After the disappointment of last weekends league defeat at Fairford Town Development, Town were back in cup action on Saturday, with local side Letcombe FC the visitors to Tucker Park in the Chairmans Challenge Cup second round.
Just as the teams went out for their pre-match warm-ups, the heavens opened and with a stiff wind blowing down the pitch towards the Playground End of Tucker Park, it made any kind of consistent play hard for both sides, during the whole 100 minutes of play.
The visitors started on the front foot and had an early overhead kick effort at goal, but this sailed over the crossbar. On 12 minutes, Town had their first sight at goal as a quick break from Sean Creeley released Andy Munns past the last defender, but his left-footed effort failed to hit the target.
The deadlock was broken on 20 minutes when the ball was stolen in the Town midfield and played quickly to the Letcombe No. 10’s left foot, who made no mistake shooting across the Town goal and into the far post side netting for 1-0. Town were struggling to get a grip of the game, playing into the wind and rain, but did create a couple of openings, however, the final ball just didn’t fall for the intended target.
Town management were hoping to get the lads to the break with the one-goal deficit but were given a lifeline on 43 minutes when Luke Davenport challenged for a high ball in the Letcombe penalty area, where he was clearly having his shirt pulled, which the match official saw and awarded the spot-kick. Andy Goodchild stepped forward and despite the visiting keeper getting a hand to the ball, it was too powerful and Town were now level.
Moments later and a massive penalty area goalmouth scramble ensued with Town trying to take the lead, but credit to the Letcombe defence as they threw bodies on the line as the ball was eventually cleared to safety. Skipper Adam Rudman picked up a yellow card as the half came to a close with a dubious handball decision as the visitors looked to make a quick breakaway, so the score remained at 1-1.
Towns now customary slow start to each half continued as they went behind for a second time on 50 minutes as a ball into the penalty area was mishit volleyed by the No. 10 of Letcombe which wrong-footed Connor Guinness-Smith in the Town goal and the visitors were back in front.
Letcombe were on the front foot and a smart save by Guinness-Smith and finally cleared by Rudman kept the scoreline 2-1. Then came a contentious decision as Rudman was turned by the winger right in front of both benches and appeared to pull the player back.
Letcombe were bellowing for a second yellow card for Titch but the match official thought otherwise and let him go with a word in his ear. Town management made the wise decision to withdraw Rudman and Dinesh Gurung entered the play.
The match was now fairly scrappy as Letcombe sat on their lead, especially with their goalscorer having to come off injured, whilst Town introduced Kam Muhid and Christian Wills in search of a second goal. With the game coming to a close on 89 minutes, Town played arguably their best passage of play as a number of passes opened up the Letcombe backline and Creeley hit a goal-bound effort which the Letcombe keeper did well to get down to and turn around the post for a corner.
The resulting retake saw Town score the equaliser their endeavour probably deserved as the corner was half-cleared to the edge of the penalty area, where Muhid took a touch, before hitting the ball hard and low into the corner of the left-hand side of the Letcombe goal to take the match to extra time with almost the last kick of the game.
With the weather still being foul and the light fading fast, it was decided the game would have 10 minutes each way for extra time. The only strike on goal worth any merit came from Letcome when from 25 yards the ball was whipped with pace and hit the angle of the upright and crossbar. Town withstood the pressure against the wind and looking to push in the second period of extra time, however, the referee decided for player safety we would go straight to penalty kicks with the sides still level and not play the final 10 minute period of play.
Letcombe took the first spot-kick, which was well saved to his right by Guinness-Smith. Creeley stepped up for Town’s first effort and calmly stroked home for a 1-0 lead. The next visitors strike, hit the crossbar and despite hitting Guinness-Smith on the way down, the ball went to safety. Adam Sly came up for Town’s second and put the ball in the same place as Creeley’s sending the keeper the wrong way for 2-0. Letcombe’s third spot-kick went into orbit and sailed over the crossbar, leaving Town penalty taker Goodchild to step forward and send the keeper the wrong way for a 3-0 penalty victory for Town and into the third round of this Hellenic League Division 2 competition.
The result was probably a little harsh on the visitors, however, Town never gave up and created as many chances as Letcombe but saw less of the ball. This was a great morale booster with league leaders Highworth Town Development the visitors to Tucker Park next weekend in Division Two West action, kick-off 2.15 pm.
Town Squad: C Guinness-Smith, Adam Rudman(c) (sub 65 D Gurung), A Lynham (Sub 70 K Muhid), J Vaughan, A Goodchild, L Davenport, M Pill, A Sly, A Munns, R Bradbury (sub 75 C Wills) S Creeley. Sub Not Used: M Morris
Next Game: Home v Highworth Town Dev – Saturday 9th November – 2.15 pm KO