Highland Laddie 4, Huntsman 5
Huntsman travelled to the Education Village Darlington to take on high flying Highland Laddie from the league above in the first round of the Munden Memorial Cup on Sunday and came away with an impressive 5-4 victory a scoreline which didn’t do Huntsman’s dominance justice.
With eight squad regulars missing the manger was forced into fielding a patched up team with players playing out of position. He stuck with the 3-5-2 formation which served them well in their semi final victory, with Stuart Ord coming in for his first start at centre half, skipper Lee Redpath moved to partner him while Steven Williams lined up in a unfamiliar left wing back role. Ben Sedgewick made his first start for more than two years at the base of the midfield alongside a recalled Andrew Richardson.
Huntsman started the game on the front foot knocking the ball around well on the pristine pitch and they were rewarded 10 minutes in when Shaun Sproates was fouled in the box for a penalty which leading scorer Jamie Herd slammed home sending the keeper the wrong way.
They continued to press forward with Dave Neale firing just wide after good work down the left. Laddie had a spell of pressure with lots of long balls into the box, a low shot forced a smart stop by Dodds low down to his right but from the resulting corner the ball bounced around before being poked home for 1-1.
Huntsman got straight back on the front foot and made it 2-1, Stuart Ord picked the ball up deep in the Huntsman half and went marauding up field skipping past 5 players as the pitch opened up for him before he played a delightful ball into Shaun Sproates who committed the centre half into a tackle bringing down Sproates for another stone wall penalty, Herd again stepped up from 12 yards to arrow the ball into the top corner.
They went in 2-1 up at half time with a deserving lead. They started the second in a bright style and added a third not long after the restart, Sproates and Herd worked a short corner before the angle opened up for Herd to drive a fierce shot in the bottom corner to complete a 4th hat trick of the season.
The Huntsman were in cruise control and the style and swagger came back into their play missing since the turn of the year they knocked the ball around impressively and it wasn’t long before a 4th goal came, Steven Williams went rampaging down the left wing but looked to have lost the ball but showed great determination to win it back forcing a good save from the keeper before Carl Bates was on hand to poke home giving the Huntsman an impressive 4-1 lead.
Shaun Sproates back to something like his best form got a goal his all-round link up play deserved when he steered home a left wing ball into the top corner.
The manger saw the lead as an opportunity to give some of his long term absentees Michael Sproates and Callum Farley run outs and with 15 minutes they replaced Ben Sedgewick and Andrew Richardson.
Their team mates however took the foot of the pedal and let the Laddie back into the game and they forced Dodds to turn over the bar from a fierce strike, but they weren’t to be denied when the low corner was turned home at the near post.
That gave the Laddie confidence and they got a 3rd with 10 minutes remaining a deep free kick was pumped into the box which Dodds spilled into the path of the oncoming centre half who bundled the ball home.
A few minutes later they added a 4th to get the nerves jangling but they held out for an impressive victory which was slightly soured by the sloppy end but they Huntsman are in the next round with a winnable tie against Wheatsheaf stopping them from another semi-final appearance.
Next up is the Wheatsheaf in the league at Simpasture on April 20th a 10.30 kick off where they will be looking to put the pressure on the top two with a third successive victory. Get yourself along and show your support.