Dave Cooks up win in historic cup final
DAVE COOK blasted home a winner from the penalty spot to help Hythe upset non-league giants Dartford and lift the Kent Senior Cup for the first time in their history.
Captain Cook will forever be known as the scorer of that crucial goal but Hythe have goalkeeper Dean Ruddy to thank.
He pulled off some stunning saves in the first half but none can rival a moment of sheer genius four minutes into stoppage time.
Darts sub Lee Noble unleashed a powerful shot that looked destined to break Hythe hearts and fly into the bottom corner.
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But alert Ruddy pulled off an unbelievable save to his right that capped off a great display.
He'd kept his side it on numerous occasions and he'd written himself into folklore as the man who helped Hythe bring the cup back to Reachfields. And he can even claim an assist for the goal.
It looked like Dartford striker Jack Pallen had powered in the opener but Ruddy made a sprawling save that set up a counter-attack. Taser Hassan was starved of quality service all night but he managed to pick the ball up, run at the defence before crossing for Jimmy Dryden.
Dryden got to the pass before Adam Green who hauled him down and the referee had little option but to point to the spot.
Cook had to wait an age to take the penalty – a Darts man was down in the opposition half – but he kept his cool to fire in and put Hythe in dreamland.
Town always needed the first goal and they'd got it – but two minutes later it looked like that good work had been undone.
John Walker made just the one mistake all game but it came at a price. He blocked a Pallen shot with his hand and the referee was quick to hand the hosts the perfect chance to reply.
Fortunately, though, Green struck a weak penalty that Ruddy got across to save and then hold. It was the first indication that it might not be the Darts' day.
Ronnie Dolan had the perfect chance to make it 2-0 when he latched on to Cass' pass and lobbed the keeper only for the ball to cannon off the bar.
Darts dominated for much of the half without really threatening. On the rare occasions they did have shots on goal Walker and Aaron Lacy were blocking everything.
Hythe were on the end of a good bit of fortune too when Dolan stayed on the pitch to the disgust of the home faithful.
He'd picked up a yellow card early on and he looked set to be given his marching orders after a poor aerial challenge on Lee Burns. On this occasion, referee Paul Harris kept his cards in his pocket.
Dartford enjoyed more of the ball again after the break but Hythe worked their socks off.
Cook even had the chance to put the game beyond doubt just past the hour but his shot from close range after a Lacy long throw was scooped over.
A nervy final 20 minutes ensued but despite Dartford throwing the kitchen sink at Town they just couldn't get past inspired Ruddy.
Scott Porter brought Kieran Byrne and Craig Thompson on as Hythe's players were out on their feet.
But after four desperately long minutes of injury time the referee's whistle sparked scenes of jubilation as Town were crowned cup champions.