NORTHWICH Victoria stayed on course for a return to the Northern Premier League’s top-flight, after four years away, by beating 10-man Glossop North End in a play-offs semi-final on Wednesday.
They travel to Spennymoor Town in the final tomorrow, Saturday.
In a frenzied opening, Stuart Cook calmly converted a penalty for Vics in the third minute after Kelvin Lugsden handled front man Richie Bennett’s cross.
A second might have followed, only for the Hillemen’s custodian Andy Roberts to block Cook’s drilled attempt.
Gary Burnett could not convert the rebound.
Instead Glossop drew level on 12 minutes, when Mark Reed was first to a loose ball after Cook had diverted Kieran Lugsden’s shot off the goal-line.
The contest’s major talking point followed when Robertson was shown a red card by referee Martin Woods after allegedly throwing a punch towards Northwich defender Andy Watson when the duo clashed following Brian Summerskill’s corner.
Former Winsford United manager Chris Willcock, without a specialist custodian among his substitutes, sent on full-back Ben Richardson to play between the posts.
He was largely untroubled until the interval, save for watching Bennett’s header from Alex Byrne’s cross drift past the far upright.
Captain Iain Howard sent an effort narrowly wide at the start of the second period, and Vics edged into a decisive lead shortly afterwards.
Bennett, Vics’ leading scorer with 28 goals this term, claimed it, firing a rising shot past Richardson from Howard’s neat lay-off.
The stand-in net-minder saved brilliantly Howard’s free kick with a quarter of an hour left, blocking too Bennett’s next attempt from close range.
Glossop sent on attacker Jason Carey in an attempt to score an equaliser, but their hosts held on to book a trip to Brewery Field.
They lost 2-0 there in March, but won the return at Wincham Park a fortnight ago.
Spennymoor, who finished runners-up Warrington in First Division North, came from behind to beat Burscough in the other semi-final on Tuesday.
Vics | Springthorpe (GK), Byrne, Watson, Regan, Duxbury, Cook, Summerskill, Simon Lakeland (Ball 83), Bennett (Clarke 90), Howard, Burnett (Amis 83) Subs not used McCoy (GK), Roddy Goals Cook 3 (penalty), Bennett 61 Booked Watson, Duxbury
Glossop | Robertson (GK), Kelvin Lugsden, Russell (Carey 76), Young, Barnes (Richardson 22), Andrews, Mulholland, Rainford (Bailey 46), Kieran Lugsden, Reed, Moran Subs not used Brizell, Parker Goal Reed 12 Booked Kelvin Lugsden, Young, Carey
Referee Martin Woods