Article: Jay Rowland
Sandbach United saw their winning start to the season halted by the new table toppers Vauxhall Motors, with the home side running out 2-1 winners at the Syncreon Arena.
Andy Hockenhull made one change from the side that convincingly beat St Martins 5-1, with in-form Robbie Hatton unfortunately unavailable. However, promising young striker Bobbie McDonnell passed his fitness test following a recent knee issue to start the game.
The Ramblers started the brighter of the two red hot sides, with striker Josh Lane winning a free kick early on that he took himself but failed to convert. Vauxhall then went straight up the other end in the 8th minute and saw a rasping Ben Holmes shot beaten away by Sandbach keeper Danny Hamlett. Sandbach then saw successive chances for the lively McDonnell but the Vauxhall defence stood firm.
The home side thought they had taken the lead through Noah Robson in the 17th minute, but the goal was correctly ruled out for a foul in the build-up.
Some more good chances for both McDonnell and Kieran Garner-Knapper came to nothing, before Sandbach were down to ten men, from an incident shrouded in controversy in the 42nd minute. Creative midfielder Jack Hart was late with a follow-up challenge after an initial hard foul on Knapper by Shaun Weaver, and after the resulting melee had played out, a yellow card was brandished to Weaver and a red to Hart despite the striking similarity of offences made. Nevertheless, the Ramblers continued to press for the opener but came up with nothing as the halftime whistle blew.
The second half was a drab affair until the 75th minute, when substitute Kieran Hamm broke the deadlock for the home side. A tough tackle on Knapper in the build-up was deemed fair by the referee, but Hamm did brilliantly well to control a loose ball and fire into the bottom left corner from 16 yards.
However, the Ramblers struck back within 5 minutes, as a Sean Moscrop low cross was palmed away by Motors goalkeeper Ryan Crump into the path of McDonnell, who controlled a first-time header into the net to get the goal his play deserved.
Vauxhall struck the eventual winner on 88 minutes, when Hamm again found himself free in the box and pounced on another loose ball to lash it into the roof of the net and put his side back in front. A few scrappy fouls in the remaining minutes killed any momentum building for either side, and eventually the referee blew his whistle for the final time confirming victory for the Ellesmere-based side.
Sandbach will now look ahead to their weekend fixture away to 7th-placed West Didsbury and Chorlton, before welcoming Abbey Hey to their home turf on October 20th.