In a battle between two of Aylesbury’s South Midlands League sides, it was Risborough Rangers who prevailed as they edged out Hale Leys United 2-1 in Saturday’s Berks & Bucks quarter-final tie.
Risborough play a level above Hale but this was never going to be straightforward with United flying high in their league and on course for a third successive Division Two title.
But it was the Division One side who progressed into the semi-finals thanks to a workmanlike performance, though Hale must be wondering what they had to do after creating a number of chances.
The home side edged the first half by dominating possession but Risborough defended stoutly and had goalkeeper Jack Brooker to thank for several excellent chances that kept Rangers on level terms going into half-time.
Hale struck quickly after the break, though, as on 50 minutes, Kevin Mealor’s free-kick deflected into the net off visiting player Chris Davies to give the Division Two side a 1-0 lead.
But Mealor went from hero to villain within moments as Risborough hit straight back when he gave away a penalty for a foul on Callum Mansell, with Martin Griggs sending home keeper Ashley Jenkins the wrong way from the spot.
The second half was a more even affair as Rangers upped their game and played higher up the pitch, although Hale threatened on the counter-attack.
Sean Coles and Daniel Parsons were both guilty of missing openings before Tom Brindley squandered the game’s best chance when blazing over from close-range.
And United were left to rue their lack of composure as only moments later Risborough scored what proved to be the winning goal when a mix-up at the back allowed Griggs to latch onto a poor back pass, round the goalkeeper and slot into an empty net.
With only 15 minutes left on the clock, Hale pushed bodies forward but Rangers continued to defend well and the visitors saw out victory to book their place in the semi-finals where they will host Cookham Dean on February 13.
Hale manager Paul Alleyne said afterwards: “I don’t really want to point fingers but I will say that we lacked composure up top.
“I told the squad before the game that when you play higher level teams your chances will be fewer and we have to be clinical but the simple fact is we weren’t and we paid the price.
“I wish Risborough all the luck for the rest of the competition and would like to thank both sets of supporters for coming down.
“It was a proper cup game with nearly 90 people watching and I’m sorry to the Hale Leys supporters that we couldn’t deliver on the day.
“My man of the match went to Niall Williams who gave 100 per cent, so well done to him for a truly noteworthy performance.”
Hale will now return to their Inter Division Cup campaign this weekend, representing the Spartan South Midlands League in the FA national competition.
They face the Essex Senior League in the quarter-finals with all match day info displayed on the player boards in the shopping centre and also on the club’s website.
Anyone wishing to travel with the team can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Risborough were back in league action last night, Tuesday, when they hosted Southall, and this weekend, Rangers entertain Baldock Town in another SSML Division One fixture.