It was semi-final heartbreak for Town Youth at a wet and windy Dales Lane on Tuesday evening as Rushall Olympic progressed into the final of the Joel Richards Memorial Cup (previously known as the Birmingham County FA Youth Cup) after coming out on top in an eight goal thriller.
Nick Ballinger’s side typically gave it everything but a series of fine saves from the Rushall keeper Alex Graham and some clinical finishing from their strikers ultimately proved decisive.
Yet on Rushall’s 3G pitch it was Town who took an early lead when Michael Boyd hit a beautifully placed curling effort beyond the helpless Graham in only the second minute.
Rushall looked for an immediate response with their wide players giving the Town defence plenty to think about with their pace down both flanks while Boyd, Jack Ballinger and Rob Sone were equally dangerous for Town as the play switched from end to end with neither side really on top.
But Rushall grabbed a fortuitous equaliser with a free kick which was floated into the penalty area and deceived everyone as it then bounced into the net, and that gave them the momentum to push forward.
Town keeper Callum Monaghan pulled off a smart save down to his left to keep the scores level followed by Town creating a chance of their own at the other end with Rob Singer latching onto a pinpoint through ball from Ballinger only to be denied by a combination of Graham and one of his defenders.
But four minutes before half time Rushall edged ahead with a close range finish and another ten minutes into the second half doubled their advantage.
Town now had no option but to push forward but Graham kept Rushall’s lead intact with quality saves from Ballinger, Boyd and Sone before Ballinger’s pull back in the 73rd minute set up an opening for Sone who left Graham standing with an unstoppable right foot finish into the top corner.
Sensing an equaliser Town piled on the pressure with Boyd hitting the post and Graham again denying Ballinger and Sone and then pulling off a fine double save from Ballinger’s original shot and Boyd’s effort from the follow-up.
But having survived that onslaught Rushall broke way in the final minute of normal time to make it 4-2 yet Town were still not finished. A precision pass from Joe Waterfield set up Ballinger to fire in Town’s third in the fourth minute of added time but as they pressed for the equaliser another breakaway from Rushall saw them make it 5-3 with the last kick of the game.