Craig Elliott paid tribute to his heroic players after Shaw Lane Aquaforce pulled off the impossible at FA Vase favourites and Northern League leaders West Auckland Town.
Shaw Lane’s remarkable rise up the football pyramid continued with a stunning 3-0 win over the 2012 and 2014 Vase runners-up.
The visitors were set on their way by an incredible first half goal from Shane Kelsey.
Joe Thornton and Kelsey sealed the Ducks’ passage into the third round with goals in the dying minutes and Elliott was full of praise for his heroes.
He told Non League Yorkshire: “It was a great day for the club and we’re over the moon as a club.
“The atmosphere was brilliant after the game in the dressing room and on the bus on the way home.
“To go and win at the favourites with their history, it has to be the club’s best ever result.
“We beat a team of quality, who got to the final last year and I had publicly said that they wanted to get there again.
“From talking to the people at West Auckland they even said they felt they had a stronger squad than last season.
“On paper, it was a massive test. They were at home and are top of their league so we were up against it.”
The second-placed Toolstation NCEL Premier Division side were as good as written off once as the draw was made three weeks ago.
Aquaforce had beaten North West Counties Premier Division leaders Runcorn Linnets in the last round and that was regarded as a shock result in some quarters.
But, the bookmakers did not have any hope for Shaw Lane in the North East yesterday.
West Auckland were huge favourites to beat Shaw Lane, but Elliott, who said on Friday that his team had nothing to lose, had other ideas.
New Shaw Lane stopper Ben Gathercole had few saves to make and Auckland wasted their best chances in the opening exchanges when Steven Richardson headed wide.
The home side only had themselves to blame for the first goal. Auckland were too busy haranguing the referee when the experienced Kelsey showed great initiative.
The former Ossett Albion striker quickly spotted that Auckland were unprepared for the free kick – from just inside Shaw Lane’s half.
Goalkeeper Dan Lowson was in no man’s land and Kelsey took advantage to put Aquaforce in front.
Defensively Shaw Lane were excellent and new goalkeeper Ben Gathercole had few saves to make as the home side tried to throw the proverbial kitchen sink.
On the counter attack, Shaw Lane were threatening and Lowson was needed to make a couple of stops to keep his side in the game.
Time was running out fast for the home side and Aquaforce caught them out in the final minute by scoring the decisive second goal.
Kelsey cut in from the right and found the net with a strike towards the near post.
The game was up for glory-chasing home side and the win was made even more resounding deep into injury-time by substitute Thornton, who scored from a goalmouth scramble.
Elliott added: “Shane Kelsey’s goal was unbelievable.
“He was just inside his own half and he took a free kick quickly, while they were arguing with the referee saying there wasn’t a foul.
“Kels saw the goalkeeper was miles off his line and he lobbed him. It gave us something to hang onto.
“They hit a lot of long balls which we dealt with and we looked dangerous on the counter attack.
“Lee Morris was excellent for us upfront and we got two late goals.
“It was a very professional performance and we showed plenty of guts.
“It was also thoroughly deserved.”
West Auckland Town: Lowson, Pattison, Gordon, Wilkinson, Rowbotham (Hall 22), Close (captain), Larkin (Fowler 65), Briggs, Moffat, Francis, Richardson. Subs unused: Ward, Galpin, Carr.
Shaw Lane Aquaforce: Gathercole, Stohrer, O’Brien, Foster, Denton, Holt, Fox (Darley 62), Thornhill, Eyles (J Thornton 68), Morris, Kelsey (Danville 93). Subs unused: Conway, M Thornton.
Referee: C Keightley