Match Report

Ickwell and Old Warden

18 Feb 2012   2.30PM   Division One

Ickwell and Old Warden 4-1 Sandy 1st Team

After a fixture break due to the bad weather, the league program resumed today with Sandy travelling to fierce local rivals and fellow promotion challengers Ickwell and Old Warden. Both sides knew that this was going to be an important fixture as the loser would find it an uphill battle to win promotion, let alone the league title. During the week Sandy's hosts had been strengthened by the signing of Stevie Thomas and the visiting side preparations had been affected as manage Ian Hammett had a stomach bug. Dan Stafford though returned to the starting line up though after recovering from injury.

It was always going to be a tough battle as the home side are known for the physical and aggressive style and right from the off it was evident that the ref was going to be an important figure in keeping control of the game and managing the potentially volatile nature of the tie. Ickwell started the game the stronger and penned Sandy back in their own half for long periods as the visiting side struggled to match the intensity shown by their hosts. The home sides pressure was beginning to tell and it was only some last ditch defending by Sandy's backline that kept the scores level. Mark Pallister in the Sandy goal also made a fantastic double save from Stevie Thomas who let fly from range and then he recovered well to save the rebound from Anup Kaylan.

Despite having three in the middle of midfield Sandy were losing the battle in the middle of the park and when the ball did break for them they gave the ball away under pressure from a hungry Ickwell side. It wasn't too long before the home side took the lead as a long ball forward found Kaylan, who found Thomas on the edge of the box and he fired his first time shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards out as he stole a march on JJ to find some space. Sandy then came under intense pressure as they looked to hold the score. A succession of corners and free kicks were looped into the box and it was only some brave blocking by the Sandy players that denied the hosts. Chris Nicholls flung himself in front of a Kaylan shot, Tappers cleared the ball of the line and took a whack to the head for his troubles and Phil Beall seemed to be everywhere as he stood out as Sandy's best player, clearing one off the line himself after another good save by Pallister to deny Zak Rowe.

Sandy knew that they needed to get out of their half and they started to launch the ball long looking for Staf. Staf did escape the backline on one occassion but he took his shot too early and fired the ball wide. Tapley tried a speculative effort from a free kick which Beallt took short and quickly but the ball swerved well wide. The visitors were starting to get into the game, but still flowing football was deserting them. Several Ickwell players went unpunished for some strong and often unsavoury tackles as the ref seemed to be watching a totally different game. Depsite starting to get back into the game, Sandy found themselves two nil down as Ickwell won the ball uncontested in the middle of the park and Macca found Kaylan down the right. He spun Shane Pope who was having a torrid time and fizzed the ball across the box to find Rowe at the back post who got aheda of Seldon to finish into the roof of the net.

With the half coming to a close Staf almost got in again as Tapley released him, but the ball that he steered around the keeper was cleared by Jamie Scotcher who came across on the cover. Staf had touched the ball very little in the half as Sandy hadn't been able to threaten the Ickwell box at all really. They knew that they would need to respond in the second half if they were going to have any joy in the contest. Half time 0-2

After a bit of a talking too at half time Sandy responded and they came out the second half a little more fired up. Tapley pushed more forward to support Staf and Sandy tried to hold thier line higher and condense the play into Ickwells half. They had to be well aware of the ocunter attack though with the pace that the home side had but Sandy contested the play much better. Phil Beall was still winning most things and playing out of his skin. JJ started to win more headers and Seldon and Shane looked more solid. Jennings was crashing around the park trying to break up play and win the ball and Matt Evans was trying his best to be an influence on the wing.

Five minutes into the half and Hammett replaced Baker with Olly Banfield, and he almost made an immediate impact as from a throw he delivered the ball into the box almost right onto Tapleys head, but he couldn't get anything on the ball to direct it goalwards. This was a sign though that Sandy were getting back into the game and Staf started to become more dangerous. Nicholls slotted him through on goal and he held off two Ickwell players but his low shot was saved well by the Ickwell keeper who stayed big to narrow the angle.

Matt Evans was starting to cause problems down the let as well and he created the next chance cutting back onto his right foot and swining the ball in. Staf rolled his marker at the front post and looked ti spin onto the ball, taking it off Tapleys toe only to see the keeper save the ball from almost point blank range somehow, much to both his and Tappers dissappointment. It looked like it was going to be one of those days for Sandy's leading scorer where nothing was going his way. Phil Beall was trying to inject some pace to procceedings as well as he dribbled the ball out of the back four, but each time he tried the attack broke down at the final ball costing the visiting side possession.

With Twenty two minutes to go Hammett replaced Tappers and he switched the formation to 4-4-2 as they went in search of the goal that would make the match interesting. Sandy seemed to pose a little more threat with the change in formation against Ickwells 3-5-2 shape. Five minutes after the change and Sandy were back in it, as a long ball from JJ found Staf on the edge of the box. He spun Gill and then held off threadgold before firing the ball past the Ickwell keeper and in off the post to haul Sandy back into the tie! The visitors were now on a roll and seemed to be losing their shape. Nicholls and Banfield were finding more space and Pope and Seldon were also able to step forwards more if anything it looked like Sandy would get an equaliser until with 12 minutes to go the ref made his presence felt.

A hopeful long ball was played in behing Pope at left back. He had the ball covered and under pressure from Kaylan he was tripped by the Ickwell player who fell to the gorund with him. The ref gave no free kick and then as Pope got to his feet with Kaylan behind him, the Ickwell player fell over pope again screaming for a pen. Everybody was laughing at the poor attempt to gain a pen, except for the ref who for some reason despite every player thinking he'd given a free kick to Sandy gave Ickwell a penalty claiming that Pope had hauled Kaylan down. An impossible task considering the player was behind him. Vallom stepped up and took the kind offering from the ref despatching the penalty although Pallister got fingers to it he couldn't keep it out. Sandy were shell shocked as they had once agin worked so hard to get back into the contest only to be robbed for the second game running by a poor refereeing decision.

Sandy tried their best to recover. Morgan replaced Nicholls who was struggling with cramp and JJ pushed into midfield. However as they pushed forwards Sandy were caught on the counter attack and Ickwell scored a fourth with a goal that looked suspiciously offside, but the linesmans flag didn't go up. Ickwell held out despite being under pressure in the closing stages to record a vital 4-1 win and dent Sandy's promotion hopes. Sandy can be proud of the way that they battled and they deserved a little bit of a rub of the green however once again the were left to rue what might of been. They will look to bounce back next week as they host another promotion chasing team in Lidlington. Final score 1-4