Rochester United 2
The Rustics showed great character as they twice came from behind to beat bottom-of-the-table Rochester United at Jockey Farm Stadium to secure their first win of 2018.
Rusthall were themselves staring into the abyss of relegation from the Southern Counties East League Premier Division as their first season at this level comes to a conclusion.
The importance of the game seemed to affect the home side as they made several early mistakes, one of which gifted the visitors the lead after just five minutes.
A free kick from wide on the left looked to be heading into the hands of keeper Steve Lawrence but he could only push it onto the bar and Jack Healey tapped home from close range.
Against the run of play Rusthall managed to level the score on 16 minutes. A rare attack down the right caught the visitors out and when they failed to clear, Dan Powell was on hand to force the ball home.
But Rusthall continued to give the ball away in midfield and Rochester took advantage on 29 minutes. A smart move down the left fed in Merrick Simms, who unleashed a firm right-foot strike to retake the lead.
Three minutes later the home side was breathing a sigh of relief as Dan Nash’s firm shot beat Lawrence but Luke Stratford was on hand to superbly head the ball off the line.
The home side were a different proposition in the second half and they were rewarded for their efforts on the hour when a corner from the right was met by the head of new signing Dan Hanshaw, who scored his first goal for the club.
Rusthall were level again and looking comfortable but the winning goal came with just four minutes remaining.
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Substitute Steph Harper picked up the ball on the left and crossed to the far post, finding the onrushing Paul Butler who headed the ball over the keeper and into the net, much to the delight of a large crowd.
The weekend saw a narrow defeat at Canterbury City as 10 players from the midweek success failed to make the trip.
The home side took the lead on 23 minutes as a corner was headed in by Laurence Harvey, set-pieces having proved a problem for the Rustics this season.
Moving into the final three weeks of the season Rusthall have six games to secure their Premier League status.
They will be hoping to encounter weary legs when Whitstable visit Jockey Farm on Saturday (April 14, kick-off 3pm) after playing three times in six days.