Sandbach United have retained the NWCFL Division One Challenge Cup after an enthralling final at the Sandbach Community Football Centre today and in the process became only the second club to do so - the other being AFC Liverpool! It was 53 weeks after the competition first started and the stage was set for a great final between Sandbach United and AFC Liverpool, both clubs having played good football over the ill-fated 2019-20 season but both relishing the opportunity to do battle to have something to show for it.
The game got off to a solid start with both sides finding their feet early on with the game played at a strong and fast pace. It was AFC Liverpool who struck first when on 12 minutes Brad Owens cut into the box and laid the ball off to Anthony Lyons who placed the ball purposely past Sanny Hamlett to put the Merseysiders ahead. AFC Liverpool were having a good start to the half but Sandbach continued to press with David Potter being tested occasionally in the AFC Liverpool Goal.
The game was levelled on 37 minutes when a defensive lapse saw Potter parry a save into the path of Jack Hart who thumped the ball home to make it 1-1 which was the way it stayed until half time.
As the teams came out for the second half it was AFC Liverpool who again started the livlier and they went ahead again on 50 minutes when Brad Owens crossed to the back post for Marc Stephens to head the ball downwards, the bounce seemed to catch Hamlett by surprise and the defender on the line could do nothing to stop the ball from going into the net.
Noth of these teams were playing the ball on the deck and there was a tactical battle being played out in midfield as neither side relented on a challenge snd both were capable of keeping possession to generate build-up play. As legs started to tire in the afternoon heat, both clubs made substitutions and set out their stall for the final quarter of the game. on 77 minutes Sandbach broked from the midfield and pressed forwards with the ball ending up at the feet of Thomas Davies who was able to beat Potter and tie the game for the second time.
The game almost inevitably ended level with both teams having given their all and so began the nail-biting lottery of penalties. Sandbach took the first penalty via Robbie Hatton who scored, there were then a couple of misses as the penalties came to 3-3 after both sides having taken four penalties each. Jack Hart then stepped forward to take a penalty for Sandbach which he scored with which put all eyes on Callum Scorah for AFC Liverpool, he was unable to convert which meant that Sandbach had won the game and the 2019-20 Division One Challenge Cup to the delight of the home sides partisan crowd who made up a large number of the 300 capacity gate.
All that was left to do was to award the trophy to Sandbach which was done so by League Chairman Paul Lawler who handed the trophy to The Ramblers skipper, Chris Rowntree who lifted the trophy surrounded by his team mates as The Division One Challenge Cup Champions.
Congratulations to all at Sandbach United for a strong cup campaign and their success today with commiserations to AFC Liverpool who put in a strong performance, not just in the final but throughout the competition.
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