Rye Town Football Club booked its place in a cup final for the second successive weekend.
Having reached the Hastings & District FA Junior Cup decider a fortnight ago, Rye won through to the Robertsbridge Charity Intermediate Cup final by defeating higher level opposition on Saturday.
Macron East Sussex Football League Division One leaders Rye triumphed 1-0 away to mid-table Premier Division outfit Hawkhurst with Charlie Stevens grabbing the only goal.
Their reward is a showdown against Division Two top dogs Bexhill AAC, who won 4-1 away to top flight side Sedlescombe Rangers in the other last four tie. A date for the final has yet to be announced.
Rye, whose influential midfielder Sammy Foulkes pulled out through illness during the morning, took a while to adjust to facing Premier Division opposition.
Hawkhurst were on top for the first 10 minutes, during which time Rye goalkeeper Richard ‘Alfie’ Weller - standing-in for the injured Shane Ridgers - made his only genuine save of the afternoon, a good stop to his right from a long range shot.
Rye gradually gained the upper hand and started to cause a few problems, particularly from set-pieces. Ben Heffernan was getting plenty of joy on the left and he won a free kick, from which Stevens’ strike was superbly tipped onto the crossbar by the home goalkeeper.
A few tackles started going in and some of Rye’s players, for the first time this season really, began to get a bit niggly with each other, prompting a few stern words from manager Ridgers at half time.
Rye came out a totally different team in the second period and got their reward when Pikes Cleaning man of the match Stevens grabbed the winner with a slightly mishit effort at the far post.
Buoyed by the terrific support of the travelling faithful, Rye controlled the second half and a third consecutive clean sheet helped see them through.
“It was good,” said Ridgers. “It was quite clear that there’s a gulf between the prem and the teams we’ve been playing.
“Fitness-wise there was a big difference between the two leagues. All the boys came off knowing they’d been in a game, but we know now that we can mix it with the teams above. We did well.”
The match sponsor was Mick Hovenden Upholstery.
Rye: Weller; Wilson, Cruttenden, Willis; Ball (Skinner), Hurley, Henham (Osborne), Gould, Heffernan; Levett (Fraser), Stevens.
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