FROM 1874 Northwich’s point of view, what matters most is they have a semi-finals spot.

But how they secured one will be almost as satisfying.

Scott McGowan’s penalty separated them from Leighton on the scoreboard, but a distance between the sides felt greater by full-time.

The visitors cruised through.

Their victory wasn’t aesthetic, but authoritative.

Surprisingly, given the prize at stake, attacks from the home team against their defensive wall did not come in waves.

The front man’s goal, swept emphatically to goalkeeper Tom Wyant’s right, was a microcosm of the game.

Domenico Marsala’s lack of composure, lunging for a ball that Jake Parker reached before him, was in stark contrast to McGowan’s ice-cool execution.

Sadly for the Leighton wing-man, it wasn’t the first time a rush of blood had affected him.

As it happens, he fluffed the hosts’ best chance of the contest inside five minutes when he sliced horribly off-target following a neat exchange with Lea Coulter.

Indeed, Leighton impressed most before they trailed.

After 11 successive wins, they have grown used to being front-runners in recent weeks.

They started at a high tempo, and pinned back 1874 inside their own-half.

Matt Hall’s delivery from corners, his team’s most potent weapon, was a threat.

When Alex O’Brien’s chanced his arm with a shot from distance that dipped late, goalkeeper Greg Hall had to react smartly to tip it over.

1874 countered at speed from the resulting corner, and Wyant was swift from his line to smother Parker’s shot after Sam Hind slid a pass into the midfielder’s path.

They led less than two minutes later.

A grip on the game, they rarely looked like having it prized away.

James Hatch at least called Hall into action again before the break, but his shot lacked the force to cause any concern.

The visitors were forced to make a change early in the second-half when Paul Connor succumbed to an injury and the introduction of Danny Meadowcroft, with Ryan Mitchell shuffling across to full-back, only strengthened their cause.

Leighton did not deviate from their plan, which was even less likely to work given the newcomer’s dominance in the air.

Instead Hind had a glimpse of goal, but could not lift his finish over Wyant.

Hatch hit his next attempt harder, forcing Hall to parry, after Marsala nudged the ball into his path.

And yet still it did not spark Leighton.

Manager Scott Reynolds sent on Lorrell Smith and George Boland, although with only minimum impact.

The former’s speed took him clear of Meadowcroft in the closing stages, but his shot was straight at Hall.

An inability to ruffle 1874 had by then had a demoralising effect.

None of that mattered much to a huge travelling contingent from Northwich, who have now seen their side progress through eight stages to reach the last four.

If any of them sleep on Saturday night, they’ll dream of Wembley.

Leighton | 4-4-2 | Wyant (GK), Towell (Fryer 89), Murphy, Guiney, Hall, Marsala (Boland 70), Tappin, O’Brien, McBride, Coulter (Smith 64), Hatch Subs not used Kirkwood (GK), Bryant Booked Coulter (foul)

1874 | 4-3-3 | Hall (GK), Connor (Meadowcroft 49), Mitchell, Pritchard, Russell, Parker (Fallon 83), Matthew Woolley, Jones, Hind, McGowan, Kennerley (Whitlock 70) Subs not used Riley, Woods Goal McGowan 25 (penalty)

Referee Simon Borrow

Attendance 800