Hat-trick Sam books Hartley's place in FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Well, what can I recall from the mists of what was a great cup game, at least for the neutrals... a smash-and-grab win; three great finishes for his hat-trick by Sam Argent; a sending off for Mason Saunders (2 yellows) meant we had to play most of the second half with 10 and it had looked very much like that would seal the game.
Preliminary round tie at Badshot Lea turns into a classic as 10 man Hartley Wintney edge through.
A typical cup tie played at a fast tempo, with neither team able to get a flowing game going because of the pace and closing down from both sides. An even first half, though I felt we looked very capable of scoring. Jack looked like his tricks would create something but it never quite happened, and Sam up front had little to work with. Ryan was unavailable, so we were playing Sam with Shane up front. I saw Shane getting some muscle treatment just before the kickoff - not a good sign - he did well while he was out there but was replaced by Dills up front. But before that, the ball was played out by Craig Atkinson to young Matt Partlow at right-back (who had a very good game), he played a great ball down the channel to Sam who ran on and hit one off the outside of the right boot between the diving keeper and near post. 1-0 at the break.
The second half started much the same but we lost Shane as mentioned and then it all changed. Mason Saunders had picked up a yellow for a challenge in the first half and slid in on the winger, who went down. From where I was, down the other end of the touchline, it looked inevitable that he'd get another yellow and then the red, which the ref gave, but those very close to it said he was very unfortunate to go. Either way, that decision transformed the game, and several others then seemed to go the way of the home side which got a few of us steaming... me included and apologies to all around me who must have been wishing I'd shut up. It was stressful because Badshot levelled and then layed siege to our goal and the momentum was all one way.
When we had Mason sent off, I heard an instruction called out to the home side to play 3-4-3 and I didn't mind that. Firstly, now that we had only Sam up front (Dills, who'd come on for Shane, had been sacrificed to bring on an extra defender, Blocko - Darryl Bloxham) it meant Sam would be up against ONLY 3 defenders... yeah, hardly good odds, but better. Second, at least the way I look at it, putting 3 up front can further crowd the box, already crowded with our defence and deep midfield. And indeed, while Badshot Lea had several chances well within our penalty box, a combination of defenders and Craig managed to get in the way most times.
It looked like a matter of time before the home side's pressure would tell, but a ball played wide (not sure if it was to Jack), was crossed in to the box towards the lone Sam Argent. Between two defenders, he stretched forward, facing the wrong way, and got his head to it. Somehow he managed to not only direct it on goal but wide of the diving keeper and just inside the near post. Spectacular, unexpected, and it gave hope that had been fast running out for us.
But Badshot kept at us, and following a free-kick and a melly in the box, the home side fired the ball into the net. 2-2 and again it looked odds-on a home win, just because of the amount of pressure our defence were under. Ashley Lloyd came on for Chris Williamson.
Then the moment of sheer brilliance.
The ball was played up the inside right channel towards Sam. I'm not sure exactly what he did, but he must have feinted one way, let the ball travel, turned and left his marker stone cold dead in the sand! Haven't seen a move as good as that for some time. It gave him 2 yards, the time to take the ball on into the area, look up and slot it to the right of the keeper, into the far corner. You wouldn't see a better finish anywhere. 3-2.
Badshot nearly equalised straight from the kick-off, the winger going through and not sure whether it was young Matt or who that got the last ditch block in to send it out for a corner. And there was still time for Sam to be fouled by Badshot's 5, last man but no red card.
We've played better, but it was one gutsy win in the circumstances. Well done lads. Man of the Match has to be Sam Argent - for all the great stuff done in midfield and at the back, in the end without his last 2 smash-and-grab goals we wouldn't have made it through last night. Well done Sam, well done guys! [KOB]