Rocks Review: Rocks 4 Godalming 4 (Rocks win 5-3 on pens)

The Rocks are through to the Ryman one south play-off final.

That was the outcome of this game - but it doesn’t even begin to tell the story.

Some were left describing it as Nyewood Lane’s most memorable occasion since Swansea were beaten in the FA Cup nearly 30 years ago. Others too young to remember that night simply savoured it as the type of game you see, at any level of the game, perhaps once in a decade.

It was the play-off that no-one wanted to lose - the play-off that no-one would give up on.

Goldalming battled back from 1-0 and 3-2 down; the Rocks fought back from 2-1 and 4-3 down.

In the end, rather cruelly for those who made the journey from Godalming, it was settled by one missed penalty in the shootout - or, if you prefer, one Craig Stoner save, as the Rocks kept their nerve and took a perfect set of spot-kicks.

The match had flashpoints, a red card, numerous yellows, a hat-trick from Rocks hero Ashley Robinson, posts struck, crossbars struck, everything.

The only problem for the Rocks is they have just four days to recover and prepare themselves for the final step of a remarkable season - the play-off final, which will be against Dulwich Hamlet at Nyewood Lane at 3pm on Sunday.

If that’s half the game this was, it’ll be worth watching and you can be sure more than the 866 who packed into the Nye Camp for the semi-final will turn out for it.

At this stage last year, the Rocks crashed out of the play-offs to Dulwich Hamlet, who’d finished 31 points below them in the regular league season. This time it felt different - the Rocks had half-expected to be in the play-offs for several weeks and seemed much more ready for it.

As the night unfolded, though, they put their fans through the rockiest of rides as they went from looking sure bets to go through to certs to dip out again.

The Rocks brought Robinson, Ben Johnson and Darryl Wollers back into their starting line-up after the trio played key roles in the come-from-behind win over Maidstone last weekend which earned them second place in the final table.

They made a somewhat nervy start to the game and it was Godalming who had the best of the opening 15 minutes. But for all their pressure, the only chance they had to break the deadlock fell to Scott Harris, who headed over when a Darren Wheeler free-kick found him unmarked at the far post.

As the Rocks failed to find any early rythym, Stoner made the first serious save of the night, tipping Scott Harris’ low shot behind at his near post after the Rocks failed to deal with a simple cross.

The Rocks wasted a golden chance to take the lead when Robinson somehow sidefooted wide from just a few yards out after James Crane got in behind the Godalming defence.

Gradually Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick’s men were finding their fluency and Terry Dodd was denied just as he was about to shoot from close range before Dan Beck struck the base of a post with keeper Kyle Merson beaten after running on to a pass to fire at goal from 20 yards.

Nyewood Lane erupted in the 33rd minute when Robinson lashed the Rocks into the lead - and you could’nt say the goal hadn’t been coming. A spell of pressure including two corners led to a loose ball falling to Robinson 15 yards out and he hit it into the top corner on the half-volley.

Beck went into the book just before the interval for a heavy challenge on Warren Harris.

The second half started in a similar way to the first, with Godalming doing all the attacking. But as in the first period, the Rocks gradually began to enjoy possession and create chances.

Stoner was out quickly to save at the feet of Warren Harris and at the other end the Rocks twice went close from corners - one was headed over by Dodd from close in and another ended in a header skimming off the top of the bar.

Godalming silenced the noisy home fans with an equaliser on 63 minutes. Scott Harris slid the ball in from almost on the line when a corner caused an almighty scramble in the six-yard box and Jamie McClurg’s shot was blocked.

Godalming stunned the majority of the crowd further by taking the lead in the 73rd minute, sub Brett Cooper firing home a lovely goal from 20 yards as the Rocks defence stood off him.

Within two minutes, though, the Rocks had found the perfect response as a through-ball put Dodd clear on goal and the in-form striker ran on and calmly slotted past Merson to make it 2-2.

The ground was still reverberating with joy at that goal when, a minute later, sub Steve Harper got away down the right and sent over a perfect cross for Robinson to hammer past Merson at the far post.

But just as the Rocks looked like going through, in the second minute of four added on, Godalming skipper Adam Foulser broke their hearts with a stunning volley from just inside the box after a harmless-looking chipped square ball across the edge of the area fell nicely for him.

Godalming retook the lead seven minutes into the extra 30 when Scott Harris’ strike from just outside the box took a wicked deflection off a defender and looped over Stoner and in - and at this point the Rocks were looking weary.

But incredibly, the Rocks levelled from the spot five minutes later, Robinson converting coolly after Warren Harris had stopped a shot on the line with his arm and been ordered off for his troubles.

The second half of extra-time saw the Rocks on top but without carving out any clear-cut chances to win it 5-4 - so penalties it was, and happily for the hosts they were staged at their favoured clubhouse end.

Robinson got them up and running by rolling home his second spot-kick of the night before Scott Harris coolly made it 1-1.

Crane restored the lead; Wes Harrison restored parity - but after Harper made it 3-2, Stoner guessed right and dived to his left ot keep out Ben Andrews’ effort. Advantge Rocks.

Beck - who’d missed the vital penalty against Brighton the last time the Rocks had been involved in a shootout, in a 2007 Sussex Senior Cup semi-final - made no mistake this time to make it 4-2.

McClurg kept Godalming in it by converting his - but Johnson was the calmest man in the ground to stroke in his penalty to send the Lane wild and start the party - and the planning for the final.

A good-natured pitch invasion saw the players mobbed and the Rocks, amid the euphoria, still found time to console the Surrey visitors.

Then it was off home for everyone to slow down the heartbeat - and get ready to do it all again against Dulwich on Sunday.

Rocks: Stoner, Crane, Wollers, Whyte, Cobbs, Andrews, Beck, Wills, Robinson, Dodd, Johnson. Subs: Harper, Marzetti, Sheriff, Simmonds, Boyle.

Godalming: Merson, Hollis, Lake, Harrison, Foulger, Edwards, Read, McClurg, S Harris, Wheeler, W Harris. Subs: Simeone, Cooper, Short, Palmer, Dyer.

STEVE BONE