An unfamiliar Sporting Khalsa side made painfully difficult work of Bolehall Swifts to progress to the second round of the Walsall Senior Cup, the introduction of Callum Cooper in the final third of the game proving decisive.
Khalsa boss Ian Rowe made a eight changes from the starting eleven that kicked off Saturday’s FA Cup tie with FC United of Manchester with only Joe Rogers, Dave Meese and Mike Perks surviving the rotation policy.
To their eternal credit, Bolehill – despite having only scraped three points all season in the first division of the Midland Football League – they were game and lively, with Vagwol Kebiambiko a constant menace down the right.
And it took the best part of an hour for Khalsa to break down their visitors as chance after chance went begging.
Meese almost got onto the end of a knock down from returning striker Rikardo Reid on six minutes, two minutes later Simeon Townsend might have reacted more quickly as the ball presented itself to him in the box and then Ben Hadley really ought to have done better after good work by Michael Nelson down the right.
The chances continued to come and go. Meese forced a good save from Jordan Spencer on 16 minutes and then the referee waved away appeals for a penalty after Townsend was pushed in the box. Reid blazed over and then forced a nifty save from Spencer in the space of two minutes.
And at the other end, Ben Czerepaninel was forced into action to deny Kebiambiko twice on 28 and 29 minutes as the visitors proved they were dangerous on the break.
Reid spurned another good chance just before the half time whistle after great interplay between Nelson and Townsend provided the striker with a shooting chance which he fired straight at Spencer.
The second half was a slightly less disjointed affair although the chances began to slow down. Hadley’s shot on 49 minutes after Nelson and Reid had combined well was easily saved by Spencer and five minutes later Brad Lawley had the ball in the net, only for the linesman’s flag to see it chalked off.
Hadley broke the deadlock with a moment of magic on 57 minutes, a fine left-footed free kick from 25 yards beating Spencer despite the keeper getting a hand to it.
Spencer will feel he should have done better eight minutes later as an effort by Meese from the edge of the area – a long way from the best effort the midfielder will strike this season – crept into the net through the arms of the keeper.
Substitute Callum Cooper whipped in a gorgeous cross for fellow sub Craig Bannister shortly afterwards, only for the linesman to again spoil the celebrations before the third sub, Kane Cork, did the hard work to get himself into position only to blaze wildly over the bar.
With 12 minutes to go, Bannister did get on the scoresheet and it was from another brilliant cross from Cooper (who put in half a dozen magnificent balls during his spell on the pitch) which gave Bannister the easiest of tasks.
Bannister should really have doubled his tally moments later as yet another Cooper cross caused havoc, but his shot was easy for Spencer to save.
But the scoreline was wrapped up on 80 minutes, a shot from the edge of the area from Cork was parried by Spencer and Lawley was on hand to tap home.
Efforts by Hadley and Nicky Campbell in the dying stages came to nothing and Khalsa were left to be grateful for the intervention of Cooper for providing the inspiration the game had been lacking.
Sporting Khalsa: Ben Czerepaninel; Nicky Campbell (captain), Jordan Uppal, Joe Rogers, Mike Perks; Brad Lawley, Dave Meese, Michael Nelson (Callum Cooper), Ben Hadley; Rikardo Reid (Kane Cork), Simeon Townsend (Craig Bannister).
Man-of-the-match: Callum Cooper.