LANCING Football Club uncharacteristically squandered a lead three times on Saturday and went out of the John O’Hara Cup in the quarter-finals, 5-4 to visitors Rustington after extra-time.
Lancers led 3-1 deep into injury time, and even when Matt Huckett slotted in a 92nd-minute penalty, it seemed time was against Blues. They mustered one last attack, however, and Ross Adams kept a cool head to latch onto Dan Jones’ pass and fire home the leveller.
That sent the tie to extra-time and Lancers took the lead for the third time when Dan Griffin steered home fellow sub Jack Hayward’s pass. But Blues refused to lie down and Adams swept home his second to make it 4-4 on 110 minutes.
Instead of settling for a draw, and a subsequent replay, Blues continued to press and when Darwin’s cross found its way to Jason Wimbleton, he bundled it in to send Rustington into raptures.
Lancers’ Dan McLoughlin was then harshly dismissed for a second booking, and Ben Lucas quickly followed, as Rustington survived three frantic minutes to progress into the last four, where they will face Rye United.
Lancing had taken the lead on four minutes when Darren Annis headed home Wayne Joseph’s cross. Lancers have a habit this season of crushing many teams after going ahead early, but Rustington are clearly made of sterner stuff, and the lively Huckett saw his half-chance stifled by Lancing keeper Jason Downer.
Lucas then had a header scrambled away and Richard Hudson was denied by impressive Rustington debutant keeper Jack Bonetti.
Blues equalised on 55 minutes when James Bennett profited from lax marking to touch home Simon Clayton’s inswinging free kick.
Parity did not last long, though, with Lancers going back ahead six minutes later. Chris Hibberd’s free-kick was met by Lee Garnham, and his header flicked in off Wimbleton. Lancing seemingly sealed their semi-final spot 12 minutes from time through Dan McLoughlin’s header that deflected in off the again unfortunate Wimbleton.
There seemed no way back for Rustington, but Lancing had clearly not accounted for Blues’ indomitable spirit and determination.
Dan Turner missed a great chance to make it 4-1 before Blues hit back to force extra-time and then grabbed the win.
Lancers joint manager Martin Gander said: “Credit to Rustington, but we turned up with the wrong attitude and thought we had the right to win. But we didn’t earn that right and, although the league is our priority, throwing away the chance to be in a cup semi-final is unacceptable.”
LANCING: Downer; Lucas, Elliot, Pickford, Hibberd; Joseph, McLoughlin, Garnham, Turner; Hudson; Annis. Subs: Hayward (Joseph 77), Groves (Hibberd 80), Griffin (Annis 88), Sharman.