Evo-Stik League Southern – Central Division : Play-Off Semi-Final
Rugby Town 1 Beaconsfield SYCOB 0
Town inched closer to a place in next season’s Southern League Premier Division, when a Sam Youngs’ extra-time strike settled a tense, tight play-off semi-final on Tuesday evening.
Valley will now host Biggleswade in Bank Holiday Monday afternoon’s promotion decider, after a game which had always looked like it would be settled by a single goal.
Rugby started nervously against a physically-imposing Rams side that had finished the regular season three places below them, taking their time to settle on an increasingly dry, end-of-season Butlin Road surface.
However, the hosts upped their game as the night progressed and ultimately deserved the victory thanks to the central midfielder’s great strike.
The visitors created the best of the early chances though, with Anthony Page poking one wide and Ryan Upward also volleying over.
There were nearly 30 minutes on the clock before Town’s first real chance of the game, when Youngs picked out David Kolodynski in the box, but the top scorer just could not get the ball from out of his feet to fire in an effort.
Lewis McBride then had a low shot saved by SYCOB keeper Sam Southerden ahead of the break, after a neat back-heel from Richard Blythe.
Valley came out for the second-half with increased resolve against opponents who appeared to be employing a baffling set of time-wasting tactics.
McBride began to cause problems down the right wing, and twice put in dangerous crosses – the second of which squeezed through Southerden’s legs and nearly bobbled back over the line.
In between these, Alex Gudger made the tackle of the night when he denied Ryan Blake a certain goal, after the Rams’ striker had skipped wide of the oncoming Dave Bevan.
McBride headed substitute Fazel Koriya’s cross from the left wide of the target - following an impressive piece of skill on the opposite flank by Andrew Spencer, and Kolodynski’s low shot drifted the wrong side of the near post, as Town pushed hard to seal the game in normal time.
The visitors threatened occasionally on the counter though, with Gudger and Mason Rowley forming their typical solid central rearguard.
The game’s defining moment came eight minutes into the first period of extra-time, when Youngs’s vicious strike from twenty yards flew over Southerden’s head and into the net - to the delight of the vocal home following.
Rugby played out the remainder of the game with relative ease despite the inevitable pressure that followed from the away side, although substitute Aaron Couch did shoot over from a dangerous position before the second change of ends of the evening.
Kolodynski spurned a great chance to put the tie beyond doubt late-on when he somehow blazed over from close-range, after Seb Lake-Gaskin had broken quickly and slid the ball across to him.
Rugby line-up & ratings: Bevan 7, Austin 6, Myles 6, Rowley 7, Gudger 8, Youngs 7, McBride 7, Blythe 6 (Koriya 6 (Williams 6)), Kolodynski 6, Lake-Gaskin 6 , Spencer 7. Subs not used: Palmer, Wilson, Maisiri. Booked: Rowley, Austin
Goal: Youngs 98
Beaconsfield line-up: Southerden, A.James, Carby, Page, Yeboah, Ajanjekoko, Upward, Poulton, Romeo, Blake, G.James. Subs: Couch, Jones, Walters, Gill, Miller.
Rugby Star Man: Alex Gudger