Rob Hunter hailed his heroic Garforth Town players for going beyond limits to pull off the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round replay upset against Northern League giants Shildon.
Curtly Martin-Wyatt hit the winner 20 minutes from time in the 3-2 victory after Sean Hunter had twice pulled the Miners level.
It was some effort from Garforth who according to Hunter have faced many obstacles over the two fixtures with Shildon. The Miners drew 0-0 in the North East on Saturday.
“The lads were really running on empty towards the end, two or three of the lads were on their last legs,” Hunter told Non League Yorkshire.
“Jokingly, Lee Turner is getting old and he’s put in a huge performance in at centre-half on Saturday and a huge performance in the number ten slot for 70 minutes and then 20 minutes in the centre of midfield.
“They have put a huge shift in and I’m really proud. Shildon are a quality side with good players and there were some big performances from our lads.
“Alex Low and Dan Coupland in defence were outstanding, as was Toby Wells. I thought Danny Buttle was very good and Sean got two chances and scored them both. They were top, top finishes and I’m going to enjoy watching the video.
“Sean and Mark Simpson have worked incredibly hard upfront over the two games. They both came off after 75 minutes on Saturday and they were both shattered.
“They run themselves into the ground again this evening and they’ve had to do to beat a side like Shildon.
“We’ve been struggling for centre-halves for the last two games. We lost Alex before the game on Saturday and then we lost James Beaston five minutes into Saturday’s game. Then we lost Adam Porritt ten minutes into tonight so we have been really up against it.”
The winner was a big reward for Martin-Wyatt, whose goal was his best moment in a Garforth jersey since almost single-handily scoring the goals to keep the club up in the 2015/16 season.
Hunter paid tribute to the popular forward and said: “Curtly has had a horrible time.
“He has had some big injuries and he’s gone from being one of the best players at this level to having a season out and then a season of mixed injuries and mixed fortunes.
“He’s been a bit emotional over the last week. I left him out of the starting eleven against Handsworth when he’d done really well in pre-season.
“But he’s come tonight with a smile on his face and got us the winner. He’s loving it and we had a big cuddle afterwards. We’re all friends again.
“I actually told him before he came on that he’d score the winner.”
Garforth were helped by the first half dismissal of key Shildon attacker Kurt Matthews who saw red for his horror challenge Matthew Wilkinson.
Hunter agreed that the decision from referee Lee Hible was correct.
“Yeah absolutely, it was a nasty tackle and he has cost them the game,” he said.
“The number 11 was outstanding on Saturday, and I can’t understand what’s he done.
“The full-back has got the ball and he’s run ten yards at full speed and launched himself off-the-ground with two feet. It was the easiest red card the referee is ever going to give.
“He handled it well because he could have chucked yellow cards around after the melee. I thought the referee did quite well tonight.”
The victory was one of, if not the greatest Garforth have enjoyed since the glory-laden Steve Nichol era.
But Hunter played down the suggestion that it was the best of his three-year reign.
“Well, it is definitely the best performance we put in over two games,” he said.
“We were average in the first half tonight. When they went down to ten men we took our foot off the gas.
“The lads got a rollicking and in the second half we turned it around. We played higher up the pitch and started competing in the middle of the park.
“We got three cracking goals and over the two games we probably just deserved it. Where does it rank (in my time at Garforth Town)? It is up there.
“We don’t win many FA Cup games. It is probably second to the Bridlington FA Cup win last season. Albert Ibrahimi’s goal into the top corner in injury-time probably just beats this.”