A record crowd of over 2,200 saw Sporting Khalsa go toe-to-toe with FC United of Manchester, threes leagues above them in a pulsating FA Cup clash.
FC United were the stronger team in the first half by some margin, Tes Robinson had to be on his guard to deny Sam Madeley after just three minutes.
Marvin Nisbett forced David Carnell to dash out to clear before the predatory striker could latch onto a Mike Perks through ball on 11 minutes and five minutes later Robinson surged forward and shot, forcing an easy save from Carnell.
The visitors made the breakthrough on 27 minutes, Luke Ashworth – brilliant throughout – heading home from a corner. A fine save by Pemberton kept Khalsa in the game, Greg Daniels lurching forward and forcing a good block.
Dave Meese produced a comfortable save on 35 minutes, his acrobatic effort after Carnell had punched his flick-on from Jackson’s corner held relatively easily. Craig Bannister had a chance on 39 minutes, the ball falling to him 40 yards out but with an empty goalmouth after Carnell had rushed out and headed Nisbett’s effort from Meese’s flick forward he was unable to make the telling contribution.
Minutes later, FCUM were two up, Greg Daniels tussling with and getting the better of Robinson before lobbing Pemberton.
Khalsa came out much stronger in the second half, although it was FCUM who might have got a third early on when Rory Fallon took advantage of some hesitation in the Khalsa defensive ranks to chip over.
Khalsa’s pressure finally told on 65 minutes when Bannister and Mensah Kinch combined from a corner and Robinson lashed home his seventh of the season.
In honesty, FCUM were on the ropes and four minutes later a Tim Jackson free kick was headed back by Robinson and Nisbett was just unable to get to it at the far post. Khalsa began to turn the screw and, on 80 minutes the turning point of the game came when the referee waved away appeals for a penalty on what was, by anyone’s standards, a clear handball.
It was a decision that would cost Khalsa as they continued to push for an equaliser, Craig Lindfield finishing brilliantly on the break.
Fallon should have done better on 87 minutes with a free header in front of Pemberton from close range and it needed the intervention of Joe Rogers to deny Madeley right at the end.
Congratulations to FCUM. Their fans really are something to behold and are a credit to the club and non-league football.
Sporting Khalsa: James Pemberton; Carlo Franco (Simeon Townsend), Tim Jackson, Joe Rogers, Tes Robinson; Mike Perks, Dave Meese (Brad Lawley), Lee Wherton (Captain) (Michael Nelson), Marvin Nisbett, Mensah Kinch; Craig Bannister.
Man-of-the-match for Khalsa: Marvin Nisbett.