We were massive underdogs in both games and we’ve come up against and matched ourselves against a big club and a very good side. It’s been very enjoyable, says Rusthall joint-manager Andrew McKechnie

Thursday 06th September 2018

PROUD Rusthall joint-manager Andrew McKechine says he fully enjoyed taking Cray Wanderers all the way during last night’s FA Cup Preliminary Round Replay epic.

Tony Russell’s side took a 12th minute lead when striker Michael Power headed in Karl Dent’s corner and many expected the floodgates would open.

Cray Wanderers created 27 chances during Rusthall’s first ever home FA Cup tie played at Jockey Farm Stadium but Rusthall’s players fought tooth and nail against a side sitting second in the Bostik South East Division with a 100% record from their opening four games, keeping four clean sheets.

Rusthall grabbed an equaliser on the hour-mark, without creating a single chance on target until the second minute of extra-time.

Goalkeeper Nick Blue kicked the ball out to Junior Dadson, who was hugging the right touch-line, who from 45-yards, swept the ball across the stranded keeper into the bottom far corner.

Rusthall keeper Callum Christie maintained his reputation of being a decent stopper and kept the Wands at bay.

Power notched his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot in the 103rd minute but Rusthall equalised on the stroke of half-time in extra time when super-sub Callum Gallie touched Regan Corke’s drive from the edge of the penalty area into the bottom left-hand corner to spark wild celebrations.

So on to penalties.  Rusthall practiced them in training on Tuesday night and Cray Wanderers didn’t.

Peter Shaw – who scored twice in Rusthall’s 3-1 win at Erith & Belvedere in The FA Vase First Qualifying Round last Sunday – skied his penalty over the bar and Cray Wanderers scored all of theirs but the ninth penalty from Callie was saved by Blue so Russell’s men escaped by winning 4-3 on penalties to set up a trip to Southern League Premier Division side Metropolitan Police in the First Qualifying Round on Saturday.

The challenge now for McKechnie, Mike Cramp and his young side is to take that performance into Saturday’s home game against Punjab United.

The Rustics are in the bottom three with three points from five league games.  They will need no motivating for their home game against bottom-of-the-table side Tunbridge Wells next Wednesday and must start picking up the points and climb the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table.

“That’s the aim. It’s a must as we’ve already spoken to the lads straight after the game and said now we do need to get on it and push up the league and now we need to start imposing ourselves, cutting out a few bits and pieces but we’re getting there as a side, we are definitely getting there,” said McKechnie.

“I think across the two games against Cray Wanderers I think myself and the players and anyone whose been involved from Rusthall has thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I think both games (coming away from Hayes Lane with a 1-1 draw) have been a real FA Cup sense. We were massive underdogs in both games and we’ve come up against and matched ourselves against a big club and a very good side.  It’s been very enjoyable.”

Newly-promoted Punjab United are in 12th place in the table, having collected one win and three draws from their first six games and came away from First Division side Lydd Town with a 2-1 win in The FA Vase First Qualifying Round last weekend.

“Tough game. Punjab have come up from the league below, they’re a good side, they’ve got a good reputation,” said McKechnie.

“We’ve obviously now got to take all of the positives out of our two games against Cray Wanderers and re-focus onto that, although this has been a fantastic journey, we’ve only got three points on the board at the moment and we need to start picking up points and that starts with a really tough game on Saturday.”

The visit of Jason Bourne’s Tunbridge Wells side next Wednesday night will be another massive game at Jockey Farm Stadium.

McKechnie said: “That will be an enjoyable one. We’re looking forward to that one. We’re fully focused on Punjab first and once we get that one out of the way, we’ll be looking forward to Tunbridge Wells.”

Visit Rusthall’s website: www.rusthallfc.com

Rusthall  v  Punjab United
Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Saturday 8 September 2018
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Jockey Farm Stadium, Nellington Road, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 8SH