Sandy 1st Team: Match Report v FC Meppershall

Competition League - Division One
Result FC Meppershall 7-5 Sandy 1st Team
Date Saturday 21 April 2012
Kick Off 2.30pm

Match Report

With the end of the season looming and the chance of promotion gone Sandy manager Ian Hammett decided to rotate the squad and give players some pitch time and a chance to prove they deserved minutes and or a start in the upcoming Cup Final. Phil Beall and Rob Tapley were rested to the bench as both were carrying knocks, JJ was unavailable and Matt Evans was working. This meant a change around in personal with Morgan starting his second league game in a row being partnered by Olly Banfield at centre back as they renewed their Sunday morning Eagles defensive pairing. Craig Baker was handed a start in centre mid with Charlie Seward starting up top alongside Staf.

It was always going to be a tough test as FC Meppershall were on a good run of form and looking strong in the league, and on a small pitch their direct style of football was well suited to the conditions. The winner of the tie would surely have the best chance of finishing fifth in the league this year so much like last season it was still an important fixture in terms of bragging rights. Both teams struggled to find their radars in the opening exchanges as lots of long balls just carried through to the keepers. Sandy were getting used to new partnerships all over the pitch and it showed as their early play lacked cohesion, however they were outworking their hosts and fighting hard.

Craig Baker handed his first start in a few weeks made almost an immediate impact as on ten minutes he brought the ball down on the edge of the Meppershall area after being found by Seward, he cut past two players and then fired the ball into the bottom corner of the net to give the visitors the lead. It was a great start for Sandy and just what they needed to settle the nerves. They then had to withstand an aerial bombardment from the home side as they used their strength at set pieces to try and cause problems. Neville Allen was the first to cause issues as he eluded Morgan and his powerful header was tipped over by Pally. He then got free from a free kick but his header at the back post went wide. The warning signs were there and FC Meppershall duely took advantage as from another corner the midfielder lost Jennings and he headed powerfully home leaving Pally no chance.

This caused the home side to up teir game and they took the lead on the counter attack on twenty minutes as a long ball over the top caught out Banfield and Morgan. Banfield tried to recover but was left two on one and unable to stop the attack. The Meppershall winger cut inside and fired his shot past Pally leaving the Sandy keeper with little chance of stopping it. They had upped thei game and Sandy hadn't responded. Chris Nicholls and Ian Hammett were working hard on the flanks but Sandy didn't seem to be able to put a passage together, however they got back into the contest with some route one football. Pally launched the ball long and Jennings flicked it on, Staf seized on the flick, held off the defender and slotted the ball calmly into the far corner to bring Sandy level. The game was now on and both sides were up tempo, but on twenty five minutes came the real turning point in the game as Richard Seldon recieved a red card for violent conduct. 

Having been kicked off the ball by the Meppershall player, Seldon lost his cool and retaliated kicking out at the player whilst the ref's back was turned. The player then shamefully took two steps and fell over clutching his face and rolling around like Didier Drogba whilst his teammates surrounded the ref. The ref who hadn't been looking at all and clearly missed both incidents decieded that Seldon was the only guilty party and sent him off whilst to no surprise the play acting Mepershall player just got up and came running back on the pitch. This was always going to be a tough game and the referee had no put his stamp on it and it wasn't to be the last poor decision that he made.

Sandy looked to reorganise with Banners going to right back and Jennings dropping into the back four. Staf moved into midfield and Seward now would plough a lone furrow up front. It was going to be real backs to the wall stuff and Pally was almost immediately called into action as he saved down low from Craig Damon to keep the scores level. Sandy were working hard but it was only going to be a matter of time and FC Meppershall found a third as they pulled Sandy all over the place and the ball was cut back to a midfielder who hadn't been tracked and he slotted home from six yards. Sandy roused themselves though and Seward had a speculative effort from twenty yards out that flew over the bar and then Meppershall with stood a couple of Sandy set pieces that where delivered into the box.

Then came another defining moment from the ref who from a Mepperhsall corner allowed them to play on following a blatant handball by their player which saw the ball fall to their striker who slotted it home. Despite Sandy's protests and the he Mepershall players laughing the ref decided their was nothing wrong with it. to make matters worse Sandy then lost Centre back Morgan to a groin injury and Beally wo didn't want to be playing came on for what proved to be a cameo appearance. Mepershall did score a fifth in the half as Hammett was beaten on the edge of the box and their midfielder slotted home, and at half time Sandy were shell shocked at 5-2 down. 

FC Meppershall could have had more goals and with a bit more luck Sandy could of as well, but the referee had ensured that this wasn't going to be Sandy's day at all and Hammett was forced into changes again at half time to try and solve the problems. Rob Tapley came on in the middle of the park and Stafford was pushed back up front with Charlie the unfortunate player having to make way due to the circumstances. Hammett stressed that they needed to hold thei two banks of four and try and shut the space down and take care of the ball when they had it. Sandy came out fired up and the ten men put in a sterling performance in the second half that they can be proud of.

Tappers really gave the midfield some tempo in the second half and his introduction saw Sandy start the half the stronger keeping a solid shape and working hard to close the ball down. Staf was pressing the back four as well trying to force them into errors and Baker, Nicholls and Hammett were looking to get up and support at every opportunity. A testament to the fitness of some of the sandy players. However as if the job was not tough enough a mistake by Baker allowed Meppershall to counter attack and although Sandy dealt with the initial threat Pally decided it would be a good idea to pass his clearance straight to the Meppershall winger and Damon slotted the ball into his empty net. Just prior to this Sandy had almost made it 5-3 when Beally headed wide from a Banfield long throw.

This wasn't what Sandy needed but they worked hard and soon after we're rewarded as Staf forced the defence into an error. Meppershall tried to break out from the back but Staf intercepted an underhit pass and then drove into the box beating three players before shooting low past the keeper with his left foot. 3-6. It was now turning into a pulsating contest and sandy suffered more bad luck as ten minutes into the half beally who was already injured went down after tweaking his ankle. He was immediately replaced with yossi Morris, with Staf slotting in at centre back.

With twenty five minutes to go the hosts picked up their 7th goal as Craig Damon picked the ball up on the left and ran at stand in full back Banfield. He twisted him inside and out before firing a shot low and past Pally into the bottom corner. It was becoming evident that this could turn into a mauling and this seemed to spur Sandy on as they were determined to not let that happen and they really tried to play good football.

Tappers almost released Hammett with a good through ball and then Meppershall could only scramble the ball away from the resulting long throw. Nicholls and Tappers were combining well and Baker was also causing problems. The midfield pressure and Yossi working hard up top won a corner and Hamnett swung the ball into the back post where Morris met the ball totally unmarked and volleyed the ball home past the Meppershall keeper. This was no less than their hard work deserved!

Sandy were now soaking up pressure as Meppershall just left players forwards. Jennings and Stafford though formed a formidable partnership and cleared most things away. Banners and Shane also worked hard and it was Pope who almost created the chance for a Fifth goal. Clearing a corner the ball fell to Hammett who switched the play looking for Pope. Pope won the ball and then found Morris who laid the ball off to tappers. Sandy were now two on one and looking dangerous but as Tappers decided what to do the ball took a bad bobble and he neither crossed or shot and the ball went agonisingly wide.

With time running out though Sandy did find a fifth as Hammett and Nicholls cleverly took a short corner and Nicholls delivered a wicked ball into the box where Morris was on hand to fire home from five yards out. There was only ten minutes left but Sandy felt they could get something and pushed on. The Meppershall keeper produced his best save to keep the score the same as Nicholls played the ball across the area and Hammett reacted first to rifle a shot towards goal from twenty yards out only to see the Keeper tip the ball over the bar. 

Several Sandy players were now cramping up after working so hard, and a save from Pally was required to keep the scores at 7-5 as he tipped a powerful shot over the bar. Staf was still trying to find a chance for his hat trick as he dribbled out from the back but was crowded out. Tappers also looked to release Yossi for his hat trick but he was surprisingly out muscled by the Meppershall defenders. Sandy defended well though and with the rain starting to come down the ref blew his whistle and brought the game to a close with Sandy having won the second half creditably 3-2. The final score didn't make such great reading but if Sabdy can play with that sort of passion in the cup final then they will give the favourites Ickwell a real run for their money. Final score 5-7. 

Match Stats

Starting Line-up:

1. Mark Pallister (6)
1. Daniel Stafford (8)
2. Richard Seldon (5)
2. Luke Morgan (7)
3. Shane Pope (8)
4. Charlie Seward (8)
4. Mark Jennings (8)
9. Ian Hammett (8)
11. Craig Baker (8)
13. Olly Banfield (8)
18. Chris Nicholls (8)


7. Rob Tapley (8)
13. Nathan Morris (8)
17. Phil Beall (7)

Goal Scorers:

2 x Nathan Morris
2 x Daniel Stafford
1 x Craig Baker


1 x Mark Jennings
1 x Chris Nicholls
1 x Charlie Seward
1 x Ian Hammett

Man of the Match:

1. Daniel Stafford


9. Ian Hammett


2. Richard Seldon


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