Soaked and cold, but jubilant! There were no cheers from Rangers, just a silent relief that they had got through in a game which needed a penalty shoot-out to separate the two sides after a scintillating match had produced a 1-1 draw.
In driving rain, both teams immaculately observed a minute’s silence for Remembrance Day and former Oxenhope Recreation player Tom Marshall who had tragically passed away days after Rangers had played them.
The match started in subdued fashion, taking both teams several minutes to settle down. Rangers started to push their opponents back and a first time cross by Jack Holliday was collected by the keeper before Charlie Yates could intervene.
Holliday was in the thick of it again when he slipped in Yates, who saw his initial shot blocked. Getting a second bite of the cherry, he fired in another effort, but it was too close to the keeper who smothered it.
The visitors were rueing the referee's whistle in the 11th minute as the striker wheeled away after scoring. Mr Payne, however, had already signalled he was offside and the goal was ruled out.
A slip in the Rangers area provided the home side with a let-off as the Route One Player turned too sharply and lost his footing. By the time he had recovered, so had the Rangers backline and the ball was cleared by John Large.
Rangers won a series of corners, but despite coming close from a long shot by James Woodward, they couldn’t break down a resilient defence.
One pleasing aspect for Rangers was the fluent attacking play which often saw Joe Wilks, Rob Holliday, Jack Holliday, Josh Barden, Woodward and Yates involved, but Route One produced some great blocks to stop the final shot from troubling their goalkeeper.
A short back-pass after half-an-hour nearly allowed Yates in, but just a split second before the striker got there, the keeper diverted the ball clear.
Rob Holliday was next to try with a dipping shot that the keeper had to punch over his bar as Rangers upped the pressure.
Rangers were celebrating in the 37th minute when Wilks tucked away a simple tap in after the keeper had parried Barden’s original shot into his path. Credit also to both Jack Holliday and Yates who started the move.
Both teams could have scored in the closing minutes with Smith having to be quick off his line to clear a through ball. At the other end, a Rovers defender on the line cleared Luke Dubery’s header as it was arrowing towards goal.
Half Time: Kirk Deighton Rangers 1 v 0 Route One Rovers
The second half saw Rovers pin Rangers back as they searched for an equaliser. A flowing move down the right wing was fired through Deighton’s area, with the attacker inches away from connecting.
Rangers didn’t heed the warning and three minutes later Rovers were level! A weak clearance landed at the feet of the attacker, and he stroked the ball past Smith into the far corner of the goal.
Rangers couldn’t believe it when a flying save tipped Wilks’s goal-bound shot over after the midfielder had lost his marker at the back post.
The Rovers keeper was in action again when Yates was played through by Barden. As he set to shoot, the custodian bravely dived at his feet and deflected the ball clear.
With Rangers foot firmly on the accelerator again, it was the visitors who were penned into their half and the keeper yet again rescued his team, catching Jack Holliday’s cross with Yates lurking.
A corner by Barden to Wilks saw the captain chip the ball into the area, however, a swerving ball nearly went into the net, but a defender on the line headed clear from under the crossbar.
A change of frontman in the 60th minute saw Chris Plews replace Yates and it was a knock-on by the substitute that released Wilks. Setting himself, his curling shot went a couple of feet wide with the keeper scrambling to get across in time.
The conditions were causing both teams problems as players started to lose their footing regularly. Recovering after such a slip, Rob Holiday’s shot was palmed away by a diving keeper before Jack Holliday’s shot was blocked by a defender. Soon after a Dubery header from a corner flashed just wide of the post.
Rangers introduced their second substitute in the 65th minute when Josh Bhandal replaced Joe Turley.
Rangers were in control and Jack Holliday was heavily involved bringing another good save before a follow-up shot from a narrow-angle was scooped up by the keeper.
In a rare visitor’s attack, it took a superb tackle by Wilks to take the ball away from a potentially dangerous situation.
Rangers came forward again and a shot from Plews went inches over the crossbar before he and Barden combined, but another diving save from Rovers keeper pushed Plews’s shot wide.
A quick counter, following a poor Rangers corner, saw Route One move the ball down the pitch. Just as the player set to shoot, Bhandal put him off and his effort went just wide.
Rovers were indebted to their keeper again when he produced the save of the game to push Rob Holliday’s curling shot onto the post as Rangers looked to nick the game.
There was a holding of breath right at the end as Smith had to go low to divert a Rovers shot clear and then had to collect a long-range effort before Mr Payne ended the game and the lottery of penalties began.
Full-Time: Kirk Deighton Rangers 1 v 1 Route One Rovers
Following Rob Holliday’s successful spot-kick, Rovers missed their opening penalty. Parity was restored as Dubery shot over before Rovers converted their second. Each team were on target with their next two shots as Bhandal and Flynn scored. With the final round of five penalties remaining, Plews showed his experience as he placed his kick wide of the diving keeper and into the corner of the net. Stepping up, the Rovers player saw his shot smash into the base of the post and bounce clear meaning Rangers progressed into the next round.
Final Score: Kirk Deighton Rangers win on penalties 4-3
Report by Pete Arnett
Squad: Smith, Turley, Flynn, Wilks ©, Large, Dubery, Holliday.R, Barden, Woodward, Yates, Holliday,J. Subs: Plews (Yates 60), Bhandal (Turley 65)
Sin-Bin: Rangers (none), Route One Rovers (none)
Yellow Cards: Rangers (Dubery), Route One Rovers (none)
Red Cards: Rangers (none), Route One Rovers (none)
Referee: Mr Jason Payne
Bennett & Fountain Kirk Deighton Rangers Man Of The Match: Jack Holliday