A 93rd minute Brad Curtis free kick secured Horsham YMCA a place in the semi-finals of the RUR Charity Cup, as they twice came from behind to beat Rye United 3-2 at Gorings Mead on Wednesday evening.
The midfielder’s late winner gives YM their second cup quarter-final success in as many weeks, and sets up a clash with fellow Division 1 rivals Ringmer in the last four.
Manager Peter Buckland said: “It wasn’t what you’d call a vintage display, but we’ve won and there’s not much more that I can say about the performance.
“We were collectively average, but having said that, it’s difficult when a team sets up with ten men behind the ball for the majority of the game and then just go long to try and catch you out.
“We’re the home team chasing the game and so we’ve got to press and that does leave you open to counter attacks.”
The only points of note during a dreary opening 45 minutes were the two goals that sent the sides into the break all square.
Former Horsham frontman Evan Archibald put the Quarterboys ahead when he side footed home from 12-yards against the run of play, before Dan Sullivan equalised for the hosts ten minutes before the break, latching onto a searching cross field Brad Curtis pass and firing into the far corner.
The hosts offered a little more going forwards after the restart, as an out of sorts Nick Sullivan saw a low effort from the edge of the area parried by Rye goalkeeper Greg Nessling, before Liam Hunter fired tamely at the visitors’ stopper from 25 yards.
Despite YM’s half chances, it was the visitors who re-took the lead 14 minutes into the second period.
The home side were caught on the break and a Rye counter attack saw Ethan Strevett fed clean through, before unselfishly squaring for Archibald to slide the ball into an empty net for his second of the evening.
The game’s turning point then followed soon after, when Archibald was denied his hat-trick by YM ‘keeper Simon Lockwood, who pulled off a magnificent diving save to deny the striker’s close range scissor kick.
This sparked a revival from Buckland’s side and seven minutes later the hosts were back on level terms when the ball struck a Rye hand in the box and referee Anthony O’Brien duly pointed to the spot.
Hunter stepped up to coolly convert from 12 yards, before some already frayed tempers began to further flare when the visitors’ assistant manager was dismissed to the stands for his remonstrations following the decision.
As the game drew to a close it looked certain that extra-time would be needed to decide a winner, until Curtis produced a moment of magic three minutes into added time.
Striker Sullivan was brought down just outside the area, and the YM playmaker stepped up to whip a fantastic free kick inside the far post and send his side into the semi-finals.
YM boss Buckland added: “Brad’s goal was superb. Normally Dan Sullivan is on those free kicks, but we decided at half-time that the way Brad has been striking the ball, that if we get one close up we were to let him have it.
“That’s as good a strike as you will see and it’s given him a fantastic lift.
“It’s nice to get one over on them (Rye), if nothing else but for their attitude towards a game of football. I can be pretty volatile in the dugout, but I’m a pussycat in comparison to their antics tonight.
“Of course we are now into another cup semi-final, but my main eyes are still on the league if I’m being honest.
“I’ve asked the guys if we can go the rest of the season without losing another league game, because there’s no reason why not.”
YM (4-2-3-1): Lockwood, Carden, Burgess, Crane, Evans, Dugdale (c), Hunter, R. Curtis (Cox 60), D. Sullivan, N. Sullivan, B. Curtis. Unused Subs: Hyett, Wood.