Sporting Khalsa must do it all again on Tuesday after a late, late equaliser by Hanley Town cancelled out Craig Bannister‘s opener.
Bannister – last season’s top goalscorer in the FA Cup – only had to wait four minutes to open his account for the 2016-17 campaign, curling in a delicious 25-yard free kick to give his side the perfect start.
And the new-look Khalsa – featuring no less than five debutants – looked good value to build on their lead with one of the new signings, Lee Chilton, having a shot cleared off the line on 21 minutes.
Another new face, centre-half Rudy Misambo had his debut curtailed on the half hour, suffering an injury while giving away a foul which almost resulted in an equaliser for the visitors.
Dave Meese went close for Khalsa on 38 minutes, heading narrowly over the bar and just before half time Hanley had the ball in the net, only for the goal to be scrubbed for offside.
The second half saw both sides tussling for supremacy, Hanley battling gamely to draw level.
On 78 minutes substitute Simeon Townsend shot wide before Chilton shot wide from the next attack as chances to seal the game went begging. And a minute later Marvin Nisbett‘s cross found the toe of Chilton and as Chilton was about to tap home a Hanley defender managed a last ditch challenge to clear for a corner.
Substitute John Hill then headed wide for Khalsa on 80 minutes as they tried to kill the game off, but suffered the sucker punch in the last minute when Nisbett dallied on the ball and the cross was headed home by Dan Cope who had left his marker and gifted with a free header.
Sporting Khalsa: Tom Turner, Joe Rogers, Tim Jackson, Rudy Misambo (John Hill), Tes Robinson (captain), Marvin Nisbett, Dave Meese, Elliot Turner, Craig Bannister (Matt Martin), Nicky Turton (Simeon Townsend), Lee Chilton. Subs not used: Michael Nelson, Bekir Halil, Callum Cooper, Mihai Gherasim.
Man-of-the-match: Tes Robinson