Warrington Rylands 1 West Auckland Town 1

(Warrington Rylands won 3-1 on penalties)

"SURELY, it can't be our turn again."

As time was called on the 90 minutes at Gorsey Lane on Saturday, one could not help but wonder if Warrington Rylands' luck was about to run out.

For this was a game they dominated from start to finish and one they looked all set to win.

An unfortunate own goal handed West Auckland Town a ticket for the lottery, however, as for the third time in their current FA Vase run, Blues were taken to penalties.

Having been reinstated into the competition after North Ferriby, who thrashed them 4-0 last weekend, were found to have fielded an ineligible player, it seemed as though a higher power was smiling on the Northern League side.

Like their league rivals Shildon last week, though, they did not bank on the penalty-saving machine between the home posts.

Goalkeeper Graeme McCall was the hero once again, stopping two shoot-out spot kicks to keep dreams of Wembley Stadium very much alive.

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Warrington Rylands owner Paul Stretford celebrates after the penalty shoot-out. Picture by Mike Boden

"I think we were the better side throughout today," manager Dave McNabb said.

"I don’t think we were brilliant – we weren’t clinical enough and our decision-making in the final third wasn’t quite with it. It might have been nerves and rustiness again.

"Normally when you’re in the Vase you’re playing league games in between and by now, we would have played 30-odd games.

"This was our 16th game of the season and we’ve had a four-month break.

"You’ve got to give a bit of leeway for that but when it goes to penalties, you’re thinking “surely it can’t be our turn again”.

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A jubilant Warrington Rylands manager Dave McNabb. Picture by Mike Boden

While they may have been fortunate to force a shoot-out last week, the boot was squarely on the other foot for Rylands this time around.

They played with authority and control, with West Auckland barely laying a glove on Joe Denman and the imperious Rick Smith in defence.

In midfield, Sam Sheen and Charlie Doyle laid a platform for the impressive Andy Scarisbrick to continuely break through the lines in support of the tireless Elliot Nevitt up front.

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Picture by Mike Boden

It was clear to see how much the powerful frontman was missed when suspended for the trip to Shildon.

West Auckland defender Evan Horwood can count the likes of Hartlepool United, Carlisle United and Northampton Town in a career spent mostly in the Football League, but he and centre-back partner James Harwood would have had few more uncomfortable afternoons.

"He’s a fantastic footballer and a great lad as well," McNabb said of his striker.

"It took him a little bit of time to settle in as he’s a really quiet lad, but he’s integrated himself really well into the team.

"The last two games, we have been missing players in attacking areas.

"We’ve had no Kane (Drummond), no Lee Knight, Elliot was missing last week, Ste Milne was missing this week.

"Hopefully we can get them all back and playing next week."

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Elliot Nevitt gave the West Auckland defence endless problems. Picture by Mike Boden

Nevitt had chances to cap his display with a goal, with a stand-out opportunity in the second half lifted over the bar after he had hustled Harwood off the ball.

Shortly after, though, the goal Blues' play deserved came.

Scarisbrick broke beyond the visiting defence and could have gone himself, but he spotted Paul Shanley unguarded at the far post.

He unselfishly rolled it into the winger's path and he gleefully tapped home.

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Paul Shanley puts Warrington Rylands ahead and celebrates with his teammates. Pictures by Mike Boden

Even though the onus was on them to force the issue, though, West Auckland did not muster much of a response.

Striker David Dowson was isolated and Denman, Smith and those around them were able to repel most of what came their way.

In their time of need, though, they were handed a stroke of luck as a corner bounced off a helpless Denman and into the Rylands net.

"I couldn’t help but think somebody wasn’t smiling on us," McNabb said.

"We were comfortable and normally when you’re 1-0 up in a cup tie, the pendulum swings the other way. The other side tend to push you back and force things.

"I don’t think they did – we probably made a bit of an error of judgement in giving away the corner.

"I don’t think they’ve attacked it – it’s just bounced up, hit Joe and gone in.

"It’s massively unfortunate for Joe because I thought he played really well, especially in the second half."

It did not put Rylands off their stride as they continued to control proceedings, but could not find that crucial breakthrough.

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Picture by Mike Boden

Off they went to penalties but as Shildon, Jarrow and Whitby Town have already found out this season, that is where they seem to thrive.

After both sides had converted their first efforts, McCall stopped Anthony Bell's kick and once Joe Coveney and Nevitt had converted their penalties, it was over to their goalkeeper again.

When Arron Thompson's effort thudded off his gloves, McCall was engulfed by jubilant teammates within seconds.

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The wild celebrations that followed the winning penalty save. Pictures by Mike Boden

And so they now stand just two wins away from Wembley Stadium but the sizeable hurdle of Hebburn Town block their path next Saturday.

They contest the delayed 2020 final at Wembley just two days after their trip to Gorsey Lane and only they will be able to tell how big an impact that will have on their display.

Regardless, given what they have already been through to get to this stage, it would be foolish to bet against what is clearly a special band of brothers in blue.

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Picture by Mike Boden