Chatteris Town march through to semis after Saunders inspires thrilling comeback
Cliff Bullen Challenge Cup Quarter-Final: Chatteris Town 3 Over Sports 2
THREE goals in 10 second-half minutes capped a sensational comeback for Chatteris Town who marched through to the cup semi finals after a pulsating clash at West Street.
The hosts found themselves two goals down inside 20 minutes but refused to give in during an end-to-end encounter that saw both teams miss a host of chances.
It was the introduction of Jack Saunders - just before the hour mark - which sparked the Lilies’ fightback. The youngster had a hand in all three of his side’s goals as he terrorised Over Sports’ left-back Ashley Theobald time and time again.
First, cutting in from the right, his shot was deflected into the path of Tom Moden who finished cooly. Five minutes later his shot across goal was turned in by Richie Allen to make it 2-2.
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Then, Saunders capped off his dazzling cameo by grabbing the winner after Sports ‘keeper Liam Green had kicked his clearance straight at him allowing the wideman to roll the ball into an empty net.
The jubilant scenes which followed were well deserved as Chatteris had grown in stature during a stirring second-half performance.
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Lilies boss Jimmy Unwin admitted his side had to change their approach after struggling with the windy conditions before the break.
He said: “First half we overplayed too much, we tried to play football and you can’t play football on days like this.
“It was so windy, which is the worst type of weather to play in, so we spoke at half time about having a plan from our goal kicks.
“During the second half we had four players pressed onto their back four from goal kicks and it worked. We got in behind them, turned them as a result and adapted well to the conditions.”
The opening exchanges of the match were scrappy as both sides struggled to get to grips with conditions at a windswept West Street, typified by the nature of Sports’ opener.
James Carman - who shone as a lone-striker for Over - gambled on a long goal kick and slotted home from a narrow angle. Chatteris’ defence was caught square but the conditions were clearly having an effect as the hosts struggled against head-wind.
The goal seemed to stir Chatteris into action and lethal goalscorer Richie Allen should have pulled one back when he missed from close range following good work from Jason Hennessey.
However, the home side’s task quickly became harder when another defensive mistake saw the visitors go two-up. Danny Ivatt half-volleyed home from inside the box following the Lilies inability to clear a throw in.
Having beaten Over 1-0 in August’s Kershaw Premier League clash it was clear the home side could match the visitors - even without suspended captain Steven Reid.
Yet their task almost became even more mammoth when Carman hit the net for a second time. Thankfully for Unwin and his side the classy frontman was flagged offside.
The game ebbed-and-flowed in the opening stages of the second half as Chatteris soon began to take control. However, Over should have been out of sight when great play from Carman set-up Jamie Saunders for a simple tap in from six yards.
Saunders blazed over, in a moment which Unwin - who always believed his side could get back in the game - admitted probably changed the match.
He said: “When we had a chat at half time I knew we’d get back into the game.
“I wasn’t livid with the two basic goals we gave away because I knew our character and fitness levels would come through in the end.
“However, as soon as they missed that massive chance in the second half I just knew we’d win it. It sort of turned the game a little bit.”
And it did turn the game as Saunders inspired Chatteris during a breathtaking 10-minute spell just after the hour mark which saw the home side claw back the two-goal defecit.
Moden deserved his goal as he grew into the game during the second period, but the panic caused by the tricky Saunders was the major effect in turning the game on its head.
Allen then grabbed the second as he poked home from close range. Both he and Moden deserved credit for continuing to get in the box after spurning equally-excellent opportunities while their side were 2-0 behind.
With their tails up, Chatteris were gifted victory when Liam Green tried to clear the ball from the edge of his box. His clearance rebounded off pint-sized Saunders who showed all the calmness of a 35-year-old veteran to slot the ball home into an empty net.
The goal sucked the life out of Over Sports who never really threatened an equaliser, even though they had 10 minutes of injury time to find one after Moden’s crunching tackle on Robert Ruddy forced a lengthy stoppage.
Ruddy hobbled off as he - and his side - eventually limped to defeat.
Wonderboy Saunders even found time to slot in at left-back during the closing stages and was praised by Unwin for his match-winning contribution.
Unwin said: “Jack’s a breath of fresh air - the boy’s just full of energy.
“He’s got a decent left foot on him, he wants to play for Chatteris and he’s a good kid.
“He wants to get forward, score goals and caused all sorts of problems today. Then in the last 10 minutes he filled in at left-back and did excellently. He will definitely go further.
“With regards to the character shown I couldn’t have asked for anymore from him and the players.
“We said at half time we either limped out of it or showed a bit of character to try and get through to the next round. Luckily, the players chose the right option.”
Chatteris will play Hardwick in the semi-finals.
Chatteris Town: Collett, Brierley, Collins (Matthews, 90), Porter, Howard, Spendelow, Moden (Hollis, 85), Bailey, Allen, Harness, Hennessey (Saunders, 57) Subs not used: Heading, Warby
Man of the match: Jack Saunders - Sparked a thrilling comeback and had a hand in all three goals.