MATCH REPORT | West 0 – 2 Sandbach United

West Didsbury 0-2 Sandbach United  HT: 0-1
Kieran Garner-Knapper (45)
Will Saxton (90+2)
Att: 245

West’s hopes of silverware at the end of the season were dashed on a chilly day in Chorlton, as Sandbach continued their fine run of form in the Playermatch Cup.

A crowd of 245 – most wrapped up warm, others underdressed having been tricked by a sunny spell earlier in the day – showed up to the Step Places Stadium, but only experienced a game that flowed in fits and starts. The early pressure was all West’s – the opening 10 minutes weren’t quite blistering in their intensity, but at least hinted at a team warming up with a semi-final place on offer. The biggest opportunity would fall to James Hooper, slipped past the last man but only able to find the onrushing keeper’s torso with a powerful drive. It would arguably be the closest that they would come all afternoon, and marked the end of the home side’s fluidity.

On the stroke of half time, Sandbach took the lead. With either side unable to get a grip in midfield, and no real pattern to the play of the game, the majority of the first half slipped away. However, the fractured nature of the game meant that either side were at the mercy of chance and fortune. Unfortunately for the vocal home support, it was they who were to be victims of a bad bounce: Sandbach pressure around the area was unable to be cleared, and a bobble presented an opportunity for the ball to be put through to Garner-Knapper. He was unerring in front of goal, leaving Andrew Jones with no chance and the visitors with a half time lead.

Half-time talk of West being a second-half side of late slowly but surely turned into wanting to concentrate on the league. Coley and Moloney made their first appearances in a number of weeks, but were unable to break the game from the torpor into which it settled. Sandbach, not needing to chase the game, simply chose to manage out as much of the remaining time as possible. These street smarts worked out, draining the game of any colour and running down the clock. West, for their part, obliged – nothing tackles turning into 5 minute quarrels as they got drawn into the games being played by the visitors. The nadir perhaps came when one Sandbach player used a West corner to sit down in the middle of the pitch, and spend several minutes adjusting a shinpad. The ploy worked, as the corner was squandered.

West did apply some pressure, but there were nothing more than half-chances for supporters to get excited about: Billy Matthews, energetic all game, might’ve had a penalty on another day (though in truth, it looked like the referee made the correct call), and the Sandbach goalkeeper had to pull off an acrobatic save when a free-kick from deep eluded everyone and almost bounced in at the far post. However, it was the visitors who would find the net again: a mix-up at the back as West were trying to forge a last roll of the dice left Will Saxton with an open goal having taken the ball away from Jones and a defender. He slotted home, starting the celebrations for Sandbach in a game that, on the balance of plat, they deserved to win – though perhaps not by such a generous scoreline.

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