WARRINGTON Town’s historic FA Cup journey goes on after a remarkable 1-0 win over Football League Two side Exeter City in front of a national live audience of millions.
In front of a sell-out 2,400 crowd and the BBC TV cameras, Shaun Reid’s men made it through to the second round with a heroic defensive display after Craig Robinson’s early goal.
It was a cup upset to match any other, with Warrington sitting four leagues below Exeter in the football pyramid, and the Grecians are the fourth club from a higher league to be eliminated by Town this season.
Warrington had an answer to everything Exeter threw at them, with two last-ditch goal-line clearances and countless headed clearances in the final half hour, as the packed crowd roared the hosts home.
Having won their last three FA Cup matches at Cantilever Park 1-0, Warrington started the game on the front foot.
Scott Metcalfe had half the crowd excited with a driven shot towards goal, rippling the net, but the ball was the wrong side of the post from a Town point of view.
But the ball was in the back of the net on seven minutes, after back-to-back corners.
Captain David Mannix floated it in, and Robinson’s strike crossed the line via a defender’s touch.
For the first 20 minutes, Town played at a tempo that enabled them to stand up to their full-time opposition.
Gradually, Exeter got on the front foot, and after initially looking dangerous on the counter attack, they started to dominate possession and territory.
A Matt Grimes free kick was deflected just wide, and then Ross Noble hammered the crossbar with a half volley from a right wing cross.
Goalkeeper Karl Wills was forced in to a stop on the stroke of half time, which came at a time when the home side had started to flag.
It was inevitable that Town would drop deep in the second half to contain their hosts, and for a time, it looked like it was just a matter of when they would run out of steam.
But such was the determination and spirit of the hosts, buoyed by the noisy crowd, that the more chances they snuffed out, the more they grew in confidence.
The threatening Grimes was denied by Wills to his left, and he should have done better when the ball fell to him inside the box, but he fired wide when most of the ground thought the ball had gone in.
With 15 minutes to play, substitute Phil Davies hooked a ball off the line, and then a selfless block by the outstanding Robinson kept out a goal bound shot.
As the minutes ticked by, it was all hands to the pump.
Former Liverpool academy midfielder Nathan Burke put in a massive tackle in the box, and Exeter then squandered a chance with an overhit cross when there were three men queuing up unmarked to find an equaliser.
It looked like that equaliser had come on 86 minutes, as a loose ball in the box was diverted goal wards, only for an outstretched leg to keep it.
That seemed to be the moment that broke the visitors, the moment that maybe they started to doubt whether they could break Warrington’s resolve.
To the delight of the home crowd, Warrington held on, and they will now be the focus of the second round draw on Monday evening.
Warrington: Wills, Field, Hardwick, Mannix, McCarten, Robinson, Roberts (Corrigan), Burke, Wharton (Foster), Doughty (Davies), Metcalfe. Unused subs: Gahgan, Booth, Ruane, Collins.
Exeter: Pym, Butterfield, Woodman, Bennett, Ribeiro (Keohane), Sercombe, Oakley, Grimes, Noble (Davies), Wheeler, Cummins (Nichols). Unused subs: Hamon, Riley-Lowe, Tillson, Jay.