Southampton Rangers 0 Robin Hood 1
Colin Ryan’s first-half strike earned Robin Hood their second FA Cup triumph in three seasons at the National Stadium on Saturday night.
The midfielder kept his cool after being played through by Shakir Smith’s defence-splitting pass and scored what proved to be the winner in a match that did not come alive until late in the second half.
Hood squandered a handful of good opportunities to kill the game off after making the breakthrough and it nearly cost them as Ezekiel Stoneham, the Rangers captain, headed against the bar deep into second-half stoppage time.
Rangers threw everything they had in search of a late equaliser, but Hood refused to budge and managed the game well as the clock ticked down to protect their slim advantage to the end.
Hood’s triumph owed much to Ryan, who was the key cog in a midfield that neutralised Rangers and provided solid support at both ends of the pitch.
Hood defended superbly and were a constant threat going forward as they exploited the width on offer with their creativity, movement and pace.
In contrast, Rangers gave away possession cheaply on numerous occasions, were unable to create space because of their lack of movement off the ball and were virtually non-existent in the attacking third where Dale Eve, the Hood goalkeeper, was never really tested.
Both teams were a bit cagey in the early going before Hood settled into a groove and after stretching their First Division opponents took a deserved lead. Hood broke quickly on a counterattack with Smith threading a pass between two defenders for Ryan to run onto and squeeze inside the near post after Ajai Daniels, the Rangers goalkeeper, came off his line to try and narrow the angle.
Coincidentally, Ryan struck in the exact minute that the first encounter between the teams was abandoned six days earlier because of a severe thunderstorm.
By now Hood were full control and they were unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty after Antwan Russell, the striker, was bundled over in the area.
Lejuan Simmons, the Hood captain, then went agonisingly close to adding to his team’s lead with a lob that former team-mate Darius Cox somehow managed to clear off the line.
Daniels was kept busy between the posts as Hood mounted wave after wave of attacks and it was his tidy goalkeeping that kept Rangers still in with a shout at the interval.
Rangers made a substitution at the start of the second half with Dakarrie Steede replacing midfielder Jahkai Hill and also changed their angle of attack with right back Koshun Durrant joining Stoneham and strike partner Shannon Coddington-Brangman up top.
A nasty clash of heads between Russell and Cox halted proceedings for several minutes as the players received treatment.
When play resumed it was Hood who nearly stretched their lead with Russell’s shot inside the box blocked and Smith firing into the side netting after Chris Caisey’s through ball sent him in clear on goal with only Daniels to beat. Simmons also had an attempt blocked in the box as Hood moved in for the kill.
At the other end Hood were lucky to go unpunished after Coddington-Brangman intercepted a wayward pass but had his angled shot deflected for a corner.
Rangers enjoyed their best spell of the match after substitute Khalil Symonds joined the fray. John Barry-Nusum, the Hood player-coach, did well to intercept a dangerous ball with Coddington-Brangman ready to pounce while Donte Brangman’s pass in the area eluded Stoneham right in front of goal.
Symonds provided the spark Rangers desperately sought in attack with his physical presence and it was his headed cross back into the mix that Stoneham should have easily converted to send the game at least into extra time.
With an open net at his mercy, the usually reliable Stoneham spurned a glorious opportunity, which summed up Rangers’ night.
Southampton Rangers (4-4-2): A Daniels — K Harrison, D Cox, R Sampson, K Durrant (sub: K Symonds, 64min) — J Hill (sub: D Steede, 46), Q Maynard, I Taylor, D Brangman — E Stoneham, S Coddington-Brangman. Substitutes not used: A Bean, N Mello, R Lowe, J Richardson, D Inchcup-Hill, S Perinchief, N Raynor.
Robin Hood (4-3-3): D Eve — P Francioni, J Bather, J Nusum, J Pereira — D Andrade (sub: L Symonds, 75), C Casey (sub: E Outerbridge, 73), C Ryan - S Smith (sub: A Astwood, 90), L Simmons, A Russell. Substitutes not used: T Bean, J Titteron, M Burchall, J Simons, T Figureido, Z Burgess. Booked: Russell.
Referee: M Wyer.