One Railway spectator labelled the Hulme Cup Final of 2019 as “David verses Goliath”, but by end of ninety minutes Railway’s second half strike had cancelled out Michael McCartney’s, so, penalties it was and, just as like the unfancied hero above, Rangers held their nerve to win 4-3!
Following the disappointment of missing out on promotion on Saturday, it was wondered if Kris Macdonald would have enough time to re-energise and restore confidence into his team. This was emphatically answered throughout with a battling performance that left Railway reeling at times.
The match didn’t start too well for Rangers as within two minutes, Lewis Mallinson was called upon to dive full length to his left to punch away a curling free-kick.
Mallinson was in action again minutes later as Railway’s speedy forward latched onto a loose ball in defence, despite driving into the area, his shot was straight at the keeper who collected it at the second attempt.
Rangers first attempt came in the 9th minute when Chris Plews struck a half volley from an enormous goal-kick, but his aim was off and the ball flew over.
Daley Johnson was the first player to force the Railway keeper to make a save when he robbed a dithering centre back and shot straight into the keeper’s midriff from outside the area.
Railway were showing a deftness when shifting play from the centre of the pitch to the flanks, and on several occasions, Rangers were forced to defend deep as the wingers picked up these passes and advanced forward.
Sam Straker was being a useful outlet for Rangers and it was his trickery that won Deighton a brace of corners. However, Railway proved to be too strong in defence and the blue and white shirts couldn’t fashion a clear shooting chance.
Railway were certainly the slicker with their passing, but couldn’t find that cutting edge when it mattered and Mallinson collected a couple of angled shots without issue. John Large and Craig Hall were also called upon to produce superb interventions as Railway targeted Rangers right flank.
Macdonald was forced to shuffle his pack when Mike Tasker had to be substituted for Ross Park following a head injury in the 29th minute.
Following a spell of possession for Rangers, a free-kick from Plews caused trouble in Railway’s area and despite being grounded, McCartney managed to react quickest to Johnson’s knock across and swept the ball past the stationary keeper on 32 minutes.
As expected, Railway threw everything at Rangers as they looked to score a quick equaliser, however every time they tried to get free in the area, they found a Deighton player in close proximity and the score remained as it was.
Another quick switch to the flank caught Rangers flat-footed and for a second it looked like Railway had a free run on goal, but cutting across and timing his tackle perfectly, Hall took the ball away from danger and into touch.
Park was starting to influence proceedings in the middle and it was his pass that sent Straker scampering down the wing, but his cross didn’t beat the first man. Straight away Park was in the thick of it again, and it was his battling that allowed Plews to have a sniff, but his shot was blocked.
Half Time: Kirk Deighton Rangers Reserves 1 v 0 Harrogate Railway Athletic Reserves
Railway started the second half on the attack, but not for the first time they faced determined defending and couldn’t get into Rangers area.
Railway were having a problem with their corners and time after time they were overhit, giving Rangers the chance to clear situations that could have been dangerous.
Hall’s long throws have been a thorn in many an oppositions side this season and another one caused chaos deep in the area that needed a stretching foot to put it out for a corner.
The play was switching ends at breakneck speed with Railway using their ability to move the ball to either side quickly and Rangers countering down the flanks. However, both defences were working hard to stem the flow of crosses and several superb blocks and tackles were produced.
Railway pulled level in the 52nd minute and it was a superb strike from distance, after a corner which had been cleared out of the area, that left Mallinson little hope of reaching it.
The goal seemed to wake something up in Rangers and they started to push harder against their North Yorkshire opponents. Brad Spencer showed his pace to beat his marker and flashed a shot that went just wide of the post.
Railway were left cursing after an hour played when a driving run from the left saw the ball played into the middle and a fierce shot was only inches away from finding the net.
Both Straker and Spencer were causing Railway’s full backs no end of problems with their pace, but it was proving to be a different matter with the final ball and on several occasions, Rangers had to be satisfied with a corner for their endeavours.
Alex Wooler was next to try his luck with after space opened up in front of him. Running into it, he unleashed a long shot that flew straight, but just missed the stranded keeper’s post by a foot.
Rangers were forcing Railway back as tiredness seemed to be playing its part and Plews’s fierce shot was straight at the keeper, whilst a last-ditch tackle stopped Straker from breaking free. Rich Jenner also came close when his pull back needed a scrambled clearance with Plews lurking.
Railway were using free-kicks as their main weapon of choice, however every one they hit was too close to Mallinson and he collected without issue.
Another head injury in the 75th minute forced a second substitution for Rangers as a coming together in the area left Spencer unable to continue, Jake Little replaced him.
A long ball by Mallinson found Little and his flick to McCartney allowed the midfielder to shoot goalwards, but throwing themselves in front of the ball, Railway managed to block the shot. In the build-up however, Mallinson was left on the floor and following several minutes of treatment managed to get up and continue playing.
The final sub for Rangers occurred in the 82nd minute when Dan Flynn replaced the industrious Wooler.
With minutes left of normal time, Hall headed Plews’s corner against the post and minutes later, from another corner, Large headed over.
Full Time: Kirk Deighton Rangers Reserves 1 v 1 Harrogate Railway Athletic Reserves
With the referee’s whistle bringing the game to a close, it was the lottery of penalties that would decide who would lift the trophy. Rangers went into a two-nil lead after both Plews and Park converted their spot kicks and Mallinson had made a superb save to his left to push Railway’s opening effort wide.
Railway pulled one back through their keeper and then Little skied his kick which allowed Railway to pull level as their third penalty sent Mallinson the wrong way.
Hall made no mistake with his kick and neither did the Railway player as the scores went to 3-3.
Flynn had taken on the responsibility of the final penalty and his powerful kick buried itself into the roof of the net. So, it was down to Mallinson to stop Railway’s final kick and the custodian rose to the challenge by diving to his right, blocking the low shot and sparking wild celebrations from the Deighton players and fans.
Penalties: Kirk Deighton Rangers Reserves 4 v 3 Harrogate Railway Athletic Reserves
Kirk Deighton Rangers AFC would like to say thank you to our sponsors Aquascapes and Landscaping and all the fans who, not only came to support us for this game, but have also cheered us on throughout the season.
Report by Pete Arnett
Team: Mallinson, Hall, Wooler (Flynn 82), Large, Tasker (Park 29), Straker, Jenner, McCartney, Johnson, Spencer (Little 75), Plews Unused: Thewell, Williams
Goal: McCartney (32)
Yellow Cards: Rangers - Johnson (foul) Railway: 1 player (foul)
Red Cards: None for either side.
Kirk Deighton Rangers Man of the Match (chosen by the Harrogate FA): After several superb saves from the first minute and all the way to the final penalty, Lewis Mallinson was awarded this accolade.