A first half thunderbolt by former Pitman Josh Craddock proved decisive in Rushall Olympic’s quest to beat local rivals Hednesford Town twice in a week at a sodden Dales Lane in the Doodson Cup Third Round.
With a huge league game on Saturday against Worksop, Pitmen boss Rob Smith chose to blood no less than six youngsters in his starting eleven, but it was the greasy pitch, saturated by an early evening downpour, which caused the most problems for both sides.
Ultimately what would prove to be the winning goal came on 15 minutes when a cross from the right was cleared as far as Craddock who expertly waited for the ball to drop and executed a superb right foot volley which flew past the helpless Sam Hornby.
The Pitmen youngsters struggled to impose themselves in the opening forty-five minutes with senior players Michael Lennon, Sean O’Connor and Alex Melbourne showing more poise in the tricky conditions and Joel Purkiss twice had opportunities to double The Pics’ lead but for wasteful finishing and a strong save by Hornby.
The second half was shaded by The Pitmen with Asa Wright particularly burly and tireless in midfield, but Lennon twice spurned one-on-ones against Matthew Coton and O’Connor saw his shot deflected over.
As the away side chased the game substitute Luke Bottomer should have won it for Rushall as Hornby bravely smothered his shot and then Lennon curled a shot inches wide for Hednesford in the final minute.
Despite exiting the competition, Rob Smith will take heart from the battling performances from the group of players finding their way at this level in difficult conditions and can now concentrate on exciting times as the chase for promotion hots up.
Coton, K Haynes, J Haynes, Smith, Tolley (c), Bridgwater (Bragoli 61), Landell (Bottomer 69), Craddock (15), Islam, Purkiss, Stephens
Subs Not Used
Beckett, Clarke, Caines
Hornby, Recci, Disney, Barnes, Fincher, Wright, Suckling (Woolfe 66), Melbourne, Lennon (c), O’Connor, Shearer (Durrell 84)
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Melbourne, Wright
Attendance – 112
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Star Man – Asa Wright