A stunning display from Ramsgate’s keeper Ryan Birch saw the East Kent side edge out Bridon Ropes to win the Kent Reliance Under 18s Cup after three times coming from behind then being just minutes from defeat at the end of normal time.
The battle between Birch and prolific Bridon striker Clinton Omenyi was the undoubted highlight of the game with the keeper on three occasions pulling off real top drawer saves to deny the striker. But Birch was helpless to stop Daniel Blunn volleying home Harry King’s free kick for a half time lead. Billy Lewins’ predatory instincts got the Rams level on the hour and extra time loomed. But when King converted an 85th minute penalty, the trophy was heading for Bridon. However, the Rams had other ideas, as Billy Munday scrambled an equaliser in the 88th minute. Lewins then put the Rams in front in extra time before Birch saved a second King penalty that sealed the win for the Thanet side.
It left Rams coach Scott Roberts almost lost for words when he spoke to KSN after the game. “It’s been a long season and I’m delighted,” he said. “Most of the boys are still first years which means that the future is looking good. At 2-1 down I really thought it was over but we always looked dangerous from free kicks and we worked really, really hard. I would like to also thank Lloyd Blackman (the Rams first team boss) as six of those players have made first team appearances which I think gave them the never say die attitude they showed today!”
For Bridon boss James Dewar, it was heart-break – though as he admitted – it wasn’t a complete surprise! “I had a bad feeling about today as we had a lot of injuries going in but good luck and well played Ramsgate. There were key moments in the game with the header from Clinton when we were 1-0 up and the missed penalty – it was one of those things; I thought Ramsgate played better than us on the day. The main difference today for whatever reason they won all the aerial battles… they deserved it and well done to them.”
Jacob Mensah headed Ramsgate’s first chance over from a corner, keeper Birch made his first stunning save – turning Omenyi’s brilliant low drive round the right post, before he was helpless as Blunn blasted Bridon into the half time lead.
It as a lead that most people in the ground thought Omenyi had doubled just after the break with a super header from a brilliant Cameron Anderson-Parr cross but Birch pulled off a magnificent save to deny the big striker. So instead of the lead being doubled, it vanished just past the hour when Lewins showed real “fox-in-the-box” qualities to prod the Rams level from a free kick.
King thought he’d won the game when he converted an 85th minute penalty – sending Birch the wrong way – after Anderson-Parr had been fouled, but with just two minutes left Munday somehow squeezed in an equaliser – if the name sounds familiar to Kent football fans, he’s the youngest son of former Margate legend Mark, who himself had a knack for scoring late important goals!
…And into extra time the game went. Ramsgate’s Lewins was on hand for his second goal as a free kick wasn’t properly cleared, before Birch completed a remarkable personal performance by saving a second King penalty – this time given for hands after Omenyi again caused chaos in the Rams box.
It was tough on the Bridon striker who was magnificent throughout and incredibly, it could have been so different as Rams keeper Birch was actually rejected by the club at the start of the season as coach Roberts admitted, “Believe it or not, Ryan came to us at the start of the season on trial and we said “thanks but no thanks”! However he went to our Ramsgate Academy and has had the number one spot for the last six months and has got the Kent Representative position now too. The saves he made from Bridon’s forward were outstanding and the one at the start of the second half was incredible!”
A lesson for everyone there surely…
Bridon Ropes FC – Louis Saunders, William Osaguona, Jack Perkins, Bayley Malene-Adams, Tyler Anderson-Parr, Harry King, Jose Camache, Daniel Blunn, Kit Chambers, Clinton Omenyi, Cameron Anderson-Parr
Subs – Max Currell, Michael Jones, James Elms, Junior Djejde, Stanley Chime
Ramsgate FC – Ryan Birch, Lyndon Dixon, Daniel Adams, Jacob Mensah, Oliver Roberts, Billy Munday, Tijan Jardama, Bradley Torrance, Lewis Doyle, Sam Bradley, Billy Lewins
Subs – Matt Causer, Luke Powell, Finlay McConnell, Callum Weatherly, Ollie Harris
Referee – Tom Burman
Assistants – Josh Smith, Robin Smit and Chris Cannon
Match report by Mike Green, Kent Sports News.
Match photos by PSP Images.
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