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Evangelinos hits hat-trick as Lancaster City move on in FA Trophy

Hat-trick hero Nico Evangelinos. Photo by Phil Dawson (@PhotosbyPhilD).

Nico Evangelinos was Lancaster City’s hat-trick hero on Saturday as the Dollies progressed to the first round proper of the Isuzu FA Trophy.

The Dollies beat Morpeth Town, the team who knocked them out of the competition last season, 3-2 in a close game at Craik Park.

City didn’t have the best start to the match, going 1-0 down within the first 10 minutes, but equalised through a penalty just before the break, then took the lead in the second half.

Evangelinos completed his hat-trick later in the second period and made sure of the victory, before Morpeth got a consolation goal back.

Sam Waller, on loan at Lancaster from Burnley, made his debut on Saturday and looked good when called upon especially in the latter stages of the game.

The home side got off to a fast start – they were awarded a penalty in the third minute after Jamie Mellen allegedly fouled Dale Pearson in the 18-yard box. The Dollies were not at all happy with the referee’s decision though.

The spot kick was converted by Pearson, but straight afterwards, Lancaster started to pile on the pressure, trying to catch the home side’s defence out.

Sam Bailey was causing problems for Morpeth during the first half, firstly setting up a cross for striker Dom Lawson, whose effort went wide, then the right-wing-back had a chance of his own, which the Highwaymen’s ‘keeper Don Lowson managed to deal with.

Just when it seemed like City would be heading into the break a goal down, the Morpeth defence recklessly denied Dale Whitham a goal scoring opportunity.

The referee pointed to the spot for the second time in the game, this decision was unsurprisingly a lot more popular with the Lancaster players, fans and coaches.

Nico Evangelinos stepped up from 12 yards and tucked it home to get his first of the match. City went into half time with the wind in their sails.

Evangelinos nearly had his second moments after the restart but fired one over the bar, not causing Lowson any trouble. However, not long after, City’s number 11 was again looking for his second, and this time forced Lowson into a great save after another fantastic ball from Bailey.

Morpeth’s number one would be less fortunate the next time Evangelinos made a shot at goal, which was just seconds later – Dale Whitham’s headed attempt smashed the woodwork but, after a haphazard home defence failed to clear the ball, Nico pounced and his header found the back of the net.

He wouldn’t be stopping his goalscoring tally for the day there though.

The hosts had very few chances to level the score, and soon enough City increased their lead, once again through Evangelinos, who capitalised on another defensive mistake from Morpeth, who couldn’t clear their lines when Dollies’ number three, Kyle Brownhill, put the ball into the box.

The home side got a goal back with over 20 minutes remaining on the clock – Pearson got his second of the game from close range.

The Highwaymen’s Ryan Wombwell had a couple of decent changes towards the end of proceedings but the Lancaster defence stood firm to deny Morpeth making it 3-3.

It came as no surprise that Nico Evangelinos was selected as the Dolly Blues’ man of the match, and, speaking to the club website, manager Mark Fell was certain he’s still got his best performances in a Lancaster shirt ahead of him/

“He will get the plaudits and absolutely rightly so," he said.

“We haven’t seen the best of the Nico – he had a horrible injury at the start of the season and he has struggled to get his fitness back.

“He will be massive for us, and three goals gives him a big shot in the arm in terms of confidence."

It is just over four years since Fell took the helm at Lancaster, and he said that his side’s performance in the first 20 minutes of the second half was “as good as I’ve seen us” in that time.

Fell called the officials’ display during the game “from a performance perspective, probably the worst I’ve seen in four years”, and revealed that even the Morpeth coaching staff didn’t agree with the decision to award the Highwaymen a penalty.

“Craig (Lynch, Morpeth Town manager) and his staff have come over (to me) at half time and said ‘Mark, that’s a great challenge’”.

Lancaster City will play in the FA Trophy first round proper on October 29, but before that they have four Northern Premier League games to look forward to – the first two of which are a double header of games against the Warrington teams in the division.

Firstly, a clash at the Giant Axe versus Warrington Rylands on Tuesday evening, followed by another home fixture against Warrington Town, who they will host on October 18.

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