Article: Jay Rowland
Sandbach United fell to a 3-1 away loss to Golcar United in their final pre-season match, with James Kirby scoring the only goal for the Ramblers.
Manager Andy Hockenhull named an experimental starting 11 at the Skye Direct Stadium in West Yorkshire, and found his side 1-0 down after 41 seconds when an early attack from Golcar down the left flank was not cleared by Sandbach, and the loose ball was fired into the bottom right corner by Ben Burnett leaving goalkeeper Danny Hamlett stranded.
Golcar sustained their attacking pressure and thought they had doubled their advantage on 9 minutes when another loose ball fell to a Golcar player, but he was several yards offside and the linesman correctly raised his flag.
Golcar did grab a second goal 2 minutes later however, when an attack from their right flank culminated in a cross directed at the near post which was excellently flicked into the goal by Karl Jones, with Hamlett again left flat-footed and unable to do anything about it.
Things got worse for Sandbach when midfielder Aron McGrath twisted his ankle and had to be replaced by trialist Ilyas Kemiri.
Hamlett was called into his first save after 15 minutes when he was spotted off his line by the Golcar midfield and tipped over an audacious long-range attempt.
Jacob Twyford was Sandbach’s brightest attacking threat and twice came close to scoring before Adam Clayton hit a curling effort from the edge of the box that was held on to well by the Golcar keeper on the half hour mark.
Kemiri looked to show real talent in midfield and almost scored on his debut when tricky footwork opened some space for him to fire on goal, but his venomous strike flew just over the bar.
After the half-time break, Sandbach continued their dominance and got the goal their play deserved on 47 minutes. James Kirby did brilliantly to hold up the ball and make some space for himself before finishing clinically into the top left corner from 17 yards.
Sandbach almost levelled the score in the next minute through Twyford, who dazzled spectators with his ball control and dribbling, weaving his way through the Golcar defence but was thwarted by a fantastic one-handed save from the Golcar stopper.
The visitors again came close to making it 2-2 when substitute Robbie Hatton controlled a perfect floated pass from Kemiri and blasted it on target, however again the Golcar keeper stood strong and denied the Ramblers from making the scores even.
The game became rather scrappy following the succession of Sandbach chances, and they then felt aggrieved after trialist Soloman Richards was shoved over in the box after beating his marker, but the referee ignored protests.
Golcar scored their third on 86 minutes to put the result beyond the visitors when a corner was flicked on target and produced a wonderful reaction save from Hamlett. However, the ball fell to the feet of Mike Fish who made no mistake with an empty goal presenting itself.
Sandbach closed out the game strongly with Kirby almost bagging a brace but for a last-ditch Golcar intervention deflecting his strong finish away for a corner. The referee called full time moments after.
Sandbach will now travel to Cheadle Heath Nomads on Saturday 3rd October for their opening game of the 2020/21 NWCFL Division 1 South season.