March 3, 2013 by Matthew Bradley
Greenalls PSO are heading to the Guardian Cup Final following an extra time victory against Rainhill Town.
In dramatic fashion Ben Slater secured victory for the Greens, scoring with only four minutes of extra time remaining to set up the clash against Runcorn Albion.
Rainhill started much the brighter as Greenalls defence was breached three times, only to be thwarted by goalkeeper Craig Clare.
It took the visitors 13 minutes to secure a deserved breakthrough, Gareth Johns headed a long ball clear, but his clearance fell to a Rainhill midfielder on the right who played a nice ball into Liam Pearson. He found space between Jack Hynes and Lee Pennington and this time prodded the ball past Clare. Highly rated Jack Hynes was involved in a constant tussle with Pearson who was strong and resolute, but the young centre back more than held his own.
After that Greenalls had the better of the first half, and with captain Mark Hughes dominating the midfield, looked the better team through the first 45. Chris Latham was enjoying his best game since joining the club as he partnered Mark Hughes in midfield, with Lee Hughes given the freedom in front of them.
Greenalls drew level on 41 minutes as Latham played a delightful lobbed pass through to Robbie Hanley who sidefooted the ball into the far corner. The half ended 1-1, with the game still in the balance.
The second half saw Rainhill town again come out the brighter of the two teams. Hanley, who showed genuine quality leading the line, left the field of play after 58 minutes with a suspected dislocated shoulder. His replacement was pacey Danny Wilcock who was to have an enormous say in the outcome of the game. Manager Dave Bush changed the shape from a 4-5-1 to a 3-5-2 with Slater and Wilcock up top. Much like the first half, Greenalls grew into the game in the second period. No goals were scored in the second half, and extra time awaited.
Extra time started in the worst possible fashion for Greenalls, only 2 minutes had gone when an attempted one-two by Johns and Lee Pennington was intercepted, and with the Rainhill forward bearing down on goal Paul Dobson brought him down for a penalty. Clare’s best efforts weren’t good enough as Monteith duly dispatched.
Almost immediately Bush made another change as striker Craig Hoyland, noted in the Greenalls camp as a big game player, came off the bench to replace defender Pennington as GPSO looked to find a way back.
The two attacking substitutes combined for the equaliser as Danny Wilcock found space well on the left, and played in a wonderful ball to Hoyland who had a header clawed away by the outstretched arm of the Rainhill goalkeeper. Danny Topping was alert to the loose ball, and fired home at the back post, a crucial equalising goal in a massive competition.
The winner would arrive with 4 minutes of extra time time left, Lee Hughes marauded past 3 Rainhill players on the left flank and pulled the ball back well to Slater on the edge of the penalty box. The number 10 curled a beautiful shot into the far corner. A fitting goal to win any game. The full time whistle was blown, and Greenalls had reached the prestigious final.
Manager Dave Bush was full of praise for his players after the game. “Rainhill gave us a tough time today but the lads showed great character and togetherness to twice come from behind. I’m really pleased for the players and proud of the way they came through it today. I’m gutted for Robbie though, he looked so sharp and hungry before he went off, he looked back to his best. He’s dislocated his shoulder and expects to be out for around 4 weeks or so, hopefully he can make the final”
The final against Runcorn Albion is to be played on Easter Monday, after they dispatched Eagle Sports 5-4 on penalties, following a 1-1 draw. The game will take place at Rylands FC, and will kick off at 11am.