HERTS SENIOR COUNTY LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION
The Eagles made hard work of beating an average Sandridge side and left it until the final minutes before grabbing the winning goal. Once again refereeing decisions proved to be a controversial.
Eagles started brightly and were ahead in the first few minutes when Charlie Thake collected a poor clearance from keeper and promptly hammered the ball into the net. The keeper then made up for his error by turning a low shot from Thake round his post. Eagles pressed but could just not apply the final finish, and Sandridge attacks were competently dealt with by Josh Bickerstaff on loan from Hitchin Town. However, just before half time the visitors drew level with a freak goal. A direct free kick inside the left touchline was scuffed into the Eagles penalty area, a Sandridge player flicked a foot at the ball and it gently sailed over the defenders and keeper Michael Johnson into the net just under the crossbar.
Eagles made good start to the next period of play and scored when after just 5 minutes of the restart Thake accepted a pass from Josh Coley and coolly placed a low shot into the corner of the net from 15 yards. He could have got his hat trick a few minutes later when he charged down a clearance, broke clear of defenders but placed his shot just wide of the post. He was then sent tumbling in the penalty area but no penalty was awarded. Josh Coley broke clear of the defence on the right but his well struck low shot was too close to the keeper who saved comfortably.
Despite constant Eagles pressure the visitors then equalised from a combination of bad defending and a disputed penalty. Bickerstaff made a terrible back pass, Johnson was well off his line and the ball sailed across the field to an unmarked Sandridge forward. As he shot into the unguarded goal Bickerstaff had got back to block the ball a few yards from goal but was then deemed to have fouled his opponent. The penalty had to be taken 3 times before at the third attempt a goal was scored. Bickerstaff was cautioned for the foul, and a Sandridge player for protesting too strongly about the referee decisions to retake the kick because of encroachment in the penalty area.
Play then switched from end to end as each side looked for the winning goal. A Coley cross was just too high for Thake to head a certain goal from a few yards out and then Bickerstaffe had to make a great blocking tackle a few yards from an open goal. The winning goal for Eagles finally came about 5 minutes from full time when a cross from Anthony Geary was bundled home from 6 yards by Den Crook . Sub Sam Gittings then hit the crossbar from an acute angle a few yards out having ridden the challenges of Sandridge defenders, and when the rebound was returned to him his shot went inches past the far post. Sandridge still relied on breakaway attacks and the long ball, and keeper Johnson was happy to see the ball lofted well over his crossbar when Sandridge looked certain to get an equaliser
Overall a hard fought victory which could have been so much easier had Eagles taken their chances earlier in the game.