A LABOURED Bromsgrove Sporting bowed out of the Polymac Packaging League Cup on penalties to lower-ranked Littleton.
Matthew Edwards opened the scoring for the Midland League Division One visitors who probably should have had the game wrapped up before second-half substitute Robbie Bunn drilled in the equaliser nine minutes from time.
Although Sporting ‘keeper Reece Francis saved the first three Ton Boys penalties, his efforts were in vain as Jason Cowley, Sean Brain and Connor Deards all missed from 12 yards out.
Young Nathan Binner kept his cool to send the spot-kicks into sudden death where Jack Wilson’s miss ensured Littleton ran out 4-3 winners in the shoot-out.
Joe Adams, Brendon Bunn, Steve Roche and Shay Palmer netted to secure a second big scalp for the the visitors who knocked out Worcester City in the previous round.
After the lows at Coventry Sphinx, Shepshed Dynamo and Highgate United, nobody could imagine similar abject performances from those days could be repeated.
But how wrong the 356-strong crowd at the Victoria Ground were as Sporting got off to another sloppy start, falling behind in just the second minute.
The lively Dan Carter saw his low drive from a tight angle parried by Francis into the path of Edwards who could not miss from a couple of yards out.
And things could have gone from bad to worse just six minutes later when Carter played Jordan Jones in on goal but the former Sporting and Redditch United defender was thwarted by the onrushing Francis.
Immediately up the other end John Pykett had a stinging left-footed drive tipped over by Littleton ‘keeper Bunn and it looked as though this may have been the point where Paul Smith’s men kicked into gear.
But any sign of high-tempo stalled with Littleton showing much more desire and fight to win the ball.
And if it was not for a goal-line clearance in the 16th minute, David Edwards would have doubled the visitors’ lead.
Lacklustre Sporting tried to make things click as they half went on but passes seemed forced and every long ball up to Deards and Wade Malley was swept up with ease by a solid Littleton defence.
And the visitors had their chances to stretch their advantage just before the break as Carter’s low delivery across the face of goal did not get the desired touch while Edwards’ flicked header from Brett Fellows’ corner flew agonisingly wide of the far post.
The second half was pretty much a carbon copy of the first as the Ton Boys started stronger, with another dangerous delivery across goal by the impressive Dale Edwards unable to be capitalised on.
Fellows was next to flash a whipped delivery into the danger area and once more no Littleton play was in the right position to tap in what would be the killer second.
A slip by Guy Clark then allowed Jones to race in on goal but his bid to round the onrushing Francis failed as the Sporting stopper did well to claw the ball away from danger as Sporting’s hopes of remaining in the league cup started to diminish.
And then against the run of play, Sporting sent the tie to penalties as Bunn worked himself some space on the edge of the area before curling home a left-footed drive beyond the outstretched arm of his brother Brendon in the Littleton goal.
After a dismal 90 minutes, it was safe to say the shoot-out provided much more drama as only one penalty was scored after the first six.
Dale and Dave Edwards as well as Jones were thwarted by Francis but only Sam Wills could find the net for Sporting as Cowley’s drive down the middle was saved while Brain’s effort sailed horribly over the bar.
Ton Boys skippers Adams then levelled before Deards skied his effort into the Shed End.
Bunn then put the visitors on the verge of victory after his effort crashed in off the bar but teenage rising star Binner kept his cool to make it 2-2.
Roche and Craig Jones converted their respective penalties before Palmer made it 4-3 to Littleton with another confident penalty which bounced in off the woodwork.
Wilson was up next but his effort was blocked which was met by jubilant scenes as Sporting crashed out of their second cup competition of the season.
The only bright spark for Sporting was youngster Binner who showed great composure in the centre of the park, barely put a pass wrong and dispatched his penalty with confidence – certainly one for the future.