner and seal a sensational victory for Cammell Laird 1907 at third-placed Brocton.
Lairds were coming off the back of a useful 2-2 draw against Eccleshall on Saturday, but a midweek trip to Stafford for one of their longest away journeys against a team who had won 14 of their 16 home league fixtures looked a tough assignment.
Brocton were quick out of the blocks, and James Dineley made a great save early on to deny the division’s top scorer Regan Smith.
However, the commanding work of Dean Nunn in the Lairds rearguard and the tenacity of midfielders Ross Waring, Joe Downey, and Ryan Smith helped them to limit the opportunities Brocton had to move the ball at pace.
The home side took the lead on 18 minutes when Smith kept a cross alive at the far post and headed back for Charlie King to net from close range. Lairds looked a threat when driven forward, particularly through Michael Speed down the left, but they went into half-time 1-0 behind.
The second half proved one of the most dramatic 45 minutes of football witnessed this season and earned the hard-working Cammells a massive three points that their recent performances and persistence have deserved.
They levelled when Downey’s drilled free-kick was headed home by Waring, and turned the game on its head when they were awarded a penalty when Brocton goalkeeper Tony Allsopp was sent off for reacting angrily in an incident with Kieron Frost.
Cameron McGregor found the corner from 12 yards, despite the stand-in goalkeeper getting a hand to his effort. Lairds turned to youngsters Charlie Clewlow and Charlie Fitzsimmons on the bench after Jason Clark and McGregor picked up knocks.
Despite having several players out of position, Lairds continued battling away, and would have doubled their lead but Downey couldn’t quite pick out an unmarked Fitzsimmons for a tap-in.
With six minutes remaining, the home side equalised when Connor Haddaway found space in the box and rifled home, despite the best efforts of the retreating Clewlow.
Both teams still believed they could turn one point into three, and it was Lairds who made it a night to remember when midfielder Fitzsimmons, playing as an emergency striker, showed maturity beyond his years to latch onto a clearance, outpace the defender and slide home in the 94th minute.
It sparked wild celebrations from the visiting players, management and supporters who knew the value of this fantastic away win.
Next up for Stuart Keir’s team on Saturday is an away trip to in-form Cheadle Heath Nomads.
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