Cross saves the day as Racers reach third round of the Vase
A superb opening 40 minutes from Racing Club ultimately proved enough for them to progress to third round of the FA Vase for only the second time in their history, writes Paul Okey.
Goals from Luke Church and Luke Cole were reward for a slick opening from the home side which saw their neat passing football consistently unlocking the North West Counties side’s defence.
However, despite Alsager having a man sent off in the second half, it needed some backs-to-the-wall defending from Racers to secure their passage after the visitors had pulled a goal back through Jordan Cobley, including a world class save from Tom Cross.
An ambitious Sean Kavanagh volley grazed the crossbar in the ninth minute, while there was an anxious moment for the hosts as Taylor Attrell’s cross-shot skidded dangerously across the face of goal.
However, with Martin Slevin and Rich Powell finding plenty of space in midfield, it was Racers who were enjoying the bulk of possession and territory and they should have been in front in the 15th minute.
Patient build-up play on the right resulted in Powell sending in a cross which the unmarked Cole could only power over the bar from eight yards.
Racers did get the goal their control merited in the 26th minute, Church firing home first-time across keeper Matthew Conkie after the ball had run free from a challenge on Cole.
Kavanagh thought he had made it two in the 36th minute with another excellent first-time strike but the offside flag was already raised.
Just 60 seconds later it was 2-0, Cole timing his run to perfection to latch on to Church’s dink over the top before slotting the pall past Conkie.
With a handy cushion, Racers eased off as half-time approached and Alsager produced their first shot on target, Cross getting down comfortably to save from Cobley.
Warren Holmes was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Slevin on the stroke of half-time but Town substitute Ben Baibsley was not so fortunate in the 63rd minute, receiving s straight red after another reckless challenge left the Racers midfielder writhing on the turf.
However, if home fans in a crowd of 242 thought Alsager’s challenge, which had seen Cross out well to block from Lennon and the striker then miss from close range, would peter out they were mistaken.
Passey cleared off the line from Cobley, who then pulled a goal back in the 74th minute, pouncing from close range after Cross had made the initial save.
With Racers struggling to retain possession and retreating further and further back, the visitors were able to build up a head of steam.
Martin Hutchcox nicked the ball off the feet of Cobley to deny an almost certain goal before Cross pulled off a stupendous save from David Harry, flinging himself to his left to tip away the Alcester skipper’s deft header when it seemed beyond him.
And hearts were in mouths when Ben Fraser’s header from a corner in the final action of the game cleared the man on the line, with the ball landing on top of the net to spark wild celebrations from the home side.