Tuesday 9th January 2024
North West Counties Football League First Division South
Sandbach United 1 Brocton 4
Brocton made one change from the side that beat Barnton on Saturday. Dan Evans replaced Kenny Devoir as Alex Curtis opted for a tweaked playing formation. Sandbach long inbeaten run came at an end at Eccleshall on Saturday and they were looking to signal their title credentials. Sandbach had won each of the games between the two sides at Hind Heath Road, including last year’s play-off semi-final, so there was incentive aplenty for the league leaders.
On a bitterly cold evening, the game started at a frenetic pace with both sides eager to attack. The first opening of the game fell to Brocton in the 7th minute, but Cam Osborne lost his footing before he could make a good connection. In the 9th minute, an excellent ball from Tom Vaughan was into the path of Osborne and his shot forced the first of many fine saves from Sandbach keeper Seb Jensen. Ben Haddaway was next to try his luck for Brocton with his volley high and wide. Brocton took the lead in the 16th minute. A cross from the right was met by Morgan Payne, who beat the keeper and rolled the ball into the net. Sandbach were not daunted by going a goal behind. In the 20th minute, an excellent run from Liam Fitzpatrick was denied with a good block from Lucas Green-Birch. Osborne was finding space for Brocton, and he dragged a shot wide when in a good position. Sandbach went close to levelling the scores in the 23rd minute. A crossfield ball picked out former Stafford Town striker Josh Oultram who took aim and forced a flying fingertip save from Tony Allsopp. Allsopp was again called into action a minute later, saving well a header from George Kattah. Both sides were giving as good as they got with Evans narrowly wide with a volley from distance. In the 28th minute, Matty Bestall threw himself into danger to block a shot from Kettah. The ball came out to Oultram, and his cross was over everyone and away to safety. Osborne was on target with an effort which was comfortably held by Jensen before Allsopp again pulled out a fine save to thwart the ever dangerous Oultram. That save was all important as Brocton doubled their lead in the 34th minute. Vaughan, again driving forward, threaded the ball through to Green-Birch whose finish into the bottom corner was clinical. Brocton should have made it three in the 37th minute. A long clearance from Allsopp saw Payne beat his defender, control the ball but hammer his shot over the bar. Sandbach responded and reduced the deficit within a minute. Kieran Alley shot from outside the box, the ball swerving away from Allsopp who got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out. Would that goal change the complexion of the game? Brocton’s answer was to immediately restore their two goal advantage. Another long clearance from Allsopp caused panic in the Sandbach defence. Payne challenged Jensen and when the ball ran free, Ben Haddaway made no mistake with his finish. There was still time remaining in the half for Green-Birch to clear the crossbar from a good position.
Half-Time: Sandbach United 1 Brocton 3
The talk at half-time was whether Brocton would be able repel the undoubted storm that would be coming from the home side. The early stages of the second half confirmed that they would. In the 50th minute, excellent work by Payne again forced a corner with three defenders having to deal with the danger. In the 57th minute, a superb run from Vaughan cut through the Sandbach defence like butter and his curling shot was inches wide of the post. In the 64th minute, Sandbach were unlucky not to claw a goal back. Harry Cain cut inside from the right and his shot took a wicked deflection, beating Allsopp but rebounding off the post. The ball fell to Alley and Allsopp made an excellent block to keep the ball out. Brocton broke quickly and when Will Whieldon fed Payne his shot was wide of the target. Green-Birch then had a shot blocked as Brocton looked the sharper going forward. That sharpness was confirmed in the 66th minute. Whieldon bundled over a defender to win the ball, played it into the path of Payne who rounded Jensen and scored his 28th goal of a remarkable season. Brocton continued to look the side most likely to score. In the 74th minute, Payne picked up the ball outside the left edge of the penalty area, ran across field and shot across the defender and Jensen, only to see the ball hit the outside of the post. Sandbach wasted an opportunity when a deep free kick from Niall Cope was met by Kettah who could only bundle the ball wide. In the 81st minute, Jensen made a fine save to deny Green-Birch a second. In the first minute of stoppage time, Jensen produced the last of his excellent stops, denying Payne a hat-trick using his feet to turn the ball over the bar.
Full-Time; Sandbach United 1 Brocton 4 Attendance:130
Sandbach United: Seb Jensen, Callum Chapman, Liam Fitzpatrick, Louis Holden, Jordan Stafford, Mark Holdridge (Niall Cope 66), Kieran Alley, Stanley Tatters, George Kattah (Jensen Bird 90), Josh Oultram, Harry Cain. Subs (Not Used): Sam Baldwin, Arthur Hancock, Joel Dovey
Brocton: Tony Allsopp, Adam Weldon, Dan Evans (Lewis Rowley 60 (Seb Conaghan 77)), Matty Bestall, Tom Vaughan, Ben Haddaway (Alex Curtis 90+3), Will Whieldon, Lucas Green-Birch, Morgan Payne, Charlie King, Cam Osborne (Kenny Devoir 45). Sub (Not Used): Reg Smith
Yellow Cards: Stafford (Sandbach); Green-Birch, Rowley (Brocton)