WYTHENSHAWE TOWN 1, SANDBACH UNITED 2
With the Premier League and EFL in lockdown due to coronavirus, manchesterfootball.info ventured to the 10th tier of English football.
It was football for a fiver – £3 for concessions – at Ericstan Park where Wythenshawe Town tackled Sandbach United in the Macron Cup.
And the first leg of the semi-final, involving rivals from division one south in the North West Counties League, certainly didn’t go the way of the form book in front of a 187 crowd.
Town went into the game on the back of seven straight wins which had seen them cement a place in the promotion places.
United, however, had slipped to fifth bottom after a patchy run of form, not helped by an exodus of key players because the playing budget had been cut,
It was a case of lightning indeed striking twice as Andy Hockenhull’s Sandbach side had also won 2-1 at Ericstan Park on the opening day of the league season.
The 10th tier of English football was far removed to the higher echelons of the sport with sin bins operated at this level for issues relating to dissent, though it was not used in this cup-tie.
In the early stages it looked odds on as though Town’s winning run would be extended.
Brad Byrne burst clear and rounded goalkeeper Danny Hamlett only for Chris Rowntree to make a brilliant goalline clearance.
Steven Yarwood struck the angle of bar and post with a free kick as Town began well.
Sandbach survived and in Danish player Valdemar Schousboe they had a lively attacking threat.
The forward, who has played for Nantwich Town and Leek Town, burst clear only for goalkeeper Callum Jakovlevs to save well.
Schousboe set up Sandbach’s opener after 27 minutes with some delightful footwork to create space before his shot was parried by Jakovlevs for Scott Evans to fire high into the roof of the net from a matter of yards.
Town were level within three minutes when Connor Brotherton was tripped in the box and Byrne scored from the spot.
Sandbach regained the lead in the second minute of stoppage time when they, too, were awarded a penalty, though Byrne’s trip on Will Saxon looked outside the box, but Danny Bartle made no mistake from the spot.
They could have had a third goal soon after the restart when 16-year-old right back Harry Walker, a former Crewe academy player, had a shot deflected agonisingly wide.
Sandbach at times lived dangerously in the second half, but managed to hold on to their lead.
Town had a goal mysteriously ruled out while Hamlett tipped over two free kicks from Yarwood before saving the best until last.
In the third of five added minutes, Hamlett pulled off a superb stop to deny Liam Crellin-Myers from point blank range as Sandbach clung on to their one-goal advantage for the return on Saturday (Mar 21) at Hind Heath Road.