Tranmere Rovers 1-1 Chelmsford City
Robbie Willmott’s stunning solo strike after thirty minutes put the visitors into a shock lead, but a goal against-the-run-of-play from Cole Stockton with twenty minutes left meant that Rovers would visit Chelmsford on Wednesday.
Striker Chris Dickson’s audacious effort on four minutes almost caught home ‘keeper Scott Davies out, but his volley from 20-yards went over.
A late challenge from Chris Bush on Lois Maynard gave the hosts a free-kick in a dangerous position, but the Clarets’ opposition were unable to make a clear-cut chance as it was cleared away.
Willmott was given the freedom of Berkshire when Dickson slotted him through, but the winger saw his cross ricochet off central defender Stephen McNulty into Davies’ hands.
Davies’ opposite number was called into action soon afterwards, as Ross Fitzsimons got down quickly to deal with James Norwood’s drilled effort.
Willmott continued to carve chances by beating his marker, but neither Shaun Jeffers nor Chris Dickson could connect to the end.
The hosts had the best chance to score when Norwood sent two fierce strikes towards goal in quick succession, but defender Ashley Miller threw his body to stop them.
The score-line was eventually broken on thirty minutes. Willmott took advantage of Lee Vaughan’s poor diving header before nestling an effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the box – sending the travelling supporters into delirium.
The Clarets were forced into an early substitution when Mark Haines went down holding his hamstring, with Max Cornhill coming on for the defender.
Willmott’s opener gave the visitors more confidence and it showed as Bush eased into the box before sending his shot just wide of the up-right.
The hosts had the first corner of the tie with four minutes left but a resolute defence denied Tranmere the chance to score.
Bush became the first – and only – player to get booked on 43 minutes as his late challenge on Vaughan caught the home defender.
Micky Mellon made his first change at half-time, replacing Lois Maynard with Liverpool loanee Jack Dunn.
Ben Tollitt proved to be a constant troublemaker on the near side, with the young winger easing past Bagasan Graham throughout the game.
And his ability to get past Graham showed when he delivered an inch-perfect cross for Norwood, only for Bush to rush onto the ball and clear the danger away.
Bush was involved once again in the action – just the action happened off-the-pitch. The central defender tussled with Tollitt for the ball and when it rolled out-of-play, the winger went skidding into the advertising boards – much to the distaste of the home support, with Bush receiving boos from then on afterwards.
As the clock ticked past the hour mark, the visitors almost doubled their lead. Dickson beat the offside trap and knocked the ball past Davies, only to look back and see the linesman’s flag raised for offside.
The hosts levelled the scores on 70 minutes as a cross fell to substitute Stockton, and the striker controlled impeccably before driving his shot past Fitzsimons.
Dunn thought he had scored a dramatic debut goal but his fizzing volley flew over the bar.
Jeffers almost netted a late winner for the Clarets as he poked the ball from defender McNulty – who had left the ball for Davies – only for the goalkeeper to quickly regather the ball.
McNulty proved incredibly important for the hosts, with every cross the Clarets made being headed away by the large defender.
The visitors’ final chance came as Willmott curled in a corner, but Jeffers’ effort smacked against the crossbar before going over.