Fox's shoot-out heroics win YMCA RUR Cup

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Substitute keeper Mark Fox was the hero on Saturday night, as Horsham YMCA won a dramatic penalty shoot-out to beat Haywards Heath Town in the Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup Final at Culver Road.

Both sets of players were clinical for the first six spot-kicks, but when YMCA’s goal scorer Luke Roberts had his penalty saved by Mitch Bromage, Haywards Heath were on the brink in sudden death.

Fox appeared to keep his side in it when he saved opposite number Bromage’s penalty next up, only for the referee to order a retake. Remarkably, Fox produced another save in response.

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He made his teammates wait another four penalties before he stopped Town captain Byron Napper’s second spot kick - and Hayward Heath’s 12th - to secure victory in a nerve shredding shootout.

Horsham YMCA lift the Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup.Horsham YMCA lift the Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup.
Horsham YMCA lift the Sussex Principal RUR Charity Cup.

YMCA starting goalkeeper Arron Jeal was also outstanding as he made three crucial saves during normal time.

But in the seventh minute of second-half injury time at 1-1, Fox was introduced in what proved a masterful decision by YMCA manager Dean Carden.

YMCA initially took the lead against the run of play when Roberts struck, before Town’s Darius Goldsmith equalised 13 minutes from normal time.

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Haywards Heath dominated the opening stages and had a superb chance after three minutes when Goldsmith forced a superb save from YMCA keeper Jeal, before Cam Dobell clattered the rebound against the bar.

YMCA had to wait 18 minutes for their first effort on goal; a scuffed strike by Sekou Toure from long range, which drifted well wide.

But Jeal was forced into another excellent stop five minutes later, when Haywards Heath midfielder Lewis Finney let fly from a tight angle after he was picked out with a low cross by Liam Hendy.

And Finney quickly forced Jeal into action again as he cut inside and curled a superb effort towards the right corner producing a sprawling save from the goalkeeper.

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But YMCA retained a threat, and after 33 minutes produced their best chance of the first-half when Toure latched onto a cross from deep and headed just wide.

In the 37th minute Haywards Heath had another glorious chance when Finn Daniels-Yeomans blazed wide from close range after Goldsmith had initially broken away but failed to get a clean shot off.

But against the run of play Horsham snatched the lead three minutes before half-time when Roberts was picked out by a long free-kick and produced a clinical finish into the bottom left corner.

In the second-half, Town were dominant in possession but lacked a cutting edge.

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YMCA did retain a threat of sorts and were close to a second as Dean Lovegrove curled a decent free-kick just wide of Bromage’s left post.

A lengthy stoppage of about five minutes followed when James Rhodes was involved in a nasty collision and was stretchered off.

The injury was perhaps the trigger for a scrappy period of the game, and both sides committed fouls but failed to produce an opening.

This was until the 74th minute, when Dobell broke down the right, and fired a low cross across goal which begged to be tapped in.

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Four minutes later Haywards Heath finally found a deserved equaliser via Goldsmith, who sprinted free and calmly slotted home beyond Jeal, to send the fans behind the goal into delirium.

YMCA spent much of the closing stages inside their own half and Haywards Heath came closest to a winner as Finney forced Jeal into another huge close range save in the 84th minute.

But after 10 minutes of injury time, and the crucial introduction of Fox, penalties ensued, and YMCA snatched victory.

Speaking after the game, Dean Carden, Horsham YMCA manager, wasted no time lauding praise on goalkeeper Fox: “To save the first one, then the retake, and score his, I could give Foxy man-of-the-match. That was the thinking, bit of mind games and he is better on penalties [than Arron Jeal].

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“Of course Jeal, on his day, he’s the best in the league at shot stopping. He could go higher, but he’s just not got the desire, but he’s brilliant, he’s kept us in so many games this season.”

Carden went onto add: “Two weeks ago, I only had the committee vote me in for the next two years, so it was touch and go whether I was going to stay, or they were going keep me, but it’s taken me three years what the previous manager did in seven, so I’ve halved his time, so let’s go!”

When asked about his sides game plan going into the Final, Caden was clear in what they knew they had to do: “We needed to turn it ugly at times, but the goal was a great goal, quick free-kick, Luke Roberts one touch, volley.

“And then they were going to have more and more of the ball. The gameplan was: ‘If we can get them to penalties we’re halfway there, if we beat them before that great, if we get them to penalties, it’s a toss of a coin’. And that’s exactly what happened!”

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(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)

(Video highlights are available above and on YouTube - courtesy of Your Instant Replay)

Stats (Horsham YMCA-Haywards Heath Town): Goals (1-1), Shots (7-11), Shots on target (2-6), Corners (1-6), Fouls (19-9), Offsides (3-7), Yellow cards (4-1), Red cards (0-0).

Horsham YMCA: Jeal (GK), Milborrow, Hearn, Lovegrove, H Neathey, Dugdale (C), J Neathy, Clark Roberts, Taylor, Toure.Subs: Henderson, Harrison, Collcutt, Carmo, Fox (GK).

Haywards Heath Town: Bromage (GK), Hendy, Cadman, Happer (C), Spinks, Gilbert, Finney, Goldsmith, Rhodes, Daniels-Yeomans, Dobell.Subs: Geard, Wood, Minty, Kemp, Bresciani.

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