Bishops Stortford 2. Cheshunt 3
Foxley, Cracknell. Liburd (pen) Re, McKenzie
Cheshunt celebrated beating Bishop’s Stortford for a third time this season at the Isthmian Premier League play off semi final away from home. First at Theobalds Lane they won on penalties in the FA Trophy in December , and then recently in the league on Easter Monday by one goal to nil. Wednesday night was the first time Stortford had lost a ‘league’ match at home since August 2021. In addition the Blues have only conceded five goals in their last fifteen games, and Cheshunt FC have four of them.
It has been a tremendous season for the Ambers, who finished fifth in the league their highest ever position, to recover their play off position having been tenth and sixteen points off the pace after their cup exploits.
The Ambers went with Camara, Liburd & Diedrick Roberts in attack, with Beckles Richards & Newton in reserve, Re , Reynolds and Kassarate had responsibility for midfield, with Nick Dib available to cover, at the back Crowther & McKenzie took the central positions with Ekongo & MacLean outside them, in goal Preston Edwards returned with Cup Winner George Marsh providing the cover.
The Blues had the first chance of the contest after nine minutes when captain Ryan Henshaw was off target from Jonny Giles’ free kick. Cheshunt responded when Kayne Diedrick-Roberts went close, Blues keeper Giddens escaped a card of any description for handling outside the box, after taking the ball inside his area but his momentum in the slide taking him outside the box. Diedrick Roberts’ free kick from the right hit the top of the woodwork at the back post with Giddens & his defence beaten.
The home team took the lead with a goal from Darren Foxley. The midfielder looked up from 30 yards out and found the top left corner giving goalkeeper Edwards no chance. With the exception of the goal, Stortford had played as expected, launching the ball into the final third at every opportunity, relying on Harris to win his header or their midfield being first to second ball. Cheshunt on the other hand looked to play expansive football on the deck, getting wide at every opportunity, their fullbacks getting forward in support of the front line regularly. Cheshunt were dealing with the Stortford aerial game & closing down quickly to force errors and win back possession. They equalised with good hold up play from Mo Camara setting up a ball into the inside left channel turned the Stortford defence, Giddens came racing out and cleared everyone out with his dive, including the Ambers player with the ball at his feet. Rowan Liburd calmly waited for Giddens to move and despatched the penalty.
One each at half time in an exciting first half, but punctuated with too many free kicks as both teams sought to dominate through players winning their individual battles. Harris playing well and a threat for Stortford, Camara for Cheshunt proving completely unmovable when on the ball, the difference being the availability of multiple Cheshunt runs off Camara.
The home side started the second half as expected, looking to force the ball forward quickly and feed off the clearance. It was working for them & they generated pressure to win a number of free kicks just outside the Cheshunt area then four corners in succession. Cheshutn failed to fully clear and as he fell backwards Billy Cracknell poked the ball back into the danger area, it looped over the covering defenders and beyond the reach of keeper Edwards to find the goal at the far post. The home support burst back into life with the chant of ‘We are going up’ Alas for them, what went up was the Cheshunt midfield in support of their attackers, a throw in from the left was cleared to the right side where Joe Re had time to sweep the ball up, pick his spot & let fly from the edge of the box, to beat Giddens in the opposite corner, Parity restored.
Both teams went for the win, refreshing their forward lines with substitutions, Charles, Renee, and Foxley went close but wide. Edwards & his centre halves on top of the crosses launched into their box. At the other end Camara & Liburd were enjoying moving the home defence around, and when joined by Crowther & Mackenzie for set pieces, Stortford found themselves at sixes & sevens with some desperate clearances. Giddens did well to back pedal and hold onto a Cheshunt cross that took an awkward deflection and looked to be looping in.
Stortford manager Steve Smith had identified the Zack Newton long throw as a danger in his pre match interview, he was proved right in the last minute of the match as McKenzie gave the Ambers the lead for the first time in the game as he powered across in front of his marker to meet the ball with a header beyond Giddens and stun the home crowd, while sending the visiting Ambers fans delirious.
With five substitutions and a few physio visits the referee found six additional minutes for the Ambers to negotiate, which they managed with relative ease tying their hosts up in their own corner for much of the additional time.
With Hornchurch beating Enfield Town in the last few minutes by the same scoreline, the Ambers will head over to Hornchurch on bank holiday Monday to play off for a place in the National League South.
Blues: Giddens, Robbins (Y), Henshaw (Y), Giles, Marlow, Harris (Merrifield), Renee, Thomas (Peters), Foxley, Charles, Cracknell. Not used: Edwards, Jones, Haines.
Cheshunt: Edwards, Ekongo, McLean, Kassarate (Y)( Dib), Crowther (Y), McKenzie, Diedrick-Roberts (Y)Newton), Re, Liburd, Camara (Beckles-Richards), Reynolds. Not used: Ojo, Marsh.