Ruston United are the 2023 Lincolnshire FA County Sunday Cup champions – sponsored by Agrigem - after a Lincoln derby final at the LNER Stadium against St Helens FC.
Jack Davies’ side claimed the elusive title on their third attempt in a 1-0 victory over St Helens FC, after last-gasp heartbreak in the 2022 final when Friendship FC stole a last-minute winner.
Davies told us that the feeling was “unbelievable” and was an “absolutely great feeling”.
“After losing last year with the last kick of the game, it’s a massive credit to the lads coming back this year and getting it over the line. It’s been a long time coming – three finals and now we’ve finally got it over the line and got a win”.
“It could’ve been [a 2-0 win after a missed penalty] but it wouldn’t e typical fashion if it wasn’t Ruston United making it hard work. Massive credit to St Helens, they’re a top team and they’ll go a long way in this competition in years to come, but I’m glad we’ve got the win today”.
It was a fantastic game that was full of action and drama right up to the last second. It started a very even affair, with both sides looking threatening on the attack.
It was Ruston who really tested the St Helens resolve first though, as Lee Skepper was slipped through one-on-one with St Helens keeper, Regan Start, and attempted to lift the ball over Start – but the keeper stretched up high and got a strong hand to the effort to take any power out of Skepper’s attempt and the ball was cleared away by the St Helens defence.
Just minutes later though, St Helens came even closer when Marlon Grundy’s effort was saved by Ruston keeper, Ben Tonks, but the ball fell for Edward Jones who smashed it towards goal – but his effort was blocked right on the goal line and the game miraculously remained level.
Ruston’s began to apply the pressure as Jordan Southwell curled a ball into the St Helens box from a corner but was headed away by St Helens. The reds quickly responded though as a superb ball was crossed into the Ruston box and Joe Smith ran in completely unmarked and threw a foot at the delivery, missing by inches and the chance went begging.
However, a long ball over to Tom Moore was picked up by the Ruston number 2, before chopping his way towards the edge of the St Helens box and unleashing a curling effort at goal that beautifully tucked into the bottom left corner and gave Ruston the advantage at the LNER Stadium.
Marlon Grundy came agonisingly close to an immediate equaliser as he hit a low and hard effort from the 6-yard box to the bottom left corner of the goal, and the 450 strong crowd think it’s in but again it’s cleared off the line by a Ruston defender.
Ruston United had a huge chance to double their lead Lee Skepper was brought down inside the box and the referee wasted no time in awarding the penalty, with Jack McGovern stepping up to take the spot kick. However, the game took another twist as McGovern hit it wide from 12 yards as he attempted to place it in the bottom left corner but dragged it wide of the post.
Ruston held on to half time with a 1-0 lead, but it was still very much anyone’s game.
The second half followed a similar pattern as the first, with a very hard-fought content that saw some big challenges and both teams throw everything they had into getting the result they wanted. Ruston United came unbelievably close to a second goal in the 59th minute as Lewis Smith’s cross was met by Jack McGovern and the shot was saved from very close range by Regan Start – but the ball falls for Lee Skepper who hammered a shot against the crossbar from close range and leaving Ruston’s wondering how it didn’t meet the back of the net.
St Helens equally threw everything they could into finding a goal to make the game level, including a Kane Hutchinson-Wilkes header that was narrowly over the bar, but neither St Helens or Ruston could find another goal.
The tables were turned as Ruston came close to a second but St Helens cleared it off the goalmouth to keep them in it.
The reds thought they’d levelled the tie with the last effort of the game after a header from close range was tipped onto the bar, leaving St Helens in disbelief that it didn’t find the back of the net.
The full time whistle went and Ruston United were crowned the 2023 Lincolnshire FA County Sunday Cup champions and finally claiming the trophy they’d been trying so desperately to get.
Ruston United’s Joe Smith was awarded the Player of the Match, and the match officials were Michael Wright, Shemakay Own, Kyle Tasker, and James Moody.
Photo Credit: Ed Mayes Photography