Match Report

Bedford SA

17 Mar 2012   2.30PM   Division One

Sandy 1st Team 4-5 Bedford SA

Following their cup Quarter Final win Sandy were visited by fourth placed Beds SA as both teams looked to continue to keep their promotion hopes alive. Sandy were also keen to build some momentum as they head towards next weeks semi final against high flying Marston Rovers. With Pally away Nathan 'Yossi' Morris was handed a start between the sticks in the only change to last weeks starting line up. Olly Banfield returned to the squad after missing last week and had to be content with a place on the bench.

The home side knew that it was always a tough game against their visitors and they knew that they would have to start fast and impose themselves on the team from Cople and form the off that is exactly what they did. Pressing high up the pitch and holding a good shape the home side dominated the early stages and pinned Beds SA in their half. Sandy's back four were looking solid and the dominant and Asa Mead who usually wins everything in the air was well marshalled by Phil Beall throughout, the midfield quartet of Tapley, Jennings, Nicholls and Evans were also winning the battle and breaking up the play before launching attacks of their own.

It was leading scorer Dan 'Staggers' Stafford who had the first clear opportunity as a ball was played over the top of the Beds SA back four and into his path. He took the ball on well, but his right foot shot was parried away by the keeper and then helped to safety by the back four. Staf was in again shortly after as Tappers found him with a through ball, but he snatched at his effort, taking the shot too early and firing it wide. These were early warning signs for the visitors as Sandy were looking in full flow and they were lucky to survive a penalty shout as Ian Hammett recovered a ball on the right wing and then found Tappers who was bursting into the box. Tappers went past the first defender and then just as he was about to pull the trigger he was clipped from behind. He stumbled forward allowing the defender to recover the ball, amazed to see the ref wave play on. Tappers almost got his revenge as he clipped in great free kick that Jennings flciked on and the keeper saved well tipping the ball round the post. Beally then couldn't quite direct his header on target from the resulting corner. 

It wasn't long before Sandy did take the lead though and it was their leading scorer who bagged his 49th career goal for the home side. The assist though came from an unlikely source as right back Richard Seldon took a quick free kick on halfway playing the ball back to JJ, who then launched a searching long ball into the heart of the Beds SA defence. The ball found Staf who took one touch to get the ball out of his feet and then fired the ball low past the Beds SA keeper into the bottom corner giving him no chance. It was no more than the home side deserved and they hoped it would open the flood gates for more. The goal though was followed by a small period of pressure from the visitors, but they failed to even threaten Yossi in the Sandy goal. Shane Pope and Richard Seldon were solid at the back and JJ and Beally were marshaling everything well.

Sandy then should of made it 2-0 as Matt Evans released Hammett, Hammett took the ball on but his effort was parried away by the keeper. From the corner Mark Jennings tried to find his scoring boots with an audacious volley, but instead he produced a fresh air shot and missed it completely. It wasn't long though before the two Sandy players combined to double the lead. From another free kick JJ launched the ball into the Beds SA box and Hammett rose like a salmon to flick the ball on and find Jennings six yards out. He took a touch and then volleyed the ball past the helpless keeper.

Sandy were well on top and with the half drawing to a close they were looking for the third goal that would put pay to their visitors. On occassion though it was the final ball that was letting them down or a lack of options for the players on the ball that meant they weren't getting in on the goal. Staf did almost add his second of the contest as he got in behind the defence latching onto a mistake but his deft chip just went over the bar with the keeper stranded. Sandy keeper Morris had been reduced to a virtual spectator for the half other than taking the odd goal kick and collecting the odd over hit through ball. Sandy looked comfortable and led 2-0 at the whistle.

As the pundits say 2-0 is always a difficult lead and with so much riding on the contest for both teams the second half was always going to be an intriguing battle. Sandy didn't really start in the second half and Beds SA really upped their game starting to get into the contest and put the home side under more pressure. It was now danger time for Sandy as some last ditch blocking a defending were the only thig stopping Beds SA from getting in on goal. A long ball upfield found the visitors forward who was allowed time to bring the ball down, turn and then play the bal out wide. from that moment on the home side were in trouble as the winger beat Shane Pope and then cut th ball back to find a midfield runner who fired the ball powerfully on goal. Yossi who had had nothing to do all game could only get his legs to the ball and it deflected into the roof of the net. 2-1

Sandy tried to respond and get back into the game. Seldon made a strong burst forwards combining well with Hammett, but he couldn't find Nicholls or Stafford with his cross. Matt Evans was working hard on the right flank too and his long throws were dangerous but Sandy couldn't capitilise. The game was getting a little scrappy in the middle of the park as well. The referee was making some strange decisions and giving soft free kicks and it was from one of these that the visitors found their equaliser. The keeper launched the ball forward and it was flicked on. Pope tracked the winger and blocked the initial attempt but unluckily the ball fell behind him and back into the wingers path who then slotted the ball past Morris from six yards out to level the contest.

Finally Sandy decided it was time to start playing and hustling again. Rob Tapley was getting into the game again and Chris Nicholls was finding space. It was Hammett though who had the best chance as he and Seldon closed down the defender and then Hammett broke away as they stole the ball. Hammett though fired his shot well wide when he should of done better. Sandy then had another chance as Hammett delivered a free kick into the box. Matt Evans headed the ball on from the back post and then Staf's shot was saved by the keeper who could only push it towards Nicholls. Jennings and Nicholls both went for it with Jennings leaving it at the last minute but Nicholls fired the bouncing ball just over the bar.

The home side were looking the more threatening and Tappers won a free kick on the edge of the centre circle after going on a mazy run. Hammett floated the ball into the back post finding Staf who had made a clever run and he headed the ball in between the near post and the keeper to restore Sandy's lead with twenty minutes to play. This was Staf's 50th goal for Sandy FC. The match was now turning into an absorbing contest and Hammett freshened things up by replacing Matt Evans who had worked very hard with Olly Banfield.

Having got back into the lead though it was Sandy who were their own worst enemy again. Sitting back and inviting pressure Beds SA duly obliged and began to pour forwards. The home side were giving the ball away mush more frequently and Beds SA could really get a foothold in the game. They drew level again showing their fighting spirit as Sandy didn't respond to the second ball following a clearance and the Beds SA player brought the ball down and then volleyed the ball unchallenged into the corner of the net once again leaving Morris with no chance of making the save. 3-3. Beds SA were now bouyant and Sandy were once again reeling, needing to pick themselves up and push on again was always going to be tough especially with the minutes ticking down but lift themselves they did.

Staf and Nicholls had a great chance to restore the lead, as a Hammett corner broke to both of them ten yards out, but Staf's left footed shot went over the bar when maybe he should of left it to Nicholls. Staf then managed to get away from the back four, and it looked like he was brought down just as he got into the box but once again the ref ignored the calls for a penalty and waved play on. Nicholls though was to come to Sandy's apparent rescue as he burst down the left beating the right back and then squaring the ball for Hammett to head home from four yards. the Beds SA linesman then tried to rule the goal out for offside but the referee sensibly overruled the decision and let the goal stand. 4-3

With only eight minutes now left in the contest and Sandy having been in the lead three times, everyone would of thought that they should of held on for the lead but Beds SA had other idea's and perhaps this was the problem. The ref looking to even up his decision earlier, waved off a flag from Sandy linesman Colin Osborne and Beds SA broke. Sandy didn't react and a deep cross found their player at the back post who again had time to bring the ball down and then rifle it into the top of the net. 4-4. Beds SA then pushed for the winner and their flying winger managed to get away again. he delivered the cross and with two minutes to go Asa lost Beally and headed into the bottom corner leaving Morris with no chance and winning the game for the visitors.

It was heartbreaking for Sandy, who had lead three times and looked comfortable at half time. They will need to bounce back and improve next week in their semi finalif they are to progress and have a good end to the season. This could be made tougher though by the fact that Phil Beall picked up a nasty looking injury to his ankle whilst challenging a player. He got booked for the challenge and was lucky not to be sent off, but the fact that he may be missing for a few weeks through injury is no consolation. We all wish Phil a Speedy recovery. Final score 4-5