DOUGLAS Royal progressed into the first round proper of the Cu-Plas FA Cup after overcoming the challenge of fellow Division Two side Douglas and District at a windy Ballafletcher on Saturday afternoon.
However, the hosts had to do it the hard way after D&D pushed them all the way and appeared to be heading towards a surprise victory thanks to Konrad Kumor’s well-taken hat-trick before three late strikes earned Royal a 6-3 win.
With six places and 11 points separating the two sides in the league in Royal’s favour, the hosts were expected to find a way past the Noble’s Park outfit but it was D&D who troubled the scorers first following a goalkeeping howler. Royal shot-stopper Tom Varney, usually reliable in between the sticks, went to collect a backpass but completely missed his kick, allowing Kumor to seize possession and walk the ball into the back of the net for 1-0.
Royal almost hit back immediately after Craig Dolman surged infield from the left before firing goal wards. His shot was parried by visiting custodian Alex Mazzone but the ball fell kindly to Joe Bond, however the winger could only poke his effort wide with the goal at his mercy.
The hosts then wasted a golden opportunity to draw level in the 20th minute when Aaron Quinn’s pinpoint ball over the top found Paul Whitley through on goal but the striker could only slice his effort straight at Mazzone.
They were made to pay for their profligacy minutes later when defender Adam Storr was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area and referee John Short showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Kumor to plant his penalty high into the top left corner and into the net, despite Varney diving the right way.
Nicky Bell and Nicky Gerrard’s men almost found a way back into the tie immediately but were denied by the woodwork when Whitley’s blocked shot fell to Dolman on the edge of the area and his swerving, first-time effort crashed back of the right post with Mazzone beaten.
However, it didn’t take them long to halve the deficit when Andrew Lancaster’s corner was met by centre-back Greg Hoskisson who towered above the D&D defence to power a header into the net for 2-1.
The visitors, and Kumor in particular, continued to cause the opposition plenty of problems but, just when they looked set to go in at the break ahead, the hosts hit back in first half injury time.
A ball into the D&D box caused mass confusion, allowing both Whitley and Bond to try their luck before the ball eventually fell to Hoskisson who showed great composure for a defender before side-footing the ball past the despairing dive of Mazzone to level the scores.
Despite the setback, it was the visitors who managed to regain the lead eight minutes after the break when Aaron Bradley, Richard Brant and Richie Sparkes combined to release Kumor down the middle and the powerful forward held off a defender before firing past the onrushing Varney to complete his hat-trick.
Dolman and Lancaster both went close to grabbing another equaliser, the latter with a fine solo effort after bursting forward from midfield before seeing his fierce shot curl narrowly off target, and eventually their pressure came to fruition.
With Lancaster growing in influence by the minute, it came as no surprise when he levelled the game in sublime fashion. Picking up the ball in the centre of the pitch, the former Braddan midfielder strode forward and lifted a deft lob over the stranded Mazzone from the edge of the area into the back of the net.
Still stunned by the goal, D&D soon found themselves behind for the first time in the match just three minutes later in similar fashion when substitute Paddy Dempsey lifted the ball towards Whitley who won the aerial battle and proceeded to lift another exquisite shot over D&D’s keeper.
With eight minutes remaining Lancaster capped an impressive performance to put the tie beyond D&D’s reach with another fine strike. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, he turned his marker before rifling a brilliant shot past Mazzone from all of 25 yards.
And less than a minute later Royal netted their sixth to seal the win when Quinn crossed to Dolman who controlled the ball before firing a low effort into the bottom right corner.
To their credit, D&D continued to push for an unlikely way back into the game in the latter stages but Royal were able to hold them off and seal their place in the next round with a 6-3 win.
Douglas Royal: Tom Varney, Stuart Foley, Adam Storr, Kevin Ballard, Greg Hoskisson, Andrew Lancaster, Dan Beattie, Aaron Quinn, Paul Whitley, Craig Dolman (c), Joe Bond (Paddy Dempsey 45m). Subs not used: Rob Brown, Alan Harding
Douglas and District: Alex Mazzone, Graham Coates, Adam Rosevear, Jamie Delaney, Lawrence Looney, Aaron Bradley, Kevin Doyle (Steven Horner 81m), Jamie Spicer, Richard Brant, Konrad Kumor, Richie Sparkes (Mark Madsen-Mygdal 55m). Sub not used: John Conroy
Referee: John Short
Assistants: Peter Lewis, Kenny Crellin
Man of the Match: Andrew Lancaster (Douglas Royal) - seized control of the game in the second half and scored two fine goals
Match rating: HHHHI