Northwich Victoria 2-0 1874 Northwich

VICS have done it again.

And, to them at least, the latest success against 1874 Northwich meant that bit more.

Perhaps it was because there was a place in a cup final as a prize, something their manager Steve Wilkes made clear publicly and in the dressing room before kick-off.

He confessed that initially not every player was persuaded – one of them even laughed at the suggestion – but they’d all come around by full-time.

Winsford United now stand between them and a first overall victory in this competition since 2015.

They made the most of a leg up when referee Karl Buckley judged Jack Pritchard to just about have been clumsy enough knock Dom Craig off course after failing to connect with an attempted clearance.

Joel Brownhill’s penalty was dispatched confidently and, as they had done in January, Vics knew what to do from there.

There was still half an hour left, and 1874 management duo Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison responded straightaway by sending on Aaron Smith to provide a purpose to their midfield that had previously been missing.

He executed better too, and from a corner he picked out Mark Jones who headed off-target.

The visitors, able to restart play more than 20 times because of foul committed by Vics while also racking up 11 corners, had failed spectacularly to create danger from set-pieces previously.

It was a source of great frustration to their joint bosses, who more than once turned around in anguish at another wasted delivery.

What's worse is there was no one single culprit either.

Northwich Guardian:

Taylor Kennerley struggles to plot a course through a well-marshalled Northwich Victoria defence when 1874 Northwich attacked during the first-half of their Mid-Cheshire District FA Senior Cup semi-final on Thursday. Picture: Ian Dutton

Vics had not sat back, it is not their way under Wilkes, and Craig wriggled away from a defender’s challenge before his shot from an angle was blocked at his near post by goalkeeper Tony Aghayere.

Smith glided into a shooting space at the other end after Michael Koral nodded the ball into his path but his drive from 20-yards flashed wide.

Just as they had to take the lead earlier, Vics scored during a spell when 1874 were threatening to run up a head of steam.

Substitute Jordan Darr, introduced seconds earlier, could not have announced his arrival any better.

There was plenty to do when Brownhill flicked a header towards him but the youngster used his first touch to cheekily flick the ball past Pritchard before an emphatic second rifled the ball into the top corner following the sweetest of connections.

It was a knockout blow of the most devastating kind; unexpected, but with maximum impact.

To their credit, the visitors raised themselves.

Substitute Callum Gardner swivelled and shot in the same movement and an awkward bounce made custodian Danny Taberner’s save more complicated than at first glance.

Smith then conjured another high-quality free-kick, arcing a cross onto Taylor Kennerley’s head but the wing man’s finish was inches wide of an upright.

It summed up 1874’s night; they were simply not precise enough.

Their opponents, forced to adjust to having neither Rob Doran nor Brian Matthews available to lead their attack, have a handy knack now of winning games like this.

Vics | 4-3-3 | Taberner (GK), Camozzi, Kenny, Barski, Fleming, Clarke, Cooke (Connolly 72), Craig, Winder (Fitzgerald 88), Brownhill, Mason (Darr 80) Sub not used Whyte Goals Brownhill 57 (penalty), Darr 81 Booked Barski, Kenny (both fouls), Clarke (handball)

1874 | 4-2-3-1 | Aghayere (GK), Connor (Hind 73), Meadowcroft (Smith 59), Pritchard, Russell, Jones, Matthew Woolley, Koral, Hare (Gardner 83), Kennerley, McGowan Subs not used Ormrod, Phipps Booked Pritchard (foul)

Referee Karl Buckley

Attendance 371