Leverstock Green got out of jail as they progressed to the semi-finals of the Herts Charity Shield with a penalty shootout victory over Welwyn Garden City on a crazy night at Pancake Lane.
Levy they built a three-goal lead in 14 minutes, blew it in five minutes, had two players sent off in extra time, faced three match points in a penalty shoot out, but still came out on top.
Leverstock should have taken the lead in the fourth minute when a cross from Callum Wright dropped for Luke Warner-Eley, who was all alone at the far post, but pulled his shot across goal. Two minutes later Louis Bircham had a header from a corner saved.
It was visitors Welwyn Garden City who went in front in the 28th minute, when Liam Kenna got on the end of a low free-kick into the box to divert the ball into the net.
However, the scores were levelled in the last minute of the half when Bircham struck a free-kick from distance which keeper Chris Benton should have saved, but somehow it went through his hands into the net.
The first half had been evenly-contested, but Leverstock came out firing on all cylinders in the second half.
Four minutes in, Wright played a ball down the line to Nathan Jellow, who held it up well before threading a superb pass to Bircham, who sidestepped the last defender before slotting home an excellent goal.
Welwyn should have equalised on 57 minutes when Marc Arnott missed a golden opportunity in front of goal, but a minute later Jellow played another perfect through-ball to put Bircham in again, and this time he went round the keeper before slotting into the empty net to complete his second hat-trick in two games.
With 63 minutes on the clock, Jellow played yet another precision pass to put Ricky Dash through on goal to shoot Leverstock into what looked like a comfortable 4-1 lead.
However, the visitors quickly found their way back into the game. On 67 minutes Leverstock couldn’t clear the ball from their own box and Sam James eventually shot home to reduce the deficit to 4-2.
Three minutes later a clumsy challenge from Ishmael Thomas had the referee pointing to the penalty spot, and Sean Brettel converted it to pull it back to 4-3.
Within two minutes Brettel played in what was meant to be a cross from near the left touchline, but somehow it missed everyone in the box and went into the bottom corner of the net, and Leverstock’s three-goal lead was gone in five mad minutes.
The remainder of normal time produced no more goals, although Leverstock began picking up yellow cards as prolifically as they did in Saturday’s game.
As the game went into extra-time, it was inevitable that some of those yellow cards would be cashed in, and the first to go was Elias Moses during the first period with a second yellow for kicking the ball away, his second dismissal in two games.
Callum Wright had Leverstock’s best chance in the first period when he was through on goal, but Benton saved well.
Welwyn also had chances, but couldn’t convert them as the game went into the second period of extra-time still at 4-4.
Midway through the second period James Sears got his second yellow card for an altercation with an opponent, but somehow the nine men held out over the remaining minutes despite increasing Welwyn pressure.
The game went to penalties, and it was 1-1 after Brettel and Bircham both scored in the opening round.
Brad Jenner put Welwyn 2-1 up before Wright’s kick was saved by Benton.
Kieran Jimmy then saved from Aaron Cato, but Warner-Eley’s effort was easily saved by Benton to leave Leverstock still 2-1 down.
Welwyn went 3-1 up to go within touching distance of the win, and although Liam O’Keefe netted to keep the Green in the game, Isaac Oppong had a kick to win the game.
Oppong’s shot, though, went way over the bar, and Ishmael Thomas held his nerve to level the score at 3-3 after five kicks each.
Jimmy then pulled off another great save to keep out Welwyn’s sixth before Sledge Mubama stepped up to shoot home the winner for Leverstock.
The Green have now progressed through both of the first two rounds of the Herts Charity Shield on penalties, and their reward is a trip to Hertford Town in the semi-finals.
Next up, though, is a derby match at Berkhamsted in the league on Saturday.