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Road to Glory 2000

"Our Name's On The Cup"

How the 1999/2000 Challenge Cup was won

First Round
After several difficult opening draws in the past Rangers were thankful to receive a bye in the First Round.

Second Round - 14/11/99 Oak Rangers - Away - 3-3 aet 5-4 one pens
In the second round Rangers were sent to Division Four promotion prospects Oak Rangers for the start of their Challenge Cup campaign. It was very nearly a disaster for them as they went a goal down after only 20 seconds. Worse was to follow on ten minutes when the lower league side scored a second. The prospect of a cup upset was very much on the cards. However Orton managed to pull a goal back when James Marrett rounded the keeper to give his side a lifeline.

Soon after the interval they equalised when Brian Treanor made it 2-2 with a low shot. The plucky Oak side went back in front once more soon after but in good old-fashioned Rangers style Blain Parker's side levelled again through the strike of Matt Fryer, who tucked home. In an often-stormy game Rangers felt they were harshly treated when first Ryan Farrell was sent-off for striking out an opponent near full time. Then substitute Ashley Baldry was also dismissed for dissent in extra-time.

The nine men survived however to take the tie to penalties and it was goalkeeper David Patterson who was the hero when he saved the vital penalty after Rangers had netted all theirs through P.Thatcher, G.Marrett, C.Giles, Fryer and Baird.

Team: Patterson, Taylor (G.Marrett), I.Thatcher (Langford), C.Giles, P.Thatcher. Jennings; Farrell, Fryer, Baird (c); J.Marrett, Treanor (Baldry)

Third Round - 6/2/00 - Orion - Away - 2-1
After the fortune of a bye in Round 1 Orton then pulled out the most difficult draw imaginable when they were plucked to play away to Premier champions and league leaders Orion. No side had won on fortress Castle Vale for almost two years so it was an unenviable task for the Black & Whites in their quest for glory.

It was a task made all the more harder when they conceded a soft goal on 15 minutes as they struggled to make an impact on the match. However the 'Gers have proved to be a resiliant bunch and forced their way back into the tie when Ian Thatcher brilliantly turned his marker and unleashed a shot which the home keeper did well to save. Thatcher's strike partner James Marrett was first to react though and his poacher's instinct saw him nod the loose ball home on the line.

Soon after Orton stunned the home side when they took the lead. Brian Treanor's deep free-kick was met by Chris Giles who rose above the onrushing goalkeeper and headed in. Rangers were now well on top and could have increased their advantage but for good saves off I.Thatcher and J.Marrett. Orton rode their luck at times though no more so when Orion hit the bar late in the second half and had claims that the ball went over the line when it dropped turned away. The away defence then stood firm and the referee blew up to signal an upset much to the delight of Orton.

Team: Patterson, Dugmore, Taylor, Treanor (Neath), P.Thatcher, Jennings; Baird, G.Marrett (c), C.Giles; I.Thatcher, J.Marrett (Wakeman)

Quarter-Final - 12/3/00 - Parklands – Home - 3-0
Orton again drew fourth division opponents in the shape of promotion hopefuls Parklands.
The visiting side, who had beaten Orton Rangers Reserves 6-0 earlier in the season, came to The Park with every intention of causing an upset and they must have been buoyed by the team-news coming out of the home dressing room. Rangers were without several players including Steven Baird and the suspended Paul Thatcher and were forced to play Assistant Manager Nick Parker upfront with the inexperienced Dean Billingsley.

The game started in fast and furious fashion and several strong challenges were flying about, noticeably from Rangers skipper Gregg Marrett who lead by example. Young Dean Billingsley had a couple of early opportunites to give his side the lead but failed to profit and then David Patterson had to be at his best to deny the away forwards. The scores were dead-locked at half-time with the ‘Gers slightly ahead on possession.

That advantage was to pay off ten minutes after the interval when Rangers took a deserved lead when a scramble around the box resulted in left-back Ian Thatcher driving home the loose ball. Then as Orton displayed their Premier League superiority came a moment of history for the Black & Whites. A sustained period of pressure saw Billingsley crack in a shot on the left of the six-yard box. The keeper could only parry the ball and Nick Parker was on hand to knock in the rebound and write his name into the record books as a Rangers hero. The ground went delirious as Parklands were demoralised. Soon after Orton netted a third when a header from James Marrett sent Billingsley clear to finish well. Rangers evetually ran out comfortable winners against an up-and-coming side who were to finish up as champions of their division.

Team: Patterson, Taylor, I.Thatcher, Treanor, Jennings; Dugmore, G.Marrett (c), C.Giles, J.Marrett; Billingsley, N.Parker

Semi-Final - 16/4/00 - Med Bar – Away - 1-0

The semi-final saw Orton Rangers pitted away in an awkward tie against Division One high-flyers Med Bar, who were storming away in league and both cups. The Med had already claimed the scalp of Premier side Hardy Spicer in the Quarter-Final.

It was always going to be a tight and tense affair with the outcome decided by either one mistake or one piece of magic. After a scrappy opening Rangers settled first and a swift counter-attack saw Gregg Marrett's pass put brother James away on the right. His pass to the onrushing Matt Fryer was cut-out but rebounded to the feet of James Marrett who then took on the defender and moved across the box before unleashing a ferocious left-footed drive that cannoned off the cross-bar.

Minutes later it was the same combination that almost brought reward as Gregg's chipped pass was struck towards goal by sibling James, however The Med keeper made a good save in turning the ball round the post. Med Bar then came into the game and had two chances in a matter of minutes and were unlucky to be denied on both occasions. Goalkeeper David Patterson made a point-blank save at the feet of the home side’s centre-forward and then Rangers had their hearts in their mouths when the referee awarded a penalty for handball against Paul Thatcher. Thankfully for the visitors, the intervention of the linesman saved the day and the decision was revoked.

After exchanging possession and territorial advantage the teams went in at the break all square.
It was clear one goal was going to decide who went to Sutton Town for the most prestigious of the league’s trophies. Ten minutes into the second half it was Orton who claimed the opening goal, much to the delight of visiting supporters. Paul Thatcher, so dominant in defence, moved forward into the Med Bar half. He spotted the run of James Marrett and played a ball into space. The young Marrett twisted and turned before slipping a low cross into the box that Ian Thatcher cleverly stepped over to allow midfielder Matt Fryer space to smash in a left-foot effort that nestled into the corner.

The response from the First Division outfit was impressive. They came firing back at Rangers who spent most of the remainder of the game camped in their half. Med hit the bar, had the misfortunate of seeing several Patterson saves and had a goal disallowed by the eagle-eyed linesman. The Rangers defence withstood tremendous pressure and the whole side worked remarkably hard. A spate of Orton yellow-cards late on was testament to how much the ‘Gers wanted to win. The wait for the final whistle seemed like an eternity but they would not be beaten and stayed strong until the end to be the ones that went on to the Paul Carr Challenge Cup Final.

Team: Patterson, Dugmore, Taylor, Treanor, P.Thatcher, Jennings; Fryer, G.Marrett (c), C.Giles; I.Thatcher, J.Marrett (Billingsley).

Final - 2/5/00 - St Marys - Coles Lane, Sutton Town F.C. - 1-1 aet 2-1 on penalties

Orton Rangers lifted the Challenge Cup in dramatic fashion by beating old rivals St Marys & St Johns 2-1 on penalties in a never-to-be-forgotten game.

In an unbelievable night at Sutton Town the massed ranks of Rangers supporters experienced a roller-coaster ride of emotions from start to finish and in a fitting epitaph it was Paul Johnson who went forward to collect the trophy on the biggest night in the club’s history.

Orton thought they had secured the prestigious Paul Carr Challenge Cup in normal time after Brian Treanor had gave them a single goal lead. But they suffered the cruellest of cruel blows when deep in injury-time Celtic snatched an equaliser from nowhere.

The Rangers heroes then had to call on all their reserves of stamina and character to withstand the pressure from St Marys in extra-time before the drama of penalties stunned everyone present.

Rangers had opted for a change of kit for the showpiece occasion, switching from their usual Black & White halves to a stylish blue upper body and white number with black shorts. However it was no time for a fashion parade when the whistle blew for kick-off as both sides knew they were in for a right royal tussle. The four previous encounters between the sides had all ended in stalemate and this was always going to be a tight affair.

Orton had recalled striker James Marrett, back from an ankle injury and also had the bonus of Ryan Farrell returning to play centre-half and semi-final hero Matt Fryer slotting back into the midfield engine room.

A cagey opening brought few chances early on as both sides battled for midfield superiority on what was a very difficult pitch to play constructive football on. Rangers gradually began to impose themselves and Brian Treanor was unlucky when he saw his shot turned away for a corner. As the half wore on it was clear it was going to be a match of little opportunities as possession swung back and forth and stoppages in play were the norm.

In the 38th minute however the boys from Water Orton were in heaven when they took a deserved lead after a sustained period of pressure. Peter Cheshire's deep inswinging corner was met first time by the prodigious leap of Treanor and his powerful header found the net beating a posse of defenders on the line. Orton then saw out the rest of the half in relative peace and trooped off at half-time a goal to the good.

The next 45 minutes were always going to be difficult as the Irish side pushed more men forward and made changes to try and get themselves back into the game. Rangers were content to withstand the onslaught and break quickly using the pace of forwards James Marrett and Treanor down the channels. It very nearly paid off when Treanor had the Celtic defence on the back-foot and unleashed a fierce shot, which the keeper spilled but soon collected.

As St Marys mounted more and more attacks Rangers immediately fought back. One of Cheshire's long throws, a constant source of menace all night, was headed into the box and James Marrett saw his deft flick frustratingly come back off the crossbar at a time when a second 'Gers goal would have meant curtains for their opponents. The 'Hoops then came right back at a Rangers defence marshalled superbly all night by the irrepressible Simon Jennings, who was joined by the sterling efforts of Farrell and Paul Thatcher with Stuart Taylor and Cheshire on the flanks. Behind them David Patterson was an able custodian and was always quickly off his line to thwart the Celts strikers.

As the clock counted down Orton, led by inspirational captain Gregg Marrett, grew stronger and they appeared to have fought off the barrage of enemy artillery. They could have even got that elusive second goal when a clever pass from the skipper put substitute right wing-back Mark Dugmore racing through but the goalkeeper came out to take the ball. The impressive Treanor, who never stopped working all evening, was withdrawn for young Dean Billingsley to waste valuable seconds. However it was then in the fifth minute of injury time that disaster struck.

A long throw dropped to the far post where the Celtic substitute hit a speculative effort on the volley that dropped into the corner of the net. It was a deflating, gut-wrenching moment for the Rangers lionhearts. Literally seconds later the full-time whistle blew and extra-time was imminent. Orton were visibly stunned by the setback as they prepared to face a further 30 minutes of do or die football. Legs and minds grew tired but hearts stayed strong as Manager Blain Parker and coaching staff Kevin Nicholls and Nick Parker rallied the troops at the interval.

Rangers were determined to get their hands on the silverware and this was evident in the hard working efforts of midfielders Chris Giles, Gregg Marrett and Fryer in additional time. Celtic had the better chances but Rangers themselves very nearly went back in the lead when Farrell was pushed upfront and was sent crashing to the ground but was unbelievably denied the penalty. Soon afterwards the referee signalled an end to the action and so it was down to the lottery of penalties but no one could have been prepared for the moment of pure theatre that followed.

Orton were first on the spot as substitute striker Ian Thatcher, a scorer from the spot in past shoot-outs strode forward. The St Marys keeper however guessed correctly and dived to his left to save. The advantage they had was soon taken away when Patterson made a superb stop from the Celtic captain turning the ball on to the post and away. Next up was regular penalty taker Paul Thatcher who had previously missed only two in his Rangers career. But like his brother he too was thwarted by the man in green. Celtic’s second taker came up to the firing line but he suffered spot-kick nerves as he sent his effort over the bar.

Rangers' next man up was Cheshire but amazingly he matched the attempts of his predecessor as he blasted his kick high over the crossbar. The crowd – largely made up of vocal Rangers fans - were now in utter disbelief as five consecutive penalties had failed to register. To everyone’s astonishment it was soon to be six as Celtic’s third was also unsuccessful. It seemed as though neither side had wanted to win as Fryer strolled up for Orton Rangers. But he was to score the first penalty of the night as he calmly slotted into the corner. St Marys then equalised with their first converted kick to leave things all square. Captain Gregg Marrett was next up in the saga of the twelve-yard terror but his cool, experienced head proved invaluable as he sent the keeper the wrong way to give his side a 2-1 lead and then danced a jig of delight in front of the supporters. The next few moments will be etched in the memory of Water Orton folk for many years to come.

The final Celtic player sent his kick wide to spark off wild scenes of joy and pandemonium. Players and fans hugged each other in jubilation. After unbelievable tension Rangers had come up trumps to make all their hard efforts worthwhile following a long, hard season and from three successive cup-final defeats in three years.

Aptly Paul Johnson, who broke his leg in the November clash between the teams, lifted the cup and Rangers headed off into the night celebrating their glorious victory until the early hours. It certainly was a night to savour and the future looks bright for the warriors of Orton Rangers. Next season promises much for this courageous band of merry men but one thing is for sure, they will never be able to recreate the thrilling heart-stopping moments of a balmy May evening in Sutton.

Team: Patterson, Taylor (Dugmore), Cheshire, Farrell, P.Thatcher, Jennings; Fryer, G.Marrett (c), C.Giles; Treanor (Billingsley), J.Marrett (I.Thatcher)

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