AS THE clock ticked down ever so slowly towards the end of Guiseley’s roller-coaster FA Cup encounter with Cambridge United, Will Hatfield did not know whether to laugh or cry.
Four goals to the good early in the second half, it would have seemed incomprehensible to anyone who witnessed the first hour of a thoroughly one-sided Nethermoor encounter that the Lions would only progress to the second round by the skin of their teeth at the final whistle.
A dramatic late rally saw the U’s go close to claiming a unlikely replay after pulling three goals back to almost spoil one of the most famous days in Guiseley’s history. Thankfully for the hosts, Guiseley prevailed to book their place in the second round for just the second time ever – but only just following a tense 4-3 victory over the League Two visitors.
Hatfield, whose magnificent 25th-minute opener started the fun and games, said: “It is incredible because the last 20 minutes were the worst I have been involved with on a football pitch.
“Their goals seemed to come out from nowhere and it was horrible to play in, I have got to admit. When they got the third, I was just thinking: ‘just blow the whistle, please’.
“I cannot describe it. It was just a ‘mental’ 20 minutes.
“I have never been involved in a game like that. But coming out on the winning side, I will take that game every week as long as we win.
“We got there in the end, that is the main thing and I am absolutely delighted. There is a buzz around the club and that is the magic of the FA Cup.”
It was an afternoon which saw Hatfield handed his share of the limelight by virtue of his wonderful half-volley, one of the goals of the round.
It represented the enduring image of a sweet occasion for the Lions and provided fulsome proof of the romanticism of the world’s most-loved domestic cup competition.
On his strike, Hatfield observed: “It is up there with one of my best.
“I have had a few good ones over the years when I was younger and growing up. But to do it in a match like this in the FA Cup and strike a ball like that ... I was due one really and trusted my ability.
“I have had a few chances in the league which I probably should have taken. To do it in this kind of match and atmosphere is amazing.
“I have scored a few in training like that and for one to go in during a match, I am delighted.”
The industrious midfielder has been involved with a number of famous Guiseley games of yore during his time at the club, with Sunday’s events being as tumultuous as any which he has sampled in his spell at Nethermoor in his view.
And the devout hope of everyone at the club is that Guiseley’s cup adventure has at least one more chapter to write as they seek to progress to the third round for the first time in the club’s history.
On a never-to-be-forgotten occasion, Hatfield added: “It means so much for me.
“We have had some really good moments in the last games of the season and this was right up there and we will kick on from here.
“There was so much disappointment last season after having two seasons before where we stayed up on the last day of the season. The feeling after this game was like that and that is what the club wanted and needed. It was a real buzz.”
Guiseley were the first team out of the hat when the draw for the second round was conducted in front of joint managers Marcus Bignot and Russ O’Neill, live on BBC2 last night.
And the Lions’ reward for their giantkilling feat was a home tie against League 1 side Fleetwood Town.
Town are managed by controversial former Manchester City player Joey Barton and ties will be played on the weekend of November 30.
Meanwhile Guiseley will play at Lancaster City in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy, while Bradford Park Avenue visit Altrincham.
Farsley Celtic will travel to Alfreton if they beat Carlton Town in their second-qualifying round replay tomorrow evening.
The ties will be played on November 24.