A DAN EVANS header deep into injury-time knocked Southwick Football Club out of the Sussex RUR Cup on Tuesday evening.
John Kilgarriff’s injury-hit Wickers side had pushed division-higher Horsham YMCA all the way and looked set to force extra-time until Evans headed home a Luke Gedling corner right at the death.
A slow-burning contest had roared into life with a remarkable passage of play late on. Southwick almost snatched victory themselves before Evans’ got the winner in the fifth additional minute.
Kilgarriff admitted the defeat was a “bitter blow” for his side, but he told of his pride as his team ran YM close.
He said: “It’s a bitterly disappointing way to lose and, of course, we’re gutted. But it’s a mark of how far we’ve come that we’re thinking like that as when I took over we were bottom of Division 3.
“Daley McLennan did really well on his debut and I’d never seen Jamie Hollis, our reserve goalie, play until tonight and he made some cracking saves.
“Richard Hudson was superb, as were George Rudwick and Ross Myers, in midfield, and although it’s the result most people expected, our performance was way above expectation.
“I’m really proud as they’re third in the top division and, with all our injuries and unavailability, the players should be proud of themselves tonight.
“The league games are our priority and we can’t wait now for Friday’s derby against Mile Oak.”
YM started on the front foot without creating any real chances of note, so it came as something of a surprise when Wickers took the lead against the run of play through Hudson’s cross-shot on 23 minutes.
George Rudwick then had an effort well saved by Simon Lockwood, before he released Hudson who fired narrowly wide of the post.
YM showed why they are among the early Premier Division pacesetters, though, and it took them only another five minutes to equalise when Dave Brown beat Southwick’s stand-in stopper with an angled effort.
Hollis saved well to keep out Dan Sullivan and Sam Schaaf also went close as Wickers came under heavy pressure shortly before half-time.
The hosts enjoyed more of the ball after the break, though, and almost restored their lead when Hudson struck the bar with a clever lob and Tom Donnelly’s rasper was well saved by Lockwood.
Wickers were then left ruing their luck when Andy McDowell struck a post and saw the rebound saved, before Myers looked certain to score on the third attempt but he again rifled against the upright and YM somehow survived.
Hollis produced a superb stop to keep out Gedling’s free kick in a thrilling finish but, just when extra-time loomed, up popped Evans to nod in a corner as YM squeezed into the next round.
Wickers host Mile Oak on Saturday and then entertain Crawley Down Gatwick on Tuesday.
SOUTHWICK: Hollis; McLennan, Lipscombe, Stideford, Gillard; Hudson, Myers, Rudwick, Donnelly; McDowell, Strevens. Subs: O’Regan (Strevens 60), Tucker (McLennan 64), Spence (Stideford 90), Finney, Windsor.
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