Rugby Town 2
Harrowby United 0
A spirited performance against higher league opposition ended in defeat as Harrowby United’s interest in the FA Vase came to a premature end.
The Arrows almost got off to a perfect start as inside the first minute Joel Carta played a lovely ball through the Rugby defence for top scorer Sam Grouse to run on to. Grouse took the ball into the penalty area before firing a shot which zipped inches over the home side’s crossbar.
The ‘Valley’ settled after the early scare and set about their task of breaking down a resolute Harrowby defence. Early yellow cards for Arrows defenders Jack Whyley and John Currall didn’t help the visitors but they kept openings to a minimum for the first half an hour.
Harrowby keeper Sam Andrew was called into action after 37 minutes when a cross from the right was met by a header from Ruben Wiggins-Thomas. Andrew got down well to block the effort with his legs.
Harrowby kept things tight until half time although right wing back Tawanda Bilson picked up a further yellow card.
The second half followed a similar pattern, Harrowby restricted to the odd counter-attack whilst soaking up pressure from the Midland League outfit.
The Arrows suffered a blow in the 53rd minute when they lost influential midfielder Carta to injury, replaced by Richemone Sylla. As the unfortunate Carta was leaving the field with a knee injury, Joe Briers became the fourth Arrow to enter the referee’s notebook.
Harrowby’s three centre backs – Whyley, Currall and Jack Havron – defended staunchly. They were ably supported by wing backs Bilson and Jurelle Phillip, with tireless work in midfield from Briers and Felix Hogg also frustrating the hosts.
Rugby went close after 69 minutes when a fine cross from the right from Aiden Print was met by a header from record scorer David Kolodynski, the ball getting past Andrew but cleared by a great covering header from Havron.
Four minutes later, Rugby were awarded a penalty when, after a good build-up, the ball was fed into Harry Holloway who was felled by a tackle from Hogg as he entered the penalty area. Mr Butterworth booked Hogg as Wiggins-Thomas waited to take the spot kick. The striker’s effort was struck well enough but Andrew dived the right way to produce an excellent save, parrying the shot before the danger was cleared.
After 78 minutes, Wiggins-Thomas was presented with another shooting chance as a deep cross from the right found him in the box, but his powerful shot cannoned away off Andrew’s right hand upright.
As the game entered the last couple of minutes, another Wiggins-Thomas shot, this time from the edge of the box, was again well saved by Andrew.
In stoppage time, another cross from marauding right back Print was headed goalwards by Wiggins-Thomas who was again denied by Andrew, sending the game into extra time.
Eight minutes into the first period of extra time, a Rugby attack ended with the ball being cut back from the byline to Wiggins-Thomas whose shot was well blocked by Bilson.
Harrowby forced a chance of their own when a free kick into the box was met with a diving header by Whyley, but saved at the near post by Rugby custodian Niall Cooper.
The crucial breakthrough for the home side came in the last minute of the first extra period when Trey Braithwaite was brought down by Briers as he burst into the penalty area. Former Grantham Town player Fabian Smith took over penalty taking duties and smashed home the spot kick into the top left hand corner, giving Andrew no chance.
Harrowby introduced attacking midfielder Liam Smith from the bench at the break, replacing Currall, as they looked to get back on level terms.
But Rugby doubled their advantage with nine minutes remaining. A tiring Harrowby side were caught by a break down the right which ended with Birch playing the ball in for fellow substitute Tevin Shakespeare to score his third goal of the season with a low right foot shot.
The Valley saw out the rest of the game to progress to round two but were certainly made to work hard by a dogged, hard working performance from underdogs Harrowby.
Harrowby United: Andrew, Bilson, Currall (Smith 105), Havron, Whyley, Phillip, Briers, Hogg (McCartney 81), Carta (Sylla 53), John, Grouse. Subs not used: Parker-Lax, Milne.