Article: Jay Rowland
A first half hat-trick from Bobbie McDonnell ensured Sandbach United won 5-2 and booked their ticket to the St Luke’s Cup final.
Goalkeeper Danny Hamlett returned to the starting 11 after missing the previous cup match due to illness, whilst Callum Chapman replaced injured vice-Captain Adam Clayton. The Ramblers started the game knowing that bettering Skelmersdale’s result against Winsford would confirm a place in the final, whilst a win would all but guarantee the same due to their strong goal difference.
Sandbach began aiming to stamp their authority on the game and did just that through Bobbie McDonnell in the fourth minute. After Robbie Hatton had sliced the first shot of the game wide, he turned provider as he played a neat pass into McDonnell just inside the box. From there, the young forward squirmed through two closing defenders before coolly chipping over the advancing Reid. After scoring both goals in the reverse fixture win over Runcorn, it was little surprise to see McDonnell’s name on the scoresheet again.
Despite losing creative midfielder Aaron Knight to injury within the opening half hour, Sandbach doubled their lead through McDonnell once more. Following incredible footwork to skip past desperate challenges from the Runcorn defence, before thundering in an unstoppable shot into the bottom left corner from distance.
The Ramblers could smell blood after the second and won a penalty in the 36th minute. Kieran Garner-Knapper received the ball and drove into the box before flicking it past the defender and drawing the foul. Usual penalty taker Josh Lane stepped aside to allow McDonnell the chance to get his hat trick, which he took with supreme confidence as he sent Reid the wrong way. It marked McDonnell’s fifth goal against Runcorn in two games.
Sandbach resumed their dominance after the restart and came close again through Knapper after his cross-shot was kept out by an alert Reid. However, the hosts would not be kept out for long as Hatton scored in the 58th minute to go four goals ahead. Knapper, who had been a threat all game, spotted Hatton’s late run and picked him out perfectly for the forward to finish low at the near post.
The visitors continued to push for a goal and won a penalty in the 67th minute, which was duly dispatched by Keiran Holsgrove. Runcorn then doubled their tally minutes later through an attack down the right side that culminated in a powerful strike past substitute keeper Eric Merner at the near post.
Sandbach then slowed the game down, sensing the momentum turning against them. In the 84th minute, they struck their fifth to truly kill off the game through Scott Evans. Nice play from substitute Jacob Rowe saw Evans receive the ball through on goal, and he lifted his shot over the onrushing Reid and into the far corner. Rowe then tried to get on the scoresheet in the final seconds of the game, firing a powerful left-footed shot on target but Reid parried away well.
Sandbach now face Winsford United in the St Luke’s Cup Final on Saturday 29th May at the Barton Stadium, after Winsford beat Skelmersdale 3-2 in their final game of the group stage.