A bizarre extra-time goal enabled Rye Town Football Club to make a winning start to its defence of the Robertsbridge Charity Intermediate Cup at The Salts yesterday (Saturday).
With everyone waiting for an offside flag which never came, Richard ‘Alfie’ Weller netted the only goal shortly before the end of the additional half-hour as Rye edged out St Leonards Social in a first round tie which ended 10-a-side.
Rye will travel to Bexhill Town or Hastings Rangers in the quarter-finals on a date to be announced some time in the new year.
Rye were convincing 5-1 winners over Social in the Macron East Sussex Football League Premier Division a fortnight previously, but Social were more organised and experienced this time around, and a far tighter encounter unfolded.
That said, Rye had a great chance to open the scoring in the first three minutes. Craig Pierce went through on goal following a long ball forward only to be denied by the stand-in Social goalkeeper.
Other than that there were few opportunities at either end during the first half. Rye manager Shane Ridgers felt his team was quite disjointed in the middle until the introduction of Sammy Foulkes following an injury to Alfie Clement seemed to stabilise things.
Social had the better of the second half, though, and carved out two clear openings which they were unable to convert. The visitors side-footed over a virtually open goal from around six yards and a goal-line clearance by the sliding Sam Henham snuffed out the other opportunity.
Both teams had a player sent-off in the second half. Rye forward Charlie Stevens caught Billy Rixon with what the Social centre-half considered an elbow and Rixon reacted by hurling Stevens to the floor, sparking a melee between the two sets of players.
Both players were given their marching orders and Foulkes was booked for his part in the skirmish. Ridgers praised the way referee Katie Wilde handled the situation.
Still goalless after a rather drab 90 minutes, extra-time proved a bit more entertaining as the game opened up a bit, although neither goalkeeper really had a save to make.
Reece Johnson had a glorious opening for Social when he broke through and rounded Rye goalkeeper Joe Ramsden, but missed the target from inside the six yard box.
At the other end, Weller had a goal disallowed for offside when Rye felt he was onside. Two minutes later, though, he did get one to count even though everyone, including Weller himself, seemed to stop expecting the flag to go up.
Pierce was the Pikes Cleaning man of the match and the match was sponsored by Rye Auction Galleries Ltd. Ridgers also praised the very solid defensive performance of Luke Willis, who made some great sliding tackles.
Rye: Ramsden; Willis, Fraser, Henham; Ball (Hibbs), Richardson (Ridgers), Pierce, Gould, Clement (Foulkes); Stevens, Weller.
After back-to-back cup games, Rye will resume their league campaign next Saturday with a home fixture against second-bottom Ore Athletic. Kick-off in a match sponsored by Carly Pearson from Carly’s Childcare is 2pm.
Stevens is now suspended until the new year, Martin Brain won’t be available until after Christmas and Barnaby Osborne remains unavailable. Foulkes’ suspension is pending as Rye have lodged an appeal.