The Ambers’ record breaking 21/22 FA Trophy campaign came to an end with a single-goal defeat against Stockport County Leaders of the Vanarama National Division, Monday’s draw for the Quarter-finals sees County have to visit former Cheshunt adversaries Needham Market FC, whose second half penalty was enough to see them past Dartford FC.
Cheshunt & Stockport County are separated by a couple of non-league tiers, but for large parts of the game this difference was not apparent. Former Stevenage player Myles Hippolyte registered his first goal as a Hatter on the hour, enough to see County into the last eight – despite having keeper Ethan Ross sent off late in the game.
The teams took to the field on a wet and windy afternoon, with the home side naming nine players who had featured in the top of the table clash in midweek against Chesterfield.
With under two minutes gone, County went close through Ollie Crankshaw, whose half-volley, following good work on the right by Minihan and Alex Reid, was deflected just beyond the near post. The ‘Ambers’, competing in the Trophy’s Fifth Round for the first time, had their first opportunity a couple of minutes later, when Rowan Liburd was played through on goal by Taylor Miles, Liburd held off the attention of centre half Liam Hogan but was stretching as he loosed off a shot – only to see his effort blocked by Ross and put behind for a corner. Liburd had another attempt on goal minutes later when a defensive error saw the Ambers striker played in by a loose County pass, with time to control and pick his spot the surprise opportunity saw Liburd rather snatch an attempt first time that keeper Ethan Ross saved comfortably.
On the quarter-hour mark and with his back to goal, Miles Hippolyte had his first attempt on goal unleashing an overhead kick that just cleared the crossbar. Not to be outdone the Ambers forced County keeper Ross into action at the other end – parrying another shot from Liburd.
Stockport County pressed as the first half approached its midway point, and Connor Jennings struck the left upright, and Reid headed over from a Sam Minihan delivery on the right, then Ollie Crankshaw cut in from the right to force Ambers goalkeeper George Marsh into making his first save of the day. This success steadied the Ambers keeper and he began to appear more confident, his skills were soon required again, as he parried around the right post a low shot from Jennings. As half-time approached, Hippolyte was denied twice in quick succession, seeing his first well-struck shot headed clear and his second, a minute or so later, kept out by Marsh with a point blank save followed up by Alex Reid poking the rebound wide when it seemed easier to score. Reece Beckles Richards closed out the half for the Ambers cutting across the County back line & working a shooting opportunity which keeper Ethan Ross was equal to.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Cheshunt 0.
Ben Whitfield was introduced upon the resumption for a return for County after a three month injury lay off – and within three minutes he had a snap-shot over the Railway End bar, before unleashing another effort half a dozen minutes later that stung the hands of Marsh.
With the hour drawing near, Alex Reid thought he had scored when Mark Kitching took the ball to the Ambers byline ( was it out of play when he cut it back?) and passed to the striker only to see his goal-bound shot cleared off the line by Adam Crowther.
Hippolyte did hit the target on the hour mark to break the deadlock firing past Marsh from 12 yards out, latching onto a flick on by Whitfield.
Daniel Ojo was moved further forward when Chevron Maclean replaced Beckles Richards for the Ambers & weaved his way to the edge of the box and unleashed a shot that swerved just wide. Connor Jennings for Stockport had the ball in the net after chipping Marsh, but the goal was ruled out for offside. The introduction of Zack Newton gave the Ambers some pace to threaten the back line and he served notice when forcing Ross off his line & out of his area to head clear a clever chip beyond the home defence, he repeated his run onto a through ball giving the defence a head start 2 minutes later , this time the keeper came beyond his area again but this time with Newton bearing down on him the keeper had to handle deliberately, beyond his area & saw straight red for his indiscretion. Alas for the Ambers County had named a regular keeper on the bench for the first time in a number of games, and it happened to be their first choice custodian Ben Hinchcliffe, Ollie Crankshaw was sacrificed to get him on the pitch. Rowan Liburd put the resulting free kick just over the bar. Referee Lewis Smith gave the Ambers a brief hope they might take the tie to penalties when he declared an additional six minutes to be played, but ten man Stockport managed the game out, running into the corners at every opportunity to run the clock down.
The Cheshunt team can hold their heads high, they defended well, built attacks with quick passing moves and pressed the senior side at every opportunity for ninety minutes, perhaps surprising some of the home support with their quality & fitness. The support from the Amber Army was like having a twelfth man, and inspired by mascot Amber the Lion they made sure the home support knew they were there