Ewhurst's heroic goalkeeper saves penalty and scores to seal title
Ewhurst Reserves goalkeeper Ben Rivers was the hero at both ends of the pitch as he netted the winning goal to clinch them the Division 5 North title in the West Sussex League.
It is the first silverware the second team have won in as long as anybody can remember and was done so with a dramatic final-day victory.
He netted a last-minute goal in a title showdown with TD Shipley Reserves, which Ewhurst had to win to clinch the title, just ten minutes after saving a penalty in the opposite goal.
The two sides had been in the top-two for much of the season and Ewhurst started the game one point behind Shipley.
With both teams already promoted and unable to be caught by third placed Royal United all that was left to be settled was the matter of league champions.
A draw would be enough for TD Shipley while Ewhurst, who had been top from October when they beat Royal United 3-1 away until the Wednesday before the game, needed to win.
In a dramatic last ten minutes Ricky South scythed down Shipley’s young problematic striker giving away a stonewall penalty and all-but ending Ewhurst’s chances of lifting the trophy. However, this was then saved by the strong hand of Ben Rivers, who guessed correctly diving down low to his right.
A last-minute corner offered one last opportunity for Ewhurst and the ball was delivered into the box and volleyed home by Rivers to cue wild scenes.
Goalkeeper Rivers said: “We wouldn’t have been in that position if it wasn’t for the whole team working hard all season. For that, the penalty save and goal just topped it off .
“I’m never wearing the boots or gloves again, going to frame them. I knew I had the penalty and it was pure ecstasy when I scored the goal.”
They clinched the title with 14 wins from 18 games after drawing one and losing one of their opening two fixtures, conceding just 14 goals in the process. Last season they finished eighth in the league and this season was the first under the stewardship of new manager Phil Rackliffe.
The former Surrey Intermediate League side moved into the West Sussex League four years ago, since then the first team has won Division 3 North and the Tony Kopp Cup.
Captain Oli Rouse added: “We write our own scripts here at Ewhurst FC but I think this one was extra special.
“I am so proud of all of the boys for winning the title and even happier that the hero of the day was our beloved goalkeeper who has shown more commitment than any player to achieve what he has and deserves every ounce of pleasure he gets from Saturdays events.
“He is Ewhurst born and bread and has now written himself into Ewhurst folk law.”
“Another special mention has to go to our manager Phil Rackliffe who has brought a massive sense of authority to managing a group of somewhat difficult personalities. It is his leadership and tactics that we have enabled us to experience such a feeling and I don’t think it would have happened without him.”
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