(Above: “And I was thinking of staying home and watching Rangers play….”)
The 350ish Rushden fans who made the trip almost certainly got their value for money (!) last night; Six goals, a penalty shoot-out, and ecstatic scenes after Michael Rankines ridiculous last-minute equalizer will all live long in the memories of those who braved the evening journey of 200-round miles.
Live in front of Setanta cameras, Rushden came from two goals down to even things up in the last minutes of the 120; after 70 minutes of goaless, if entertaining action, the game came to life as the regular-time match neared it’s end. Two goals within the same number of minutes opened the scoring and took the game to extra time. Finding themselves 3-1 down,and having missed a penalty, with 15 minutes to go Rushden scored twice to even the game up and take it to penalties.
Aldershot kept their cool in front of goal, and duly won the shield. Presumably earning promotion this term they will be unnable to defend it next season.
(Above: Incredible scenes herald Rankine’s wonderstrike)
“Whenever you lose a cup final it’s going to be disappointing. But I am proud of the players. We had a lot of young lads out there and I felt we showed a lot of character.”- Garry Hill speaking after the game.
“What a game! Brilliant advert for Conference football. Well done lads you did us all very proud.”- A Rushden fan.
“Bring on the Kettering!”– A flag at the game the aimed (and succeeded) in riling things up down the road.
“From what my partner and I saw tonight, that team can win the league” – An encouraged Diamonds supporter.
“Well done lads, a fantastic performance against a team 41 points above us. We’re proud of you.” – Rushden fan.
(Above: The Rushden fans arrive)
Over 350 Diamonds fans made the trip, and provided fantastic support throughot. “I have never celebrated as much in a long while”, said one fan. “I was fortunate enough to be in the main stand and to look over to my left and see the support shown by Rushden fans brought a lump to my throat”, said another. While the lure of free tickets may have bloated the potential number travelling fans, it was a night to remember, free entry or not. Garry Hill acknowledged the fans both before and after the unsuccesful penalty-shootout, and also paid tribute to them after the game.
“Thought it was a cracking atmosphere, with R&D more than holding their own,” said one Aldershot fan. “From the High Street they were actually louder in the first half…was so proud with our fans giving the Diamonds a huge ovation when they collected their medals, and it was thoroughly deserved. For a team who conceded 3 goals they defended like Trojans, and were so tough to break down. On that showing it’s a mystery why they aren’t challenging for the play offs really. A wonderful night, a credit to both clubs…”
(Above: Rushden fans wait for the shoot-out to begin)
Rushden showed last night that they are more than able to take on the big teams and perform. “Why aren’t you in the top few this year?”, asked a Shots fan ont heir forum. We will have to learn to treat every game like a cup final if we stand any chance of earning promotion next term. A few tweaks and we have a team capable of succeeding.
Rushden’s first national cup final and, despite the end result and the pettiness of the competition, it was a night to remember.
Were you at the game? Did we deserve to win? Will Rankine ever score a better goal? Comment is free….