Rushall Olympic have made it through to their second final of the season but had to dig deep into their reserves of resolve to finally overcome a Frickley side that seemed to relish their time away from Evo-Stik League action.
Whatever strategies were drawn up for this fixture were thrown out in the opening minutes when Frickley took an early lead. Lewis Fenney did superbly to tip a whiz-bang effort from 25 yards onto the post but the Pics defence was static as Bradley Grayson fired home the rebound.
The pattern of the first half was then fixed as the Pics tried to break down the deep lying and combative visiting defence but struggled to force the visiting keeper into action. Rushall forced a number of corners one of which was awarded after a reckless looking challenge on Obeng inside the area but although the visitors defence looked shaky at times it was the visitors who came the closest to scoring. Fenney again pulling off an instinctive block from an unmarked Frickley attacker 12 yards from goal.
The Blues though were springing forward very much from a back foot position as Rushall sought a way through the massed ranks facing them. They couldn’t manage it in the first half as the West Yorkshire side went in to the interval one goal to the good.
Rushall pulled level within six minutes of the restart, good approach play allowed Alex Melbourne to swing over an inviting cross and Craig Bannister pulled in front of his man and firmly planted a header into the net.
No longer having a lead to defend Frickley opened out a little more and Rushall seemingly had more space to exploit, twice Bannister and Obeng both got clear of the increasingly high visitors back line, twice they seemingly confused each other with their extra numbers and failed to make the opportunities count. Lucan Spittle also had a good opportunity but couldn’t connect properly following a set piece delivered into the visitors penalty box.
Frickley too had opportunities to score and twice had efforts on goal cleared off the line following an almighty scramble, but with the game seemingly heading inexorably towards extra time there was late drama. A Frickley break exposed the Rushall defence and with the striker about to shoot Decio Gomes was adjudged to have pulled his shirt and the referee pointed to the spot and also signalled the Portuguese centre back to return to the changing room.
It seemed that Rushall were now one kick away from falling to the same fate as FC United of Manchester, Matlock and Garforth Town as being knocked out of the competition by the West Yorkshire Outfit. However James Ashmore’s penalty was poorly struck and was comfortably gathered by Lewis Fenney in the Rushall goal.
Soon after the ninety minutes were complete and both sides drew up their plans for extra time. Rushall had already brought on Forde and Brady and soon Fitzpatrick also looked to bolster the Pics. And the home side started the extra time period strongly and forced consecutive corners and it was from a corner that the Pics took the lead; Christian Dacres climbing highest in the box to head home following some hesitant defending.
The pattern of the first half was now reversed for the remainder of the game, Frickley looked to push on a find the goal which would at least take the game to penalties. Rushall for their part looked to take advantage of the increasingly desperate visitors and following a seemingly decisive break Obeng was able to square the ball to Bannister whose shot was saved by the legs of Dickinson.
Frickley had seemingly resigned themselves to their fate when from nowhere a late shot from the edge of the box looked destined to sneak inside the far post before Fenney was able to fly across the goal and palm the ball, and the hopes of the visitors, away.
The Pics saw out the remainder of the fixture and celebrated a passage into the final of the Doodson Sports Cup. The shouts of relief and joy at the final whistle shows just how much they were challenged by their visitors who will no doubt be seeking to repeat their own display of character and robustness in their remaining league fixtures.
Rushall Olympic progress to the final where they will play against the winners of tonight’s fixture between Kendal Town and North Ferriby United. Rushall’s next fixture is this Saturday when they host Stocksbridge Park Steels at Dales Lane. 3pm kick off.