While Slough are left with a comparatively lacklustre end to the season, the Royals can revel at the prospect of a cup final against Wokingham Town, on home territory. And how they earned it. Although there was nothing on offer for the footballing purists, the match saw Windsor emerge worthy victors from a battle of attrition that, with no love lost between the combatants, forced referee Martin Wyvill to caution no less than half a dozen players. And although the home side bucked their ideas up in the second half, Windsor's sheer determination pulled them through.
Windsor manager John Clements was understandably thrilled with the victory and like the Hollywood "Oscar" winner heaped praise upon all those who made it possible. "I'm pleased for everyone at the club," said a positively bubbling Clements, "I'm pleased for the lads, the supporters and everyone behind the scenes. And to have the final at our place is a great lift for everyone they have all worked very hard this season. We have said all along that if the final is going to be at Windsor, then we want to be there," he added.
Of his match winner, Clements said: "Actually Rowan was quite upset with the way he played. He was pleased to have got the goal, but he loves his football and knows he can play a lot better."
Clements admitted that he had a few anxious moments towards the end, but felt his side were well worth their victory. "It was heart attack stuff at the end," he said, "At the back of my mind, I knew the players were tired and that one slip up could have given Slough the equaliser. But all credit to the lads for the way they kept going."
Indeed, another former Slough favourite Gary Attrell worked so hard that he submitted to cramp in the dying minutes. However, the pain was worth it. "It's great to have won and I think we deserved it on the day. Everyone was man of the match - you couldn't fault anyone today, everyone gave their all," said Attrell after the match.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the coin was Slough boss Alan Davies. "I'm very disappointed. Mainly for the player and then for the club and the supporters," he said. "It's the second year running that we've gone out in the semis. When the going gets tough we seem to fail to get over that final hurdle."
However, to be fair to Slough they had more than their fair share of selection and injury problems. Davies had remained tightlipped about the situation prior to the contest and was loathe to whinge afterwards. Nevertheless, he finally revealed that as well as having skipper Keith White out with flu and impressive new signing Steve Thompson unavailable due to a prior commitment to the RAF's team, no less than six of the side that faced Windsor were carrying injuries.
The worst of which was Jeff Bateman, who despite a broken nose sustained the previous Saturday, enjoyed a tremendous display in the centre of the Rebels' defence. But at the end of the day, it's no excuse," said Davies. "We were comfortable for the first 15 minutes, but started to give away silly free-kicks which Windsor used to put us under pressure. We then gave away that silly goal and didn't make our domination pay in the second half."
However, the fact of the matter is that Slough were simply outbattled by a Windsor side that more than compensates for its lack of flair and subtlety with a sometimes crude, but often effective no nonsense style of play. It looked as though it may backfire on them in the early stages. Although Slough's passing game was somewhat stifled in a scrappy opening, they were enjoying the better of the exchanges with Bateman and Tony Knight appearing to have Windsor dangermen Dodd and Dave Regis well under control.
However, the tone was soon set when Knight clattered in on Regis's heels with a tackle Graeme Souness would have been proud of. It was from then that Windsor started to take the initiative and Knight had to make a crucial header over his own bar to deny a viciously inswinging wind assisted Gary Attrell corner after 12 minutes.
Two minutes later, a well timed run from Steve Cordery cut open the Slough defence and although he just beat keeper Trevor Bunting to Regis's well weighted through ball, his shot bobbled inches wide of the upright. And as Windsor started to pen the home side in, they went close again when Regis did well to reach another Attrell cross, but sent his header over the bar.
With the robust Dave Osgood proving a powerhouse in midfield and Cordery at the centre of anything creative in the Royals' play, Slough struggled to break out of their own half and relied heavily upon Knight and Bateman who defended well despite the constant flying elbows of Dodd and Regis.
Bunting had to get down well to save an awkwardly bouncing effort from Cordery after 25 minutes and again did well to punch a Cordery corner over the bar under pressure from Regis two minutes later.
With the game at fever pitch it was only a matter of time before the referee was called upon to get out his notebook. That occasion first presented itself after 32 minutes when Ian Richards cynically hacked down Kenny Wilson on a swift Slough counter attack. Attrell followed Richards into the book just seconds later after another foul on Wilson and unable to control his temper, Regis followed for dissent.
Knight then fouled Attrell with a challenge that smacked of retaliation and he too found his way into the book in the 36th minute. The challenge was to prove a costly one for Slough as Cordery sent the free-kick into the Rebels' area. A crowd of players prevented Bunting from reaching the ball and from the almighty scramble that followed, Dodds popped up to stab home from two yards.
Slough might have equalised when Brown broke through just seconds after the restart. However, he was unceremoniously hauled to the ground by Richards on the edge of the area. It was a big gamble on Richards part, having already been cautioned, but it paid off when Kenny Wilson's free-kick deflected off the end of the defensive wall and wide of the post.
Bateman showed Richards a better approach six minutes into the second period. A terrible backpass left Dodds with only Bunting to beat. Dodds hesitated and Bateman leapt in to make a crucial and legitimate tackle.
The electrifying pace of the game had failed to drop and although Windsor were not commanding to the same degree, Cordery set up some promising attacks with his fine midfield distribution. Slough soon started to take the initiative, but Brown and Waites could have done with the service afforded Regis and Dodds by Cordery.
Frustration began to show when Knight and Jimmy Jacobs were cautioned for dissent in the 59th minute, but the Rebels gave a glimpse of what they are capable of in the move of the game coming three minutes later.
A jinking run by Tony Dennis had Mark Woods and Devon Petty at sixes and sevens. Dennis knocked the ball inside to Waites who slipped a lovely pass through for Brown. However, Brown's finishing deserted him as he pushed his sidefoot shot well wide.
With time fast running out, Slough increased the pressure, but could not find a way through Windsor's determined rearguard. Substitutes Neal Stanley and Des McMahon provided two fresh pairs of legs after 73 minutes, but they made little difference.
Mitchell became the sixth player to be booked when he fouled Wilson in the 77th minute.
The dying minutes saw the Rebels make all the running , but it was clear it was not going to be their day when Trevor How's 84th minute shot from point blank range was blocked on the line by Petty and ricocheted over the bar.
Windsor & Eton Line up
K. Mitchell, S. Mitchell, Petty, Cordery, Richards, Woods, Attrell, Osgood, Regis, Dodds, Franks. Subs: Woodcraft (not used), Banton (not used).