Manager Seb Hayes was close to tears at Yaxley on Monday afternoon when Huntingdon Town beat Deeping Rangers 5-4 to win the United Counties League Cup in extra time.
The game was the first of two cup finals for Huntingdon this week with Thursday night’s Hinchingbrooke Cup final against Stotfold at St Neots Town to come – and, after finishing second in the Premier Division, the team showed the grit and determination of champions to come back from 2-0 down at half time to inflict a third defeat of Deeping this campaign.
Hayes, who took over from Ricky Marheineke last year after the former boss was named the assistant at Histon, told The Hunts Post: “I couldn’t help but feel emotional. Being 2-0 down and seeing our goalie go to hospital, I was wondering how we were going to get back in it.
“But there was no ranting and raving at half time, we said what we needed to make the players believe they could go out and win it and they geed themselves up and did just that.”
Two Gary King goals down at half time, and with goalkeeper Ryan Rayner on his way to hospital after a nasty but accidental collision with a Deeping striker, Huntingdon dug deep and clawed their way back to 2-2 in the second half. The first was a great goal from Ben Seymour-Shove and the second a superb strike from a tight angle from the same player – but moments later it was 3-2 when Huntingdon’s reserve team outfield player, Aaron Kennedy, who was once a Stamford goalkeeper, was cruelly beaten by Matt Heron for 3-2.
The equaliser came off the head of the Deeping goalkeeper James Doughty when Mike Hyem’s excellent shot pinged off the post and into the unlucky shot-stooper.
Seymour-Shove was brought down early in extra time and Declan Rogers coolly made it 4-3 from the penalty spot. But, once again, Deeping rallied and scored to make it 4-4 with a header from Heron.
There was just a minute remaining of the 120 – with the game heading to a penalty shoot-out – when Seymour-Shove’s free-kick was parried by Doughty and Stuart Eason was quick to ram the ball home.
Hayes confirmed on Monday night that Rayner was released from hospital after being diagnosed with a partially collapsed lung and bruised sternum. “That played a part, the players wanted to win it for Ryan,” the manager said.
So now the attention turns to Thursday night’s final game of a wonderful season.
Huntingdon beat Deeping in the semi-finals of the Hinchingbrooke Cup and Hayes believes the team can now make it a week to remember. “We proved that on our day we can beat anyone – we have done that all season,” he said. “We have spirit and character in abundance and that is massive.”
Hayes is hoping Tim Trebes will be available for goalkeeping duties at The Cozy Stadium - but he didn’t rule out another run-out for Kennedy.