Article: Jay Rowland
Robbie Hatton scored twice in three minutes as Sandbach ran out 4-1 winners over Winsford United at Hind Heath Road on Wednesday evening.
The Cheshire side came into the match in fine form after their 6-1 demolition of Skelmersdale United at the JMO Sports Park, and so Andy Hockenhull named a largely unchanged starting eleven for the evening kick-off. Two of the weekends’ stars, Aaron Knight and Bobbie McDonnell, both kept their place.
Sandbach showed attacking intent from the first whistle and got the first shot of the game after two minutes when midfielder Sean Moscrop fired an ambitious volley just wide of the post. Shortly after, Knight looked to link up with McDonnell with a through ball that overran just before the latter could get a touch to it.
Despite the home sides early dominance, it was Winsford who opened the scoring after 18 minutes. Moments after a strong Callum Chapman block, a corner was played right into the six-yard box and nodded into the net.
The Ramblers responded almost instantly through captain Chris Rowntree after some excellent build-up play. Following a long passing move, the defensive midfielder found himself on the ball just outside the Winsford box. He shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled an unstoppable strike into the top left corner, comfortably past the goalkeepers despairing dive.
Sandbach should have entered the half time break a goal ahead after an excellent pass put McDonnell through on goal, but the young striker opted for power instead of placement and the Winsford keeper got enough on the shot to turn it away.
The hosts started the second half eager for goal, and they got just that in the 51st minute. McDonnell was the provider this time, as he threaded an inch-perfect pass through to Robbie Hatton. Driving into the box, he rifled a shot past the onrushing goalkeeper and into the bottom-right corner.
Hatton scored his second less than 180 seconds later, when another perfect through ball saw him bearing down on goal yet again. However, this time he oozed composure and class as he slipped the ball under the goalkeeper to double his tally.
Winsford were reeling from the Hatton one-two punch, and the Ramblers relentlessly pressed for a fourth goal to kill the game off. McDonnell let loose a ferocious shot in the 56th minute that was excellently palmed away, and Kieran Garner-Knapper used his excellent ball skills to run rings around a tiring defence and was fouled. However, Knight’s free kick came to nothing.
The visitors started probing for a potential way back into the game as the half wore on, but the ever-solid pairing of Brad Cooper and Declan O’Riordan showcased yet again why they are one of the NWCFL’s best defensive duos, calmly shutting down every Winsford attack that reached them.
After a calmer spell of the match, a marauding Adam Clayton run culminated in a dangerous cross that the defender handled in the box. Steve Jones had already scored in the St Luke’s Cup, and this was no different as he sent the keeper the wrong way for Sandbach’s fourth in the 81st minute.
Winsford desperately tried to score to give themselves even a glimmer of hope of a comeback, but some good saves from Eric Merner ensured that the Ramblers saw out the 4-1 win with ease. The two teams meet again on Saturday 8th May at the Barton Stadium for the return fixture which will be held behind closed doors.