Hamlett heroics send Sandbach through to next round of FA Vase

By Guest

27th Sep 2021 | Local Sport

Goalkeeper Danny Hamlett saved three spot-kicks as Sandbach beat Dudley Town via an enthralling penalty shootout.

The Buildbase FA Vase Second Qualifying round always shaped up to be an exciting fixture in Cheshire, as the two sides appeared almost completely evenly matched on paper and form so far this season.

Sandbach made several squad changes for the game, offering a start to striker Amir Hajri and debutant Ollie Pope, whilst Aaron Knight was omitted from the squad entirely to welcome the birth of his daughter.

Sandbach started the match in typical fashion, keeping possession of the ball whilst probing for openings in the Dudley defence. The first shot on goal fell to Bobbie McDonnell as he tried his luck from range in the 14th minute, but visitors goalkeeper Joe Gilbert turned it behind for a corner.

Dudley then had a golden opportunity after 20 minutes when a low cross was stabbed on target through bodies, but a miraculous reflex save from Danny Hamlett kept the scores level. Sandbach then continued to press for an opening goal but Gilbert was equal to efforts from Callum Chapman and Jack Hart, who also started after making the substitutes bench for the 3-3 draw against Cammell Laird 1907.

The Ramblers struck the woodwork just before halftime when midfielder Stanley Tatters smashed an effort from the edge of the box off the crossbar before Declan O'Riordan audaciously tried to lob Gilbert with a 60-yard freekick, but it was narrowly over the bar.

New signing Ollie Pope had shown flashes of his ability in the first half but couldn't find a way through the Dudley defence, but then opened his account for Sandbach in some style after 54 minutes. After a great switch of play from Kieran O'Connell, he beat his marker before firing a peach of a strike past Gilbert's dive into the roof of the net from 18 yards.

Sandbach's lead was doubled in the 68th minute through Amir Hajri. A lovely pass from McDonnell was timed to perfection to see the striker through on goal. As he approached Gilbert, he expertly side-footed a shot into the bottom left corner to double the lead and put one foot in the door to the next round.

The ecstasy of the fans was short-lived however, as Dudley scored a quickfire double to pull themselves right back into the cup tie. An excellent finish off the post by Dan Jones in the 74th minute to halve the deficit was followed up 2 minutes later by Lewis Taylor-Boyce, who found himself free to lob an effort over the onrushing Hamlett and set up a grandstand finish.

Both sides furiously attacked in the hope of grabbing a winner, with Sandbach coming closest as McDonnell somehow missed from inside the 6-yard box after a great Matt Pearson cutback. Shortly after, the referee blew his whistle to confirm the dreaded penalty shootout.

Danny Hamlett, who had saved two penalties in Sandbach's Challenge Cup win over AFC Liverpool in 2020, quickly endeared himself to the fans when he stepped up second to rifle home a penalty into the top corner, levelling the scores after both Steve Jones and Jamal Fuller missed a spot-kick for each team.

Hajri slotted away his penalty confidently, before another Hamlett save left Hart with the pressure of sending the Ramblers through with his kick, if converted. The midfielder made no mistake, firing into the top right corner to seal a dramatic victory for the home side and putting them one step closer to Wembley.

Speaking after the game, Hamlett said "It's great to win a game like that. We should have won [over 90 minutes] but sometimes that happens when you go a couple goals up, you can get lousy and give away silly goals.".

The manager Andy Hockenhull echoed that sentiment, saying "It's frustrating. We went 2-0 up and then gave them silly goals and they got their tails up. It's frustrating but there were positives. As for the shootout, Danny did his bit, and we are through to the next round. He's a great goalkeeper and I'm glad we are through.".

The draw for the Buildbase FA Vase will take place on Monday 27th September, whilst Sandbach fans will see their team in action next away to West Didsbury & Chorlton in the NWCFL on Saturday 2nd October.

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