WITHOUT influential club captain Kristian Locker for his side’s biggest game of the season, Sleights player-manager James Howard tried a new look by playing wing-backs, with impressive youngsters Theo Smith and Mark McCarthy playing the key roles.
Rich Fletcher came in alongside Andy Hardy and Howard at the back in this Frank White Trophy semi-final and Sleights started well, trying to get the ball down at every opportunity, but they were unable to find the finishing touch in a frenetic first 20 minutes.
First blood was drawn by the visitors who won a soft-looking spot-kick when McCarthy was adjudged to have barged a Falsgrave player in the back. The resulting penalty was duly despatched.
A second goal followed with a ball from the left wing controlled by the Falsgrave striker who held off Hardy and shot low and hard past the unlucky Richard Coulson.
However, with only minutes remaining before half-time, great work from the bustling Dave Webster at the other end, freed Marc Kipling, who ended his goal drought by lobbing the onrushing keeper to plant seeds of doubt in the away side’s minds going into the break.
After a positive half-time team-talk, Sleights attacked from the restart with Ian Smith driving the team on, only to be hit by a sucker punch counter attack for the third goal.
With 20 minutes left, the game was killed off when Coulson was beaten for a fourth time.
Ironically, this seemed to settle the hosts who began to play some nice football and were rewarded with 10 minutes to play when Ian Smith’s shot was only parried and James Fawcett reacted quickest to tap in.
The villagers continued to press for a third - by now only playing with three out-and-out defenders - but another long ball into the home box was contested between a Falsgrave forward and Howard, whose perfectly-timed slide tackle was adjudged by the referee to be another penalty, despite even the recipient thinking otherwise.
The third division leaders netted from 12 yards and Sleights slipped out of the competition.
Howard told the Whitby Gazette: “This was always going to be a tough game.
“Falsgrave have proven game after game this season that they are about the best there is in this league and we found it tough today to cope with their quick-thinking forwards.
“They were always busy and on their toes. They are a physically strong team, who are well drilled, but for periods of the game we matched them.
“We need to learn to be more clinical in front of goal, and defend a little better as a team to be able to beat teams of Falsgrave’s capabilities on a regular basis.
“Today, however, we didn’t think they were three goals better than us and considering we had a goal wrongly disallowed and two very soft penalties given against us, we are a little perplexed, but that is football.
“We wish Falsgrave the best of luck for the remainer of the season including the cup final.”
Sleights 2 Falsgrave 5