Saints beat Stockport County 2-1 in Tuesday’s rearranged Buildbase FA Trophy quarter-final replay thanks to a superb second half winner from Shane Byrne.
In front of more than 500 fans at St James Park, Kevin Wilkin’s side took an early first half lead through top scorer Aaron Williams, with his 26th goal of the campaign, only for Jason Oswell to equalise after the restart. But parity was only restored briefly as Byrne put Saints back in front and this time there was no reply from the former Football League club.
A Wembley final is now only two games away for Saints who will now meet Vanarama National League South outfit Wealdstone, who they beat in the same competition last season, in a two-legged semi-final.
Williams gave Saints a fourth minute lead, lobbing on-rushing keeper Ben Hinchliffe after good work by Lee Ndlovu. Jimmy Armson’s low shot was well saved by Hinchcliffe before Stockport enjoyed the better of the latter stages of the opening half with good possession and earning a succession of corners.
Darren Stephenson fired over from ten yards and Oswell brought a fine save from Danny Lewis to send the teams into the break separated only by Williams’ goal.
But County were level within three minutes of the restart as Oswell finished well from Scott Duxbury’s cross. Game back on? No, Saints were back in front in the 54th minute with a stunning goal from Byrne.
Turning inside on to his left foot, Byrne struck his shot like an arrow from the edge of the area into the corner of the net, giving Hinchliffe no chance.
Matt Warburton failed to accept County’s best chance of the second half, shooting over just past the hour mark, as the visitors upped their game.
Wilkin’s change, swapping Matt Lowe for Luke Graham, brought his side back into a game that seemed to be slipping away as the visitors enjoyed the greater possession.
Saints went on to create the better chances, Adam Walker’s shot was saved well by Hinchcliffe, Armson volleyed just wide after a corner was only half cleared and Ndlovu’s long range shot was only gathered by the County keeper at the second attempt. Four minutes of added time increased the tension but Saints held out to claim their semi-final spot.