Marine: 1. Callum Williams, 2. Liam Duff, 3. Ian Latham, 4. John Shaw ©, 5. Matty Brown, 6. Thomas Moore, 7. Paul Lundon, 8. Jonathon Goulding, 9. Nick Rogan, 10. Neil Harvey, 11. Louis Barnes. Subs: 12. Darren Byers (Rogan 69), 14. Rafael Leal Pezan, 15. Aaron Rey (Lundon 46), 16. Liam Dawson (Latham 46), 17. Sam Barnes.
Rushall Olympic: 1. Chris Gemmell, 2. Alex Forde, 3. Jonny Haynes, 4. Decio Gomes, 5. Lucan Spittle ©, 6. Christian Dacres, 7. Grant Beckett, 8. Luke Bottomer, 9. Craig Bannister, 10. Kyle Brady, 11. Alex Melbourne. Subs: 12. Ahmed Obeng, 14. Gary Fitzpatrick (Bottomer 80), 15. Louis Keenan (Bannister 58), 16. Martyn Naylor (Forde 72), 17. Nick Amos.
Referee: Mr. Barry Lamb (Eccles)
Rushall Olympic rounded off their Evo-Stik League Premier Division away campaign in style with an excellent 3-0 victory at a Marine outfit who remained an outside bet for a promotion play-off place prior to kick-off.
The Pics made three changes to the starting line-up that had progressed through to the final of the Walsall Senior Cup at the expense of neighbours Chasetown in midweek as in came Alex Forde, Lucan Spittle and Kyle Brady after Mitchell Tolley pulled up in the warm up, James Skedgel was unavailable and Ahmed Obeng was rested.
The hosts began brightly and a mistake by Chris Gemmell in the 6th minute was almost capitalised upon when he attempted to control bouncing ball and came under pressure from Neil Harvey. However, skipper Spittle was able to mop up the danger and run the ball out for a goal kick.
On 11 minutes a loud penalty appeal rang out from within the confines of the Marine box after Craig Bannister threaded the ball through to Luke Bottomer at the right face of the penalty area, who unleashed a venomous drive that appeared to be handled by defender Ian Latham at close quarters. Perhaps somewhat harshly the assistant referee signalled that a handling infringement had indeed occurred and from the resulting spot kick BANNISTER clinically converted into the left side of goal, sending ‘keeper Callum Williams the wrong way in the process.
Two minutes after falling behind and the hosts were quickly back on the offensive in a bid to restore parity when a dangerous centre whipped into the far post by Liam Duff dropped just shy of the upright.
As Olympic responded in the 14th minute Bottomer flashed a drive across the face of goal from the right that nobody was able to capitalise upon.
Three minutes later and the Mariners responded in kind when Louis Barnes cut dangerously in to the centre from the right channel and unleashed a pacey strike that took a telling deflection, but was ultimately cleared.
On 19 minutes Rushall countered as Bottomer released Brady whose sharp low effort from the periphery of the penalty area was well saved by ‘keeper Williams
As the midpoint of the first period arrived the hosts were beginning to enjoy an increasing amount of territorial advantage within the centre of the park and in the 24th minute a 30 yard free-kick from Thomas Moore was gathered by ‘keeper Gemmell safely in his midriff.
Moments later Christian Dacres lost possession and as Marine advanced rapidly forward, Barnes ultimately scuffed a drive well wide of the right hand post from the edge of the box.
Olympic’s defending went awry three minutes prior to the half hour mark when their contingent all got pulled inside leaving Nick Rogan in acres of space. However, with the front runners looping drive seemingly heading towards the top right corner Gemmell once more proved himself to be the Pics hero as he pulled off a stunning finger tip save at full stretch to divert the danger over his crossbar for a corner.
With the Mariners still on the offensive the very next phase of play saw Rushall concede a second flag kick that was only partially cleared and on this occasion Paul Lundon volleyed wide of the left hand upright from 22 yards.
As the visitors began to regain their composure in the 34th minute Alex Melbourne unleashed a venomous volley from the right corner of the Marine penalty area that flew straight into the waiting arms of the custodian.
Rushall doubled their advantage in the 36th minute as the hosts conceded a corner and from the right JONNY HAYNES curled the flag kick in towards the near post, only to see ‘keeper Williams make a complete hash of an attempted claim as he could only palm the ball over the line.
Five minutes after falling further behind Marine responded through Rogan who got beyond his marker and drove in low from the edge of the box towards the bottom left corner, only to see Gemmell get down extremely quickly to gather.
Two minutes prior to the interval and good work by Bannister down the left saw the striker release Melbourne who whipped a dangerous low ball into the box that Latham hooked over from close range to concede a corner. As the flag kick was delivered from the left by Forde towards the near post, Brady drove first time wide of the upright.
Half-Time: Marine 0-2 Rushall Olympic
The hosts began the second period with a double substitution as Aaron Rey and Liam Dawson were both introduced at the expense of Latham and Lundon.
With the Mariners first out of the starting blocks on 47 minutes a great through ball sent Harvey bursting clear, but Haynes was on hand to make a telling block at close quarters as the front runner was limited to a long range drive.
Two minutes later and a debatable free-kick awarded in the hosts favour was quickly taken, picking out Rey in space at the right of the defensive wall, but his pacey low strike from 10 yards was well saved by Gemmell and Decio Gomes ultimately cleared the loose ball off the line.
A cheeky lofted flick from Brady almost paid dividends for the Pics in the 52nd minute after being set up by a low centre from Melbourne, but the home custodian managed to palm the ball down to quell the danger.
As Rushall maintained their momentum moments later Dacres dinked over a superbly weighted 40 yard defence splitting ball between the centre half and the full back that Melbourne quickly latched on to. As the highly impressive wide man cut inside towards the periphery of the box ‘keeper Williams advanced to narrow the angle, but MELBOURNE maintained his composure to round the custodian and stroke home a clinical finish from an acute angle just inside the far post.
The Pics suffered a major setback just prior to the hour mark as they lost front runner Bannister with a worrying leg injury.
With twelve minutes remaining a good flick on by the industrious Grant Beckett sent Melbourne scampering clear, who in turn threaded the ball into the path of Brady. As the striker darted into the periphery of the penalty area and unleashed a low drive Williams was forced to pull off a good save with his legs.
On 84 minutes Rushall looked to have increased their advantage further when a great ball in from Melbourne picked out Brady who advanced and rifled a powerful finish into the roof on the net, only to find that a flag for an off-side decision had already be raised in the build-up.
As the hosts pushed for a late consolation goal two minutes later there was danger for Olympic as Barbados International Harvey turned and fired in a powerful low drive from just inside the box that was held extremely well by Gemmell.
With injury time about to commence Gary Fitzpatrick threaded through a great pass into Brady within the confines of the Mariners box, but the striker dallied on the ball while attempting to wrong foot the custodian and was rapidly closed down by a defender.
Full-Time: Marine 0-3 Rushall Olympic
For their final home game on Saturday 21 April against Matlock Town the Pics will be offering their supporters entry into Dales Lane at a reduced rate in order to thank them for their marvellous support throughout the campaign that has seen average attendances double. The revised admission prices will be Adults £5.00 and Concessions £2.50.