Mark Cooper, the Tamworth manager, slipped away to sit in his office as the Conference part-timers took Championship play-off contenders Stoke to a penalty shoot-out after extra time failed to separate the sides in last night's third-round replay at The Lamb. It proved a wise decision.
Tamworth, having taken a first-half lead through Nathan Jackson only to be pegged back by Paul Gallagher in the 81st minute, were finally edged out of the Cup when Stoke's Carl Hoefkens converted the 12th spot-kick. Cooper, son of the former England full-back Terry, was watching "some crap on Channel 5" when he learnt of the part-timers' fate.
"I'd seen enough by the time it went to penalties so I sat down, turned the TV on and got a beer from the fridge," Cooper explained. "My eight-year-old, Charlie, came in in absolute bits. I knew then we'd lost.
"It wasn't fear of what might happen that stopped me from watching. I'm very philosophical about it. If I'm honest, maybe it was a game too far for us because we're a very young side. I thought we were going to hang on and win in normal time but they scored from the only header they won from a set-piece all night. It's a cruel way to go out."
The Stoke manager, Johan Boskamp, sent out Jan De Koning, his assistant and fellow Dutchman, for the shoot-out. De Koning intervened to prevent Hoefkens taking Stoke's second penalty, revealing later that the Belgian defender had a hamstring strain.
But after Tamworth's Eddie Anaclet and Stoke's Kevin Harper saw their kicks stopped by Steve Simonsen and Scott Bevan respectively - with the score at 3-3 - Carl Heggs and Lewis Buxton each scored to take it to 4-4. Hoefkens then showed no sign of injury as he stroked home the decisive penalty.
Stoke's relief was almost embarrassing to behold. Against opponents lying 21st in the Conference, 80 places below them, they had missed a series of chances.
Tamworth's belief burgeoned when they went ahead in the 42nd minute after Heggs had charged down Michael Duberry's clearance. Realising that Jackson, 19, was better placed, he rolled the ball inside for the hard-working striker to score.
Stoke's Marlon Broomes shot against a post in the second half, but their supporters were becoming increasingly agitated before they drew level. Boskamp sent on Adam Rooney, a red-headed, 17-year-old Irish attacker, and with his first touch in senior football, a header from Peter Kopteff's corner, he set up Gallagher to redeem himself with an overhead kick.
Earlier, in a bizarre Cup first, play was halted while Anaclet picked up a mouse that had strayed on to the pitch and threw it on to the track. On a night when a mouse roared at The Lamb, Tamworth were beaten by a whisker.
Tamworth (4-4-2): Bevan; Touhy, Redmile, Smith, Anaclet; Wright, Bampton, Melton (Storer, 83), Ward (Stamps, 116); Jackson, Heggs. Substitutes not used: Gayle (gk), Cooper, Turner.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Broomes (Rooney, 80), Hoefkens, Duberry, Buxton; Chadwick (Junior, h-t), Brammer (Kopteff, h-t), Henry, Gallagher; Sidibe, Harper. Substitutes not used: Duggan (gk), Sweeney.
Referee: P Joslin (Nottinghamshire).Reuse content