A late goal in extra time from Huntingdon’s Stuart Eason denied Deeping Rangers a chance to take home the United Counties League Knockout Cup for the first time yesterday (Monday).
A pulsating Knockout Cup final saw Huntingdon outgun fellow first time finalists Deeping in a nine goal thriller at Yaxley.
A low key start was notable only for an early injury to Deeping midfielder Ciaran Holt, but his replacement Gary King was to have a big impact after his introduction.
The Rangers replacement fired just over with his first contribution and then Matt Heron’s header bounced to safety off the inside of a post.
Deeping rode the early dominance and went ahead after 23 minutes when King finished confidently from a Scott Ginty pass.
Three minutes later King doubled the Deeping lead with a well placed shot just inside the far post from the edge of the box.
Huntingdon responded with Stuart Eason firing wide from Ben Seymour-Shove’s cross and then Seymour-Shove tested Rangers’ keeper James Doughty with a well struck shot.
Deeping almost went three clear when Jamie Graham’s long ball forward saw Mitch Griffiths win a tussle with a defender and fire against the outside of the post.
Disaster struck for Huntingdon when goalkeeper Ryan Rayner was concussed and had to leave the field after lengthy treatment, Aaron Kennedy deputising.
But the replacement keeper did well, saving a Heron effort before the half ended with some Cromwellians pressure which saw Seymour-Shove miss an opening from a tight angle.
After the break it was Deeping’s turn to suffer an injury setback with marksman King limping out of the action.
Further misery was piled on them when Huntingdon got back in the contest six minutes into the second half when Seymour-Shove raced onto a Victor Torres ball forward and cut inside from the right to shoot across Doughty.
On 66 minutes the lively Seymour-Shove found space on the left side of the box to equalise with a low shot.
Parity proved shortlived as Deeping regained the lead within a minute, Alex Beck’s low cross from the right was turned in by Heron from close range.
Jamie Graham for Deeping and Micky Hyem for Huntingdon went close, but on 80 minutes Huntingdon were level with a goal that was a nightmare for Deeping keeper Doughty, who could do nothing to prevent a fiercely struck effort from Hyem going in off him as it rebounded from the post.
Both sides had late chances to win the contest in regular time but Kennedy thwarted Heron who struck at goal from a Ryan Oliver cross and Charlie De’ath headed wide when well placed at the other end.
Huntingdon snatched the initiative seven minutes into extra time when Seymour-Shove’s jinking run on the left drew a mistimed challenge from Dan Flack, giving the referee no option but to award a penalty. Declan Rogers converted the spot kick.
Huntingdon substitute Chris Jones wasted a good chance before Deeping finished the first half of extra time strongly with Oliver’s cross/shot saved by Kennedy’s legs and Heron making it 4-4 by steering a header wide of Kennedy in the dying seconds of the half.
The second period of extra time saw Huntingdon pose the greater goal threat. Doughty was busy, saving with his legs from Rogers and tipping over a well struck Hyem effort, while De’ath had a header blocked on the line.
The vital goal arrived after 118 minutes. Seymour-Shove’s free kick was blocked but not held by Doughty and Stuart Eason reacted quickest to fire through a crowded area.
Deeping almost took the tie into a penalty shootout in added time in extra time when Ginty’s low shot crashed against the foot of the post but it was not to be.
Deeping: James Doughty, Dan Flack, Craig Parker, Spencer Tinkler, Simon Ashton, David Burton-Jones, Mitch Griffiths, Scott Ginty, Jamie Graham (Ryan Oliver), Matt Heron, Ciaran Holt (Gary King, Alex Beck).