Rye Town withstood a Bexhill Rovers fightback to reach the Hastings & District FA Junior Cup semi-finals.
Macron East Sussex Football League Division One leaders Rye eventually scraped through 4-3 at home to the Division Three pacesetters having led 4-0 after 70 minutes on Saturday.
Rye started well and opened the scoring with a terrific goal inside two minutes. Chris Gould delivered a perfect corner for Sam Henham to power a header into the top corner.
The home side didn’t press high enough up the pitch during the first half, though, and the defence came under pressure as a result. Rye goalkeeper Shane Ridgers came out on top in a one-on-one situation to preserve his team’s advantage.
Later in the first half Ridgers came rushing out of his goal, and took ball, an opponent and team-mate Ben Heffernan in one crunching challenge which left Heffernan with stud marks on his chest and down his leg!
Rye went two-up on the stroke of half time with almost a carbon copy of their opening goal. Gould again provided the delivery and Richard ‘Alfie’ Weller applied the headed finish.
Charlie Stevens came on up-front at half time and Rye’s shape looked better during the second period.
They went three-up in the 55th minute when Weller was taken down in the box and Stevens smashed home the resulting penalty to get back on the scoring trail.
Rye added a fourth goal four minutes later. Weller was in the right place at the right time to turn the ball home following another set-piece - his fifth goal in the last two matches.
Bexhill refused to give up, though, and Ridgers pulled off a very good save before the visitors pulled one back in the 71st minute. A Dominic Cruttenden pass inside Rye’s box went straight to an opponent, who gratefully smashed the ball into the top corner.
Bexhill clawed another goal back eight minutes later. Rye weren’t switched on at a short corner and the ball was again fired into the top corner despite a valiant effort from Ollie Skinner to head it off the line.
A few tackles started going in, which the referee handled well, and Bexhill struck again in the 86th minute. A ball dropped in the box and was blasted into the top corner to make it 4-3.
In the end Rye needed a couple of decent saves from Ridgers to prevent the tie going to extra-time on a Salts pitch which held up pretty well following all the rain at the end of last week.
Rye’s reward is a last four tie away to promotion rivals Bexhill Town or Division Three side Bexhill United II. Their quarter-final is due to take place tomorrow (Saturday).
Henham, who didn’t miss a tackle and held things together well, was the Pikes Cleaning man of the match and the match sponsor was Will Gamble, of Rye Harbour cafe Bosun’s Bite.
Rye brought on 67-year-old Alec Tiltman as a second half substitute.
Rye: Ridgers; Earl, Cruttenden, Willis; Fraser (Ball), Heffernan, Skinner, Henham, Gould; Levett (Stevens), Weller (Tiltman).
Rye are without a fixture this weekend and will return to action with a Robertsbridge Charity Intermediate Cup quarter-final at home to Premier Division side Westfield II on Saturday February 18.
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