Thursday 3rd April 2008 at the Recreation Ground, Aldershot FC
Aldershot Town 3 - 3 Rushden & Diamonds (aet)
(Aldershot Town win 4 - 3 on penalties)
(Setanta Shield Final)
Diamonds lost out on the chance of being the first winners of the Setanta Shield as Aldershot Town won the League Cup Final on penalties. Although the competition has had its critics, the final proved to be a topsy-turvy enthralling and entertaining affair which both sides felt they should have won before the penalty shoot-out. Diamonds had a tremendous chance to win the game in 90 minutes, while Aldershot must have wondered how they had thrown away their extra time lead.
Aldershot went in front after 71 minutes through Junior Mendes, but Andy Burgess equalised almost immediately, with Michael Rankine missing a great chance to win the final in injury time. Kirk Hudson put the home side ahead in extra time, before Andy Burgess missed a penalty. Scott Donnelly thought he had won the game with a third for the home side, but an Andy Burgess penalty and a goal from Michael Rankine in the final eleven minutes squared the game and sent tie into penalties. Both Andy Gooding and Chris Hope failed to convert as the Diamonds supporters went home disappointed.
Having reached the Final with wins over Oxford United, St.Albans City, Crawley Town and Woking in the Southern Section of the competition, Aldershot were firm favourites to lift the honours in this League Cup Final. The decision by the Conference to toss a coin to decide if the game would be played at the Recreation Ground or Nene Park had not gone down well, although free admission to Diamonds supporters meant an increased away support. Diamonds had beaten Cambridge United, Kidderminster Harriers, Northwich Victoria and Halifax Town in the Northern Section.
Manager Garry Hill named his strongest side, with the same starting eleven which defeated Halifax Town at Nene Park in the semi-final. Youth team captain Jake Beecroft and keeper Martyn Margarson were named on the bench. With a strong squad of players, Aldershot boss Gary Waddock elected to field the majority of players from the side which beat Woking in the semi final. Three changes from that side were Lewis Chalmers, Kirk Hudson and John Grant replacing Scott Davies, Louis Soares and Rob Elvins. Only three of the team which beat Stafford Rangers at the weekend started. Ryan Williams was named on the bench having been sidelined with a leg injury since pre-season.
Diamonds started the game brightly with better possession and put the home side under pressure, but there was a lack of clear cut chances. It was the home side that had the first real chance with keeper Dale Roberts doing well to push a fierce drive from Lewis Chalmers over the bar. Diamonds continued to take the game to Aldershot and on 15 minutes, Michael Rankine sent the ball across field to Andy Burgess on the right. Jon Challinor should have done better with the cross from Burgess, heading the ball just over.
Challinor received a booking on 22 minutes for a second foul on Dave Winfield, the Shot's defender eventually having to retire hurt a few minutes later. Junior Mendes had an effort deflected over the bar, while Scott Donnelly also fired just over the bar from the edge of the area, but opportunities were occurring for both sides. Dean Howell's lob forward nearly caught out the home defence, but the ball just ran away from Challinor to keeper Mikhael Jaimez Ruiz.
A neat chip from Andy Burgess on 38 minutes allowed Michael Rankine to run forward, but his shot was well off target. The end to end play continued as half time approached, with Shot's Kirk Hudson doing well to turn and shoot in the area - his effort going straight at Roberts. Diamonds had another good chance deep into injury time, when Burgess set Challinor away, but after being forced wide, he lost the chance to shoot and his square ball into the centre just evaded Rankine's touch.
Half-time: Aldershot Town 0 - 0 Rushden & Diamonds
While Diamonds started the first half well, Aldershot came out strongly at the start of the second. Kirk Hudson ran onto a ball on the edge of the area and his cross found Scott Donnelly free on the far side, but Roberts did well to save his shot with his legs.
After Lee Tomlin had come on for Marcus Kelly and Ben Harding had replacing Lewis Chalmers for Aldershot, both sides had further chances. Mendes got free on the left after some trickery by Joel Grant, squirming a shot across goal and just wide of the far post. Within a minute, another chance fell to Rankine running on to a ball over the top, but his shot hit the outside of the post when he had two players free to his right.
As the half progressed, Aldershot started to gain advantage and they went in front on 71 minutes. Scott Donnelly's ball found Kirk Hudson on the left and as he ran towards the by-line, his cross found Junior Mendes to slide the ball in from close range.
The crowd were still celebrating when Diamonds equalised. Rankine's long throw from the right was nodded on by Lee Tomlin, deflected off Jon Challinor and Andy Burgess was at the far post to fire past Jaimez Ruiz from six yards.
Mendes was still looking menacing up front and shot high with one chance, and wide with another. Challinor flicked wide for Diamonds, and in the final minute, Andy Gooding came on for Tom Shaw. As the game entered added time, Diamonds should have won the game. A cross from the left by Andy Burgess found Rankine with a free header, but he somehow headed the ball wide of the post.
Full-time: Aldershot Town 1 - 1 Rushden & Diamonds
Shortly after extra time commenced, Rankine beat the offside trap, but was again off target with his shot, then on 94 minutes, Aldershot went in front. From a throw in deep in Diamonds half, Donnelly played the ball inside to Kirk Hudson who took the ball to his right and fired a shot just inside the post.
Diamonds were given a life-line on 100 minutes when they were awarded a penalty. Rankine's long throw was flicked on by Chris Hope and as Andy Gooding ran towards goal, he was fouled by Rob Gier. Joy soon turned to despair however as Jaimez Ruiz pulled off a superb save to deny Andy Burgess from the spot.
Extra Time HT: Aldershot Town 2 - 1 Rushden & Diamonds
Diamonds made their final substitution before the second period with Abdou El-Kholti replacing Curtis Osano and two minutes after the restart, Aldershot extended their lead. Danny Hylton fired a shot in from the edge of the area which Roberts did well to save. The ball went wide and Kirk Hudson blasted the ball against the near post, with the rebound falling nicely for Scott Donnelly to head home.
Diamonds got back in the game almost immediately as Abdou El-Kholti took the ball in from the left and was caught by Donnelly. The referee pointed to the penalty spot and awarded Donnelly a yellow card. Andy Burgess made no mistake with the penalty this time.
Diamonds came forward trying to get back on level terms with Chris Hope moving forward, and Challinor went just wide moments later as the defence backed off. Aldershot were getting deeper and deeper and the equaliser finally came in stoppage time. Lee Tomlin won the ball on the left side of the area and sent in a cross. Jaimez Ruiz failed to hold the cross and the ball rebounded off Michael Rankine. As the ball held up about two feet from the line, he dived over the keeper to knock the ball over the line with his head.
With Diamonds in total control, they nearly snatched a winner just before the referee's final whistle with Jaimez Ruiz saving Tomlin's fierce drive.
Extra Time FT: Aldershot Town 3 - 3 Rushden & Diamonds
Diamonds took the first penalty kick, and it was Andy Gooding who shot wide. Donnelly, Harding, Newman and Hudson all converted their spot kicks for Aldershot and after Dean Howell, Andy Burgess and Curtis Woodhouse had scored theirs, Chris Hope failed to beat the Shot's keeper and the Setanta Shield went to Aldershot.
Aldershot Town - Jaimez-Ruiz, Smith, Straker, Newman(c), Chalmers (Harding 56), John Grant (Hylton 90), Hudson, Winfield (Gier 28), Joel Grant, Donnelly, Mendes.
Subs not used: Soares, Williams.
Rushden & Diamonds - Roberts, Osano (El-Kholti 105), Gulliver, Hope(c), Challinor, Woodhouse, Burgess, Rankine, Shaw (Gooding 89), Kelly (Tomlin 55), Howell.
Subs not used: Margarson, Beecroft.
Goals: Mendes 71 (1-0), Burgess 73 (1-1), Hudson 94 (2-1), Donnelly 107 (3-1), Burgess 109pen (3-2), Rankine 120+1 (3-3).
Rushden - Aldershot
Gooding 0 - 1 Donnelly
Howell 1 - 2 Harding
Burgess 2 - 3 Newman
Woodhouse 3 - 4 Hudson
Hope 3 - 4
Booked: Challinor 22 (foul). Joel Grant 45 (foul), Tomlin 106 (foul), Donnelly 109 (foul).
Referee: Mr S.Hooper (Wilts)
Attendance: 3718 (approx 350 away).
By Dave Mason