Knaresborough Town won through to the next round of the Whitworth Cup 3-2 on Tuesday night, but underwent a serious test of their credentials by derby rivals Knaresborough Celtic.
Celtic provided a superb advert for Harrogate League football, opening the scoring after just three minutes.
They held Town at 1-0 for 35 minutes before the Northern Counties League outfit found a way back into the game, and then gave them a nervy final minute with a goal late on.
Despite the historic occasion - it was the first time the sides have met in senior competition - for Town boss Brian Davey it was an “embarrassing” night, where Boro just about avoided repeating last year’s early exit to Beckwithshaw Saints.
“It was an embarrassing performance against a team we should have beaten comfortably,” he said.
“They rose to the occasion, we haven’t. Their players lifted their game and I warned ours that’s what would happen.
“We didn’t perform on the whole. There were some good individual performances, mainly from the younger lads like George Eustace, and Josh Garbutt, but the younger ones certainly did better than the older ones.
“We struggled doing the simple things. It was embarrassing.”
Celtic chief Andrew Wright was delighted with his team’s gutsy performance.
“I’m really proud of the players,” he said.
“We put in an excellent performance against a side four leagues above us.
We held them for 35 minutes, worked hard, and then let in a couple of soft goals so it was a shame to go in 2-1 down at half-time.
“Knaresborough pushed us in the second half but I felt we competed and showed that with the goal late on.”
For any of the 205 supporters arriving at Manse Lane expecting to see a goalfest by the NCE Division One hosts, there was an early shock, which quickly dispelled any hopes of a Town cricket score.
In only the third minute, Town’s defence were caught napping when Celtic striker James Watson intercepted a pass, ran round them and lashed home past goalkeeper Weston Murau.
Town looked stunned, but their young front line of Dan Clayton and Josh Garbutt, aidedby wingers George Eustace and Graham Whitehead seized the initiative and started to apply pressure.
Right back Paul Stansfield also picked out skipper Liam Gray in space just outside the box, only to see his high, looping pass drop a fraction too long.
Clayton’s lightening pace was a weapon Town quickly began to exploit, and he repeatedly zipped past Celtic’s Gavin Hodson and Greg Pickles, in search of strike partner Garbutt.
After 10 minutes, Gray looked to have got Town back into the game, but having linked up well with Clayton, his tap-in was quickly ruled out for offside.
To Celtic’s credit, they looked utterly unfazed, continuing to turn defence into attack.
After Jim Bradley fouled Watson, Celtic were awarded a free kick 30 yards out.
Left back Carl Harvey delivered a great ball into the box, and Murau was forced to clear McDaid’s resulting shot off the line.
The partnership between McDaid and Harvey forced another save out of Murau, while at the other end, Celtic keeper Matt Butler denied Garbutt an attempt via a short corner.
Just before the half-hour Watson rifled a terrific centre which drifted up over the crossbar, and Celtic looked the better team, when Town got back into the game six minutes before half-time..
Defender Tom Clare tapped in from close range after a Whitehead corner, before Garbutt poked home from the left of goal after a Eustace cross in rebounded off the bar right on 45 minutes.
After half-time, Celtic battled to find the equaliser, Havey breaking down the left before lashing in, but Bryn May just missed the chance to turn in at the near post.
However, Town weren’t about to surrender their lead having worked so hard for it, and through Byron Littlefair, Whitehead and Clayton, they exploited acres of space on the left time and time again.
Eustace also shot wide of the right post, and Garbutt was deemed offside after fashioning a one-on-one with the ‘keeper, before failing to turn home a Bradley corner shortly after.
Littlefair also set up Clayton for a host of shots the striker could not turn past a valiant Butler, and the half seemed destined to descend into a frustrating 45 minutes for Town with neither Clayton nor Garbutt able to pick the lock.
The biggest cheer up to that point arrived when a spectactor deftly headed a clumsy ball back into play from outside the perimeter rail.
Finally after 86 minutes, Clayton blazed up the left wing past May, and his pinpoint cross in was met by Garbutt who tucked away with ease.
The goal would have killed most sides off, but Celtic weren’t finished.
As the game ticked into a third minute of injury time, midfielder May worked hard to set up Ben Blackwood, who then put a superb ball through for McDaid.
The winger shrugged off his tacklers to knock in a deserved goal.
Ultimately, at the whistle, Celtic’s run in the competition may have been over, but their performance had been so glowing it was a victory in itself.
Knaresborough Town: Weston Murau, Paul Stansfield, Byron Littlefair, Matt Duerden (Paul James 87), Tom Clare, Liam Gray, George Eustace, Jim Bradley, Dan Clayton, Josh Garbutt, Graham Whitehead; Subs not used: Ben Clayton, Dave Thomas.
Knaresborough Celtic: Matt Butler, Dan Freeman (Elliott Moore 56), Carl Harvey (Matt Bollon 84), Gavin Hodson, Greg Pickles, Bryn May, Jacob Bollon, Ben Blackwood, James Watson, Kieran Glennon (Dion Surr 67), Connor McDaid.