Rye Town Football Club came agonisingly close to beating the Macron East Sussex Football League Premier Division leaders.
Town conceded with virtually the last kick of Saturday’s game to draw 1-1 away to a Hollington United side which had won all of its previous six league matches.
Rye manager Shane Ridgers said: “It would’ve been a fantastic result. We rode our luck a few times throughout the course of the game, but when you’re playing the best team in the league, that’s the way it goes.
“It was a fantastic all-round performance really. The football was good, and the heart and spirit were there to be seen too. I’m very proud of them all.”
Clearcut chances were in fairly short supply during quite a tasty first half. Both teams had a ‘goal’ disallowed for offside - in Rye’s case a Sammy Foulkes header was ruled out - and Hollington’s former Rye United forward Ade Olorunda hit the side-netting having rounded Rye goalkeeper Joe Ramsden.
The second half was a bit more open as both sides pushed for the opening goal. Hollington pushed Ashley Kidman forward from the back and his pace caused Rye quite a few problems, while hard-working Rye forward Charlie Stevens, playing in a slightly deeper role than usual, enjoyed a bit more space to run at the home defence.
Stevens was heavily involved as Rye took a 79th minute lead. A bit of a mix-up between Hollington defender Sean Ray and their goalkeeper allowed Stevens to look after the ball and tee up Richard ‘Alfie’ Weller, who slotted into the corner.
An aerially strong Hollington side stepped up a notch thereafter and started to cause Rye problems from set-pieces. Rye defended heroically with Ollie Skinner and Foulkes each effecting two goal-line clearances, including one remarkable sliding effort from Foulkes, who seemed to be everywhere during the closing half-an-hour.
Hollington’s persistence was rewarded in the dying seconds. After Martin Brain was penalised for a tackle when Rye felt he won the ball, the resulting long free kick was punched by Ramsden straight to Shaun Loft, who headed into the net.
The goal sparked big celebrations from a relieved Hollington, but that wasn’t the end of the drama because after the final whistle there was a huge melee involving both sets of players and others who spilled onto the pitch. After things had settled down, both teams shared a post-match drink.
“They (the players) showed unbelievable character within themselves, and massive grit and fire in their bellies,” added Ridgers. “They weren’t intimidated, and showed they can play football and showed they can have a battle. They stood up for themselves and each other.”
Barnaby Osborne was Rye’s Pikes Cleaning man of the match for a terrific display in a makeshift back three which was completed by Joe Fraser and Luke Willis, both of whom also performed extremely well. The match was sponsored by Rye Performance and Motorsport.
Rye: Ramsden; Osborne, Fraser, Willis; Richardson (Ball), Brain, Skinner, Foulkes, Pierce; Stevens, Weller (Carpenter). Subs not used: Ridgers, Levett, Clement.
Rye are away to sixth-placed Robertsbridge United this coming Saturday in a game sponsored by Graeme Campbell from Station Antiques. Kick-off is 2pm.
Ramsden is struggling with an arm injury so Ridgers may well take over the gloves. Chris Gould is fit again, but Sam Henham is still out with a hamstring injury.