NETHERTON Under 16s staged a valiant fightback but were still defeated 3-2 by Brighouse Town in the West Riding County FA Cup.
Second Division Netherton previously beat Harrogate League leaders Knaresborough Celtic to reach this stage, and they almost provided another shock result.
Like Knaresborough, Division I Brighouse also started the game as favourites, but manager Wally Hemmingway was well aware of the danger of complacency and, arriving one hour before kick off, made sure his side were well prepared for the task ahead.
Netherton started well but, the persistent rain and heavy pitch didnt help as players struggled to stay on their feet and Matthew Wensley, Daniel Meredith, Dan Holmes and Joe Farnsworth did well to hold off the home sides early advantage.
By the quarter hour, Brighouse had begun to take control and only a superb save from Oliver Littleford denied Sully Rafiq, but the Netherton keeper had no chance when Jordan Byrnes headed home a Luke Hill near-post cross to make it 1-0.
As the end of the first half drew near, Netherton were beginning to struggle as Rafiq and Luke Hill piled on the pressure, and Brighouses dominance finally took its toll when Byrnes shot from the corner of the penalty area dipped over keeper Littleford into the top far corner.
Thankfully the rain relented as the second half got under way and Netherton re-started with a new determination to get something out of the game and, this time, it was the turn of Brighouse keeper Aaron Beaumont to prove his value with fine stops, first from Patrick Howell and then from Tom Haigh.
With Brighouse now pinned in their own half, the home side looked certain to pull one back when a corner fell at the far post, but the shot went the wrong side of the target and, moments later, a Tom Haigh free-kick was headed inches over the bar by Matthew Jones.
But Nethertons eagerness to get back in the game was to cost them dearly when, from the keepers kick, Rafiq was given too much time and space to provide Tom Willans with a perfect cross and the Brighouse striker powered home a fine header to give the visitors a comfortable 3-0 lead.
With half an hour still to play, the home side were not finished and, by the time the final whistle blew, Brighouse had discovered why Netherton had reached the quarter-final stage.
Ryan Burchael found a way through the middle to fire in a shot and when keeper Beaumont could only parry, Damon Ellam was on hand to ensure the ball ended in the back of the net to cut the deficit to 3-1.
At this time, the goal seemed more like a consolation and, with Netherton piling everything forward, Brighouses Kane Quashie found space to fire in a shot that would have put the game beyond the home side, but another terrific save from keeper Littleford was just enough to tip the ball over the bar.
Brighouse were still looking comfortable but that all changed when a Tom Haigh free-kick found the back of the net via the head of Willans to leave the game finely poised.
With 10 minutes remaining, the prospect of a Netherton equaliser clearly upset Brighouse who now looked in disarray and, when another free-kick found Willans unmarked, a third Netherton goal seemed certain but, with his back to goal the striker could only head the ball straight into the arms of the much relieved keeper Beaumont.
Despite the conditions, this was a game to savour as Netherton almost pulled off another surprise, but it is Brighouse who move on to a meeting with Leeds League Premier side Rothwell Athletic in the semi-final at the County Ground, Woodlesford, Leeds, on Friday (7.30).