LYME Regis Reserves finished their season on a high note when they retained the Football Express Cup in a penalty shoot-out.
The Seasiders faced Devon & Exeter Division 5 champions Elmore 2nds in the final at Budleigh Salterton FC tonight (Wednesday).
With Lyme finishing in fourth place in the same division, the Devon side were clear favourites to snatch the trophy from the Seasiders’, although the Ressies did beat them at home in the league.
There ws very little between the two sides in 120 minutes of fierce competition which saw the referee hand out nine yellow cards in all – five to Lyme players and four to Elmore.
There were chances at both ends in a lack-lustre first half in which Steven Batey and Alistair Rattenbury both picked up cautions for dangerous tackles which prompted scuffles between the players as the referee shruggled to keep the peace.
Lyme’s best scoring chance came in the 40th minutes when, after some good work by Jake Bearpark beating several defenders, the ball was scrambled clear to deny the Seasiders’ the chance of going in at half-time with a 1-0 lead.
The pace quickened considerably after the break with skipper Alex Rowe’s rasping drive from 25 yards forcing the Elmore keeper to pull off a spectacular diving save.
Not long after it was the Lyme keeper Will Meech’s turn to impress the crowd when he dived full length to turn a 25-yard free kick from Elmore around the post.
Front-Runner Bradley Rowe exacted another impressive save from the Elmore glove man with a rasping drive and the best scoring chance of the half fell to the industrious Ryan Turner whose unchallenged header from a fine Fred Thompson cross flashed across the goalmouth
Lyme weathered a period of unabated pressure as the second half wore on with centre backs Mark Batey and Wallace Blackmore in superb form against a very lively Elmore attack.
Lyme thought they had a good case for a penalty when Rowe was wrestled to the ground in another dangerous attack but the referee was having none of it.
It was stalemate after 90 minutes and it was clear a number of Lyme players were suffering from cramp from their efforts on one of the biggest pitches in Devon football.
But they came out of the traps with renewed vigour and took the lead just four minutes into the first half of extra time when Jake Bearpark poked the ball home in a goalmouth scramble.
Elmore were not going to lay down and they hit back with an equaliser within minutes.
Rowe, who was much more effective in the second half, was causing the Elmore defence all sorts of problems, shooting wide from close range and forcing the Elmore keeper into another diving save.
Elmore pressed hard for the winner, full of running, but they found Meech in sparkling form and a resolute defence in which Batey and Blackmore were impregnable.
The Seasiders looked pretty well spent when the final whistle of extra time signalled the penalty shoot out. Steve Batey, Bradley Rowe, Jake Bearark and Cam Fowler all converted their spot kicks with ease before an Elmore player missed, leaving Wallace Blackmore the pressure of taking their last penalty to retain the cup which Lyme won for a first time last season. Blackmore did not falter, cooly slamming the ball home to win the man-of-the-match award.
This was a gutsy, brave performance by the Reserves, a real team effort with a spirit Lyme show so often in these big matches.
Next up, the Lyme Regis first team meet Heavitree 2nds in the final of the Grandisson Cup at Ottery St Mary FC on Wednesday, May 30th.