The Canvey Island story, selected by the BBC's Match of the Day as the most compelling of this weekend's FA Cup offerings, provided full satisfaction yesterday as a goal by Neil Gregory earned the Ryman League side a place in the third round for the first time in their history at the expense of Second Division opponents.
Gregory, whose other job is looking after his three-year-old son while his wife Louise is at work, had already made his mark on this year's competition by scoring the winner at Wigan in the previous round.
After the referee had blown his whistle on five minutes of added time, the yellow-shirted Islanders were mobbed by jubilant supporters, although the mood mellowed just a little when the PA relayed the news that Canvey had been drawn away in the next round to the First Division leaders, Burnley.
"To be truthful I wish we had had a couple of hours to celebrate,'' Canvey's manager, Jeff King, said. "It's taken a bit of the dairy off the win.''
But King, who steered his team to the FA Cup second round last season after knocking out Port Vale, was rightly proud of his players, who withstood an early pounding from the side currently propping up their Division, but finished up playing the kind of passing game that has seen them go unbeaten since 1 September.
The decisive goal came two minutes into the second half from a fluent counter-attack. A left-wing cross from Julian Dicks, the former West Ham and Liverpool defender who began a comeback with Canvey last month, was diverted by Steve Parmenter to the former Newcastle midfielder Mark Stimson, whose audacious back-heel across the box allowed Gregory to lash a first-time shot into the roof of the net.
When the former Ipswich and Colchester goalscorer entered the dressing-room, he did so to an amiable chorus: "Well done, the house husband.''
Canvey should have had a second goal in the final minute through the substitute Lee Boylan, whose mother had won the half-time raffle. But he was not as fortunate as his mum – Northampton's keeper Keith Welch left his area to beat down a goal-bound lob, leaving the visitors with Roy Hunter standing in between the posts for the final few seconds.
Northampton threatened only sporadically after their early succession of corners yielded nothing, although it took an inspired block from Chris Duffy to prevent the former Derby and Crystal Palace man Marco Gabbiadini levelling.
So now Dicks, after just six games for his new club, finds himself in the FA Cup mainstream. "This is my best experience in the Cup since West Ham reached the semi-final in '91,'' he said.
Dicks, whose Premiership career was ended two years ago by a chronic knee injury, was also injured yesterday, damaging knee ligaments in a fifth-minute challenge. But he limped on. "I didn't want to come off,'' he said, grimacing with pain as he applied an ice pack to his scarred and reddened joint. "It was worth it.''
Goal: Gregory (47) 1-0.
Canvey Island (3-5-2): Harrison; Smith, Chenery, Dicks; Kennedy, Miller, Stimson (Bennett, 75), Parmenter (Ward, 87), Duffy; Gregory, Vaughan (Boylan, 81). Substitutes not used: Cobb, Knight.
Northampton Town (3-5-2): Welch; Marsh (McGregor, 63), Sampson, Burgess; Hunter, Frain, Hunt (Parkin, 85), Spedding, Hope; Forrester (Asamoah, 79), Gabbiadini. Substiitutes not used: Carruthers, Sollitt (gk).
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt).
Bookings: Canvey: Vaughan, Chenery, Dicks, Parmenter, Miller. Northampton: Sampson, Gabbiadini. Sent off: Northampton: Welch.
Man of the match: Gregory.
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