A first ever visit to Sherwood Colliery’s impressive Debdale Park ground saw The Ambers looking to improve on recent performances which had seen them lose three of the past four games after a decent start to the season. On paper, the sides looked well matched with Sherwood holding a three point advantage over The Ambers but having played an extra game, and so it proved as the teams served up a thriller with a bit of everything thrown in; five goals, a missed penalty, a red card and a sin binning which kept the crowd entertained throughout.
Handsworth started the game in very positive fashion with Mitch Dunne heavily involved down the left hand side and all looked promising but The Ambers were soon indebted to Brad Jones who cleared off his own line after a penalty box scramble saw Sherwood come close to taking the lead after coming into the game strongly.
Ben Townsend had to stretch to save an effort from Greenham before the same player raced clear but was eventually crowded out by a combination of Townsend and Jed Phillips. At the other end, a quickly taken free kick allowed Sam Fewkes plenty of space outside the box and his long range drive wasn’t too far over the bar, as the game swung one way then the other.
Townsend was almost caught out when the impressive Norcross nipped in and took the ball away from him as he went to collect but the danger was averted and suddenly, The Ambers found themselves in front. A three on two break was led by Dunne who played in a supporting Jack Harrison on his left and the midfielder drove the ball home low past Turton’s right hand.
The hosts came back with all guns blazing and Wiesztort saw his effort go narrowly wide before some excellent defending was almost breached by York but unluckily for him, his shot struck his own player and was cleared. As half time approached, The Ambers almost doubled their lead when Richard Tootle’s free kick from near the corner flag eventually fell to Leon Howarth but his goal bound effort was desperately hacked away to safety, and out of the blue, Sherwood levelled things up when a simple ball over the top saw Greenham race clear and fire home past Townsend, a feat almost repeated two minutes later, but this time Townsend came out on top. The last meaningful action of the half saw Turton pull off a terrific save after Dunne had ran on to a clearance from Phillips and unleashed a blistering drive that seemed destined for the back of the net.
The unlucky Phillips was withdrawn at half time as a precaution following a knock to the head, Ethan Hobson coming on in his place, and the pattern of the game continued as before with both sides pushing forward whenever possible in search of the advantage. Townsend was called into action early on as he saved from Norcross who had beaten the offside trap to race clear, before then getting down to smother a long ranger from Belgrave.
Howarth then raced clear for The Ambers but was eventually foiled by Shaw who did well to catch up and Turton grabbed the loose ball with Dunne screaming for a pull back. Wiesztort then got away down the left wing for the home side and when Townsend denied him with a great save, the ball fell to the lurking Greenham who snaffled up the opportunity to give Sherwood the lead. Amazingly, within a minute, The Ambers were back on level terms, Dunne racing onto a sumptuous through ball from Sam Smith to draw the keeper and fire home an unstoppable drive. As if that wasn’t enough excitement, in their next attack the home side were awarded a penalty for handball by Hobson but as the travelling Ambers feared the worst, Norcross blasted the spot kick over the bar and the perimeter fence for good measure.
Dunne brought a regulation save from Turton after being set up by Harrison before a well worked corner routine almost caught out The Ambers but York’s effort just cleared the bar. Townsend then came to the rescue to deny Greenham a hat trick when one on one, but minutes later, the hosts grabbed the decisive fifth goal when a cross from the right was neatly controlled and despatched by Norcross.
Youngster Sam Essien was introduced for his debut replacing the injured Howarth, but an ill judged first tackle from the substitute earned him a yellow card. The Ambers started to ramp up the pressure with fellow substitute Jordan Lonchar pulling the strings and the crossbar was rattled by a stinging effort from Dunne which had Turton floundering but the ball dropped the wrong side of the line for Handsworth. Unfortunately, as The Ambers continued to build pressure, Essien had a nibble at York as he brought the ball forward and a second yellow card was issued, ending the youngster’s afternoon after just 11 action packed minutes.
Worse was to follow as Smith appeared to be fouled in the box as a cross came in but the referee waved away the penalty appeals and Tootle was sent to the sin bin after words were exchanged with the official. Despite being down to nine men for the last two minutes plus the added six, The Ambers never took a step backwards and could have snatched a deserved draw in the 95th minute when a cross from Jones found Tom Roebuck at the back stick but the centre back just couldn’t keep his header down and the ball flew over by a whisker.
So, another defeat on the road for The Ambers but it was a much improved performance and it was down to fine margins. Next up for The Ambers is the visit of Penistone Church in the Senior Cup in midweek and a chance to put things right and set up a clash with NPL side Sheffield FC in the next Round.