Football: Derby delight for Rusthall after Harper steals in to snatch winner

Football: Derby delight for Rusthall after Harper steals in to snatch winner

RUSTHALL produced an outstanding performance to secure their first home league win of the season in the Southern Counties East League Premier Division against local rivals Crowborough Athletic.

In front of a crowd of 267 the visitors took the lead after six minutes when Zac Attwood went to ground in the penalty area and Crows skipper Henry Muggeridge scored from the spot.

But the Rustics found a fine equaliser just two minutes later. John Phillips finished off a flowing move down the left with a crisp finish that gave former Tonbridge Angels keeper Antonio Di Bernado no chance.

When the home side failed to clear an attack, Muggeridge produced a sublime chip to beat Steve Lawrence on 16 minutes.

Rusthall’s Steve Smith and Drew Crush picked up yellow cards as Crowborough put the home side under pressure.

But Rusthall showed their character and equalised on 33 minutes, Crush converting a cross from the right at close range.

On 41 minutes Smith contrived to hit the post twice in the same move, first with his head and then with a shot.

A minute into stoppage time at the end of the first half a controversial decision by referee Chris Price saw Smith sent off after receiving a second yellow card for diving in the area after a challenge by Dan Tear.

Despite playing the whole of the second half with 10 men Rusthall showed they are made of strong stuff and Crowborough could find no way through a back four superbly marshalled by skipper Stewart Gostlow.

On 76 minutes Rusthall brought on striker  Steph Harper, who was not fit enough to start after picking up a knock at Lordswood last week.

It was the class of the former Tonbridge Angels and Burgess Hill striker that turned the game in the Rustics’ favour.

On 89 minutes Muggeridge tried to bring the ball out of defence but Harper closed him down and won the ball 25 yards out.

Without even looking up he produced a superb strike that went over Di Bernado and flew into the back of the net.

Rusthall now face another local derby, at Tunbridge Wells in the second round of the League Cup on Saturday [November 11].

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