Football - Rudkin the hero as Ryhall lift PFA Junior Cup

PFA Junior Cup winners Ryhall United.

PFA Junior Cup winners Ryhall United.

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Ryhall United goalkeeper Steve Rudkin put in a man-of-the-mnatch performance to help his side win the PFA Junior Cup against Spalding Town last night (April 29).

Ryhall won on penalties in the final at Chestnut Avenue, with Rudkin saving twice after a busy night in goal.

PFA Junior Cup runners-up Spalding Town.

PFA Junior Cup runners-up Spalding Town.

After 90 minutes the two sides could not be separated, drawing 1-1 at the final whistle, despite Ryhall playing two leagues higher than their opponents.

Spalding opened the game looking the more dangerous of the two sides and in the opening moments the Ryhall defence had to be alert to clear a dangerous cross by Marcus Parry.

Parry was the dangerman all night for Spalding and in the 12th minute he forced Ryhall keeper Rudkin into a save after an effort at the near post.

Three minutes later Martin Sandall tested the Ryhall stopper with an effort from the edge of the 18-yard box but the busy Rudkin was a match to it.

So when Ryhall scored in the 20th minute it was rather against the run of play. The ball was delivered into the box from a corner and Spalding goalkeeper Brendan Taylor missed it, allowing Jonathan Smith to bundle the ball into the net. With the lead the Rutland side attacked again and just a minute later Phillip Bartlett fired a volley wide from 20 yards out.

Spalding replied with some long distance shooting of their own, in the 27th minute James Thorold tested Rudkin but he gathered it well.

Ryhall’s defence were struggling to contain Parry who was causing problems down the wing to get behind the defensive line. Ten minutes before the break he played in his strike partner but the Spalding attacker’s side foot shot went just inches wide of the upright.

However, the teams were level at the break when Thorold finally beat Rudkin. He struck a low and hard shot from the edge of the box and thanks to a little deflection it found the back of the net to make it 1-1 after 40 minutes.

At that point Ryhall were hanging on as a buoyant Spalding looked to take the lead and twice they were just inches away from doing so. First goalscorer Thorold hit an effort just over the bar and then Parry struck the outside of the post after he beat the offside trap. In the final minute of the first half Rudkin again denied Parry when he had a decent chance to score.

It was much the same story in the second half, Rudkin was by far the busier keeper, saving first from Andy Williams and then Parry in the 64th minute. Ryhall were lucky their keeper was having an inspired night because Bartlett was struggling to find the target with his efforts, wasting a couple of chances in the second half before rattling the crossbar in the 75th minute.

Remarkably the game ended at 1-1 and it went to a dreaded set-piece showdown.

Ryhall scored the opening spot-kick, Scott McKenzie with a shot to the right for 1-0, and then Rudkin did what he had done all night and saved Thorold’s effort to give the village side the advantage. Anton Wells was fortunate with his effort as the ball bounced over the keeper’s hand but he scored all the same to increase United’s lead.

Unbelievably Rudkin saved again, this time denying Scott Burrell. Both sides were then successful before Andrew Ward scored a perfect penalty, converting off the inside of the post to secure an unlikely victory on the balance of play.

Ryhall United: Steve Rudkin, Andrew Ward, Matt Laughton, Nick Harradence, Russell Aust, Jonathan Smith, Rhys Wilson, Rich Wilkinson, Scott McKenzie, Phillip Bartlett, Dan Aust

Substitutes: James Russon, Anton Wells, Adam Richardson, Neil Christian, Stuart Moss

Spalding Town: Brendan Taylor, Josh McGuire, Sam Deykin, Scott Phillips, Gav Bailey, Gary Booth, Marcus Parry, Andy Williams, Ash Wilson, Martin Sandall, JamesThorold

Substitutes: Ben Holland, Tom Elderkin, Scott Burrell, Mark Astley, Joel Meadows

Referee: James Truman