Two weeks ago, Rugby inflicted a 2-1 defeat on the Rebels which killed off their faint hopes of winning the league title, but on this warm Tuesday evening, the hosts never really threatened to reach the same heights, with Slough having the better of the first half and then stunning the ‘Valley’ with three quick-fire goals in the second half, the first coming against the run of play.
Slough dealt with a few early Rugby corner kicks comfortably, and Jake Somerville caught a rising effort from Richard Blythe from distance. Slough broke away, but Ed Smith fired wide after great work from the superb George Short to win the ball.
Smith was perhaps lucky to escape another clash with Rugby goalkeeper Niall Cooper with only a yellow card, after appearing to catch him late, but then minutes later he lobbed an effort on to the top of the crossbar after Johnnie Dyer had flicked on a long kick from Somerville. Minutes later, he lifted another effort wide from a similar area as Slough looked the more likely to break through.
Rugby’s best moments came, predictably, from prolific strike duo David Kolodynski and Seb Lake-Gaskin, but the latter headed a difficult chance well wide, whilst top scorer Kolodynski tested Somerville with a low strike from a difficult angle, but the Slough stopper got down well to save.
Both sides traded long shots in a cagey end to the first half, James Dobson and Johnnie Dyer not testing Cooper unduly.
Valley emerged from the dressing room with greater purpose at the start of the second half, and the home side had their best spell of the game, pinning the Rebels back into their own half. Lake-Gaskin went closest, but be blazed over the bar from Blythe’s pass, and Kolodynski was frustrated after seeing his shot deflected away for a corner by Dave Woozley’s challenge.
But in the 65th minute, Slough stunned the hosts by taking the lead. Sean Fraser played a free kick to the edge of the box, where Woozley flicked the ball on. To the surprise of Slough’s top scorer Smith, he was left unmarked and in space to side foot past Cooper on the half-volley to spark pandemonium behind the goal.
Five minutes later, Slough doubled that lead with Johnnie Dyer breaking away from his marker to nod James Dobson’s corner kick across Cooper and in.
Slough went on the hunt for a third goal, and Dobson volleyed wide before Somerville was called into action to save from Aaron King.
But that was as good as it got for Rugby, who looked a beaten side after Slough landed the killer blow with a third goal to maintain their superb recent record at Butlin Road.
Rugby stood off as the Rebels mounted an attack, and after Smith found Dyer in acres of space on the left side of the penalty box, the Rebels number seven played the ball across the face of the six yard box, and winger Warren Harris was lurking to place the ball past the stranded Cooper and into the back of the net.
The hosts were unable to forge another chance of note as Slough, marshalled once again by Woozley, stood firm and sealed their progress to Monday’s final at Latimer Park.
Rugby Town Line up
Cooper, Myles, Fox, Haines, Gudger, Marsden, Towers (Kaziboni), King (Piggon), Blythe, Kolodynski, Lake-Gaskin. Subs not used: Williams, Palmer, Hadland.