Rustington hold on to lift Intermediate Cup
A gritty Rustington performance saw them win the Sussex Proballer Intermediate Challenge Cup, in memory of Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, after a 2-1 victory over a determined Eastbourne Rangers side, on a wet and windy Tuesday evening at Culver Road.
The Blues went ahead on the half-hour mark through Aaron Hooker-Meehan and then doubled their lead ten minutes later as Chris Darwin swept home.
Eastbourne came out resurgent in the second-half and with the wind behind them pulled a goal back eleven minutes from time courtesy of Tony Russell, but Rustington held on to get their hands on the prestigious silverware.
Rustington dominated the first-half and went close as early as the tenth minute as Darwin’s whipped free-kick evaded everyone, including Eastbourne keeper Jason Tibble, and nearly sneaked in at the back post.
Hearts were in mouths soon after as Tibble failed to gather on the edge of his area and Darwin capitalised picking up the loose ball and striking at goal, only for Danny Johnson to get back in-time for Eastbourne and block on the line.
The chances kept coming for Rustington and next up was Hooker-Meehan’s well struck free-kick that curled over the wall and away from Tibble but cannoned back off the angle of post and crossbar.
Minutes later they came close again to taking the lead but in fortuitous fashion, after his goal-line clearance heroics earlier Johnson very nearly directed the ball into his own net as he attempted to cut out a cross-field pass but fortunately for him it dropped narrowly wide of the target.
Rustington didn’t have to wait much longer to break the deadlock though as the resulting corner was only half cleared and a cross into the box was knocked down in the 6-yard-box where Hooker-Meehan was first to react and smash the ball into the roof of the net giving Tibble no chance.
One became two just five minutes before the break, Steve Kirkham’s cross wasn’t cleared by Johnson, who found himself in the thick of the action in the first period, and Darwin was there to control and drill the ball past Tibble to double the lead.
Tibble did well to deny Rustington a third goal before the half was out, as Kirkham flicked the ball over the top for Darwin but his shot was well stopped by the chest of the keeper as he rushed off his line.
In contrast Eastbourne controlled the second-half and nearly pulled a goal back just two minutes after the restart. Karl Funnell played Josh Harris in and he kept his shot low across the advancing Ben West in the Rustington goal but it rolled agonisingly past the past.
Rangers registered their first shot on target through Harris in the fifty fourth minute but it was from distance and straight at West. For all of their endeavour and with the advantage of the wind they couldn’t break Rustington down.
They did however pull a goal back with seventy nine minutes on the clock to set up a nervy finish. A free-kick into the box ricocheted around before galling kindly for Russell to strike past West and in off the inside of the post.
Eastbourne pushed for an equaliser and Luke Regan’s cross-come-shot seven minutes before the end came very close to finding the far top corner with West scrambling across his goal.
In the third minute of additional time Russell’s shot look destined for the bottom corner but Rustington defended with their lives throwing bodies in the way of the shot to deflect it wide and hold on for the victory.
After the match winning manager Jon Tucker said: “I’m buzzing, I can’t believe it, the boys were phenomenal.
“The wind played a bit of a factor in the first-half but we took it and went in two nil up, and then second-half was a struggle, we didn’t keep the ball like I asked, we panicked and looked nervous.
“It’s a great feeling and great for the club, there are so many people you don’t see behind the scenes and this win is for them and for everyone involved with the club really, I’m proud as punch!”
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
(Video highlights are available above and also on YouTube - courtesy of FilmMyMatch)
Stats: (Rustington-Eastbourne Rangers)
Goals: 2-1; Shots: 13-7; Shots-on-target: 7-2; Corners: 7-2; Fouls: 17-18; Offside: 6-0; Yellow cards: 1-2; Red cards: 0-0.
Rustington: West, Beaney, Miles, Maciver, J. Bennett, Hudson ©, Peters, Hooker-Meehan, Kirkham, Jenkins, Darwin.
Subs: Rowland, Heater, O'Connor, Llewellyn, Bennett.
Eastbourne Rangers: Tibble, Barnett, Johnson, Kenward ©, Misirlis, Russell, Nanuck, Funnell, Harris, Jesson, Gray.
Subs: Walke, Fermin, Regan, Sparks, Hawkins.
Match report by Darren Ford