Article: Jay Rowland
Sandbach United survived a St Martins fightback in a nervy final 15 minutes to win 3-2.
Sandbach were fresh off a fantastic 3-1 away win to a strong Cammell Laird 1907 side, with Player of the Month nominee Josh Lane putting in an outstanding performance winning two penalties and scoring the third goal. Unsurprisingly, Lane retained his place in the side as Andy Hockenhull named an unchanged starting 11.
The Ramblers started the stronger side, with Lane and fan favourite Kieran Garner-Knapper both missing chances within the opening 6 minutes. Saints keeper Joao Mendes was the Man of the Match in the reverse fixture, a 5-1 win, and made his first save of many on 12 minutes when he tipped a Bobbie McDonnell shot wide. Mendes then made a triple save 4 minutes later when he pushed out a Sean Moscrop shot, before twice blocking McDonnell attempted rebounds from close range.
Sandbach eventually took a deserved lead after 29 minutes when Mendes palmed away a Knapper strike but only into the path of Scoot Evans, who controlled a volley into the bottom right corner.
The lead was doubled 53 seconds after the restart, when a Lane cross was controlled by Knapper well before he rifled into the top right corner, beating the defender on the line.
Following the break, Knapper was in the mood to add to his tally and impressed both sets of fans in Oswestry with dazzling ball skills and movement carving the hosts open on multiple occasions. However, it was McDonnell who scored the Ramblers third goal. Lane was again involved when he delivered an inch-perfect pass cutting through the St Martins defenders to Evans, whose shot was kept out by Mendes but only into the path of the young striker McDonnell who effortlessly volleyed into the net.
St Martins opened their teams scoring shortly after the hour mark, as Joseph Foster found some space inside the box and slotted a low strike under Danny Hamlett’s despairing dive. The away side almost regained their three-goal cushion through Lane but a goal-saving block from Ryan Gordon denied the striker.
The deficit was reduced to just one goal with 15 minutes remaining as a combination of Jordan Harper and Nelson Onwusiri poked a loose ball through a sea of bodies into the goal. The Saints then pushed forward to try and draw level, and in doing so left themselves exposed at the back. Substitute Robbie Hatton, who scored a hattrick in the previous meeting between the sides this season, was kept out several times in the closing stages by some truly outstanding Mendes saves.
The Ramblers had Moscrop to thank when he cleared a Saints header off the line following a corner before fellow substitute Tom Davies looked to close out the game with a deft chip that floated just over Mendes’ crossbar. Despite all-out attack from the home side in the final moments, Sandbach held on for all three points on a glorious sunny afternoon in Shropshire.
Young defender Declan O’Riordan commented after the game “We got quite lucky towards the end; a couple of their attacks could have resulted in goals on another day. But we defended well enough to get the win which is obviously the aim”. O’Riordan, along with Hamlett, has played every minute of every competitive game this season.
Sandbach now face 1874 Northwich away in the Cheshire Cup on Tuesday 3rd November. It is unknown whether upcoming league fixtures will be played due to the impending COVID-19 lockdown on Thursday 5th November.