Dramatic late goals at the end of normal time and extra-time propelled LINBY COLLIERY WELFARE RESERVES into their first-ever cup final.
Linby edged out divisional rivals Ruddington Village Reserves 2-1 in the semi-finals of the Notts Senior League’s Reserves Cup at the neutral ground of Wollaton last Saturday.
After they trailed 1-0, Alistair ‘Tolley’ Murray struck four minutes into injury-time to equalise, and then Luke Price headed a winner with just two minutes left of extra-time.
Now Jamie Wheatley and Jay Parkin’s side get the chance to earn the club its first silverware since the first team landed the Notts Alliance, Division One title way back in 1997.
Linby’s last four cup finals have all ended in defeat. But the reserves’ opponents, on a date yet to be fixed, will be Radcliffe Olympic Reserves, who sit just below them in the First Division table.
Ruddington occupy a similar slot, but in a tense game and after a goalless first half, they took the lead in the 50th minute.
It was a controversial goal because Linby centre-back Darren Dickens appeared to be fouled by Sam Dunstan. The locals stopped, expecting a free-kick, but the challenge went unpunished and Dunstan went on to cross for Damian Humphries to head home.
In response, Linby pressed Ruddington further and further back, but had to wait until the clock read 94 minutes for their leveller.
A typical lung-bursting run by left wing-back Tom Coupe drew a foul -- and a free-kick that Price delivered superbly to the far post. Substitute Jonny Bernard headed the ball back across goal where midfielder Murray slid home from three yards.
As the tie went into extra-time, Bernard almost teed up a second goal when his cross found Ross Cheeseman, whose header was well saved by Ruddington ‘keeper Kyle Harris.
But it all looked likely to be settled by another penalty shootout (following the quarter-final one against Kimberley Miners Welfare) -- until, on 118 minutes, the irrepressible Price pulled a winner out of the bag.
A lofted through-ball from strike partner Cheeseman invited the chance, and Price just beat the onrushing ‘keeper to head over him and into the net.
Cue wild celebrations and, at last, something to cheer for Linby in what has been a most disappointing season for the club.