Connah’s Quay Nomads made Welsh football history on Saturday evening as they became the first ever Welsh club to reach the final of the Irn Bru Cup.
A 2nd minute opener from Josh Walker sent Edinburgh ahead, but an 18th minute equaliser from Michael Wilde sent to game into deadlock, with a 5-4 penalty shootout victory confirming Nomads’ place in the final.
The game marked a historic occasion at Deeside, as it was the first time Nomads had hosted a Scottish club for a competitive fixture, and their inaugural semi final as they looked to become the first Welsh club to ever reach the finals of the Irn Bru Cup.
Standing in their way were Scottish League Two Leaders Edinburgh City, who travelled to Deeside sitting top of their league enjoying a strong season under the guidance of James McDonaugh.
Nomads meanwhile came into game in good form having won their first two Championship Conference games against Newtown AFC and Caernarfon Town, and had already made history by defeating Falkirk, Coleraine and Queens Park FC at Hampden Park in their path to the semi-final.
And the game was the focus of major fanfare throughout the Welsh football scene and beyond, as fans of all sides got behind Nomads, who were representing Wales in the live Sgorio game.
🙌🏻 And we’re incredibly proud of the Gaffer! pic.twitter.com/OQvPkWOgcT
— Connah’s Quay Nomads (@the_nomads) February 16, 2019
Andy Morrison made one change to his line up after their 6-2 win over Caernarfon Town, bringing in the consistent John Disney to replace Priestley Farquharson. Edinburgh City named a similarly strong line up with star man Liam Henderson leading the line for Scottish side.
The semi final got off to a nightmare start for Nomads, as after just two minutes, Josh Walker gave Edinburgh a 0-1 lead.
After John Danby saved an initial effort from around 10 yards out, Walker followed up with a close range effort near the left post to give Edinburgh an early advantage.
But Nomads hit back with pressure of their own, with the likes of Andy Owens and Michael Bakare getting onto the end of Jake Phillips’ trademark long throw ins to cause problems in the Citizens’ final third.
Nomads’ pressure paid off in the 18th minute, with a Jake Phillips throw in the key to his equaliser. It triggered a melee in the area, with a Callum Morris shot deflecting off Andy Owens to fall to Wilde who fired home inside the six yard box.
The Welsh hosts enjoyed a strong period after Wilde’s goal, winning multiple set pieces in the Edinburgh half. One in the 34th minute taken by Bakare was deflected into the goal, but it was ruled out by the offside flag.
The game had all the hallmarks of a cup classic as both teams engaged in a fierce battle in the midfield to try and take control of the game.
Nomads were denied by Citizens’ goalkeeper Callum Antell at the death of the first half, when Jake Phillips sent a powerful curling effort towards the top left corner of the Citizens’ net, only for Antell to rise and push it away.
The sides went in level at the interval, with Nomads looking to build on a professional first half performance.
After the game recommenced both sides again locked horns in the stalemate, with Bakare’s skill and pace winning valuable set pieces for the Nomads as they targeted the Edinburgh end.
After the hour mark Connah’s Quay went close to breaking the deadlock, as George Horan, who won practically everything in the air during the tie, sent a header just over the Edinburgh goal in the 62nd.
Three minutes later, they went agonisingly close when a John Danby free kick was headed onto the crossbar by Andy Owens.
Despite brave play from the Nomads all over the field, the game remained level as they entered the final stages of normal time with extra time beckoning. In order to try and seal the win inside 90 minutes, Rob Hughes was introduced in place of Andy Owens.
And a late winner came close for Nomads, who nearly went through on goal against Antell via Wilde in the 82nd minute, in a counter attack which was recovered by the Citizen’s defence.
In the 85th minute, a long throw in was sent just wide by the heel of Bakare as Nomads continued in their campaign to seal victory within normal time.
In the 90th minute there was controversy, when Bakare tore into the Edinburgh defence to go clear in front of Antell in goal, only to be pulled back at the last minute by Marc Laird, who was shown yellow by English FA referee James Oldham despite calls for a red from the home crowd.
With normal time unable to separate the sides, extra time took place, with Edinburgh having the best chance of the first half in the 98th minute, when a corner kick swung onto the goal line, with the referee ruling the ball hadn’t crossed it.
The second half of extra time saw further deadlock, as Scott Shepherd threatened with a cross into the Nomads’ area before the offside flag went up against Wilde as he headed towards goal in the 108th.
With just seven minutes to go, George Horan again stepped with heroics to deny Edinburgh with a low block of a shot just 12 yards from goal.
After one minute of additional time of extra time, full time was confirmed sending the semi final tie to penalties at Deeside.
Nomads scored their first four penalties through Morris, Harrison, Disney and Bakare, meaning their fifth taker, Wilde could win the game by scoring from the spot.
But there was a further twist as Wilde’s effort was denied, sending the shootout into sudden death.
After George Horan converted Nomads’ next penalty, John Danby stepped up to write himself into the history books with a save against Ciaran Diver to win the tie.
The result continues Connah’s Quay Nomads’ stunning success under the leadership of Andy Morrison, who has guided them to three successive Europa League qualifications, a Welsh Cup win, and now Wales’ first ever Irn Bru Cup final.
The final will be played at a venue and time to be confirmed on the weekend of 23/24 March.
Reports by @Willcatter
Photos by @nikitasmesney