Flint Town United 1 (McManus pen 18)
Gresford Athletic 1 (Roberts 86)
Huws Gray Cup semi-final – April 27, 2016
(Flint won on 3-2 penalties)
Goalkeeper Ross Dalton was Flint’s hero as he saved two spot-kicks in a penalty shoot-out to ensure the Silkmen progressed to the league cup final.
After dominating in normal time, the Cae-y-Castell side had to endure the drama of penalties but came through 3-2.
A performance full of character from the winners was rightly rewarded, although Gresford made them work very hard and took it to the wire, equalising with just four minutes of the 90 left.
Flint were missing Simon Thelwell, Russ Courtney and Jack Abraham, but to their credit, their replacements stepped up to the plate and the all-round performance was one the players could be proud of.
The home side carved out the first opening on 12 minutes, when an Abe Dobson free kick from the right was met by John Davies, but his header went back across goal.
Stewart Carroll pinged in a great cross from the left on the quarter hour that was just headed to safety by a covering defender as Joe Palmer was poised to strike.
Flint opened the scoring after 18 minutes, as Carroll was played in by Kyle Smyth. He rounded keeper Jon Hill-Dunt, only to be brought down, and Paul McManus dispatched the resulting penalty.
Play-maker Carroll found Palmer with an exquisite lob, as Flint continued to take the game to their opponents. The young forward displayed a great first touch to bring the ball down, but then hit a tame shot wide.
A further chance went begging for the home side when a stray back pass by Matty Cook was played into Carroll’s path. He had more time than he perhaps realised, and in the end his hurried effort was easily dealt with.
Five minutes before the break, Dobson found Carroll at the far post with a free kick, but he headed wide.
Half-time: Flint 1 Gresford 0
It had been a fantastic first half performance from Flint, who carved out a string of chances, looked strong at the back and fully deserved their lead, the only thing missing being the cushion of a second goal.
The Silkmen picked up at the start of the second half where they had left off, Palmer heading into the path of Smyth who ran in on goal but shot wide.
A rare mistake by the Flint defence on the hour saw a weak clearance go straight to Josh Griffiths 12 yards out, but fortunately for the home side he shot over.
With four minutes remaining, Gresford grabbed the goal they had been threatening during the latter stages.
Rhys Lloyd from out wide played a quick, low ball across the six-yard box which Owen Roberts was first to react to, getting in at the near post and scoring.
Flint could still have won it in normal time, but Smyth squandered a great chance.
Gresford edged the first period of extra time, but the only chance of note was easily dealt with by Dalton after Roberts tried his luck from the edge of the box.
In the second period, Flint found their second wind and their best opportunity came on 119 minutes, when a McManus corner found Phil Djan, who was presented with a free header to win the game, but agonisingly failed to connect.
Flint’s Dalton got the better of his more experienced counterpart by saving two kicks, with another effort hit over the bar.
Flint scored three of their four, McManus, Craig Jones and Joe Culshaw all on target as they booked their final spot.
After a losing streak of seven games, this was a tremendous Flint performance. However, they went on to lose to Caernarfon Town in the final.
Flint Town United: Ross Dalton, John Hill, Joe Culshaw, Craig Jones (c), John Davies, Steve Cunningham, Abe Dobson, Stewart Carroll (P Martin 97), Joe Palmer (L Randles 70) (P Djan 107), Paul McManus, Kyle Smyth.
Gresford Athletic: J Hill-Dunt (c), J Price, M Cook, M Peate, N Peate, J Griffiths, J Mountford, T Wells (R Lloyd 83), O Roberts, M Latham (G Williams 76), S. Richardson (J Colo 83).