Hellenic Premier League Result.
The Bluefin Insurers Hellenic Challenge Cup
Saturday 6th October
Cheltenham Saracens 5-2 Finchampstead
Saracens had a break from their normal league service and instead saw them embark on yet another cup competition this time against their Hellenic Div 1 East, Berkshire opponents Finchampstead. With returning players needing much game time from injury etc, this allowed manager Gerry Oldham to rotate his squad for which he made no less than six changes to his squad from last weeks thrashing of Highmoor. U18s Goalie James Andrews making his starting debut, alongside Hartpury college student Andy Venning. Jack Oldham returned to the squad after his lengthy injury and forwards Jamie Hammond & Nick Hill both starting. Oldham’s back four remained the same with Oliver & Donaghue on the flanks and Ben Tunnicliff & Sam Slender once again in their centre back roles.
This fixture had a somewhat low key affair to it for which the big physical Berkshire side certainly made the early front running, creating early chances most notably in the first 3mins, when only the Finchampstead forward will be able to explain his miss from 5yds out in front of goal. What was turning into a physical battle for which Saracens Andy Venning was competing well in the heart of the midfield, Saracens starting to dictate the game to their customary possession game, of excellent pass and move phases of play. In the 4th min Saracens keeper Andrews saved superbly when faced one on one which gave him a massive boost for which he never looked unfazed throughout the game.
Jamie Hammond should have given Saracens the lead after 5mins but his close miss-hit shot went tamely to the Berkshire keeper. Saracens opened the scoring after 8mins when Nick Hill smashed a left foot shot into the bottom corner. Finchampstead though didn’t travel to Cheltenham to make up the numbers, and constantly unsettled Saracens with their physical play. They were soon on level terms, their no11 Nick Cooper ran unopposed through the heart of midfield and curled in a majestic shot from just outside the box. This equaliser gave Finchampstead much heart and soon saw them go 2-1 in front. Having won a free kick on the edge of the box their midfield player Josh Sapstead curled his chance into the roof of the net, swerving viciously on the way, giving the young Saracens keeper no chance. What can’t be missed from this Saracens side is their confidence, for which Saracens soon levelled the contest. Ben Tunnicliff’s 30yd delightful free kick fell nicely for Carl Griffiths who scored into bottom corner to make it 2-2. The Saracens defence of Slender & Tunnicliff soon started to read the Berkshires side deliveries and started to dominate their opponents often creating defensive play into attacking choices.
The second half saw a much more determined steel to Saracens play and Jack Oldham started to win the physical battles allowing much possession for Saracens colleagues. Venning’s cross to Hammond should have seen a better result from the usual clinical striker but he delayed his shot resulting a scuffed effort at the keeper. Nick Hill’s aerial presence was unsettling the Finchampstead defence, resulting in a succession of corners where Saracens looked threatening. Hammond though soon made up for his early miss when he was sent through from a Andy Venning pass in 60th min, one on one with the keeper, Hammond placed his shot well into the corner to put Saracens ahead 3-2. Manager Oldham then made a number of changes with Josh Swales & prolific scorer Ethan Moore replacing the hard working Andy Venning & Jamie Hammond. Saracens then put the match to bed from a superb curled Joe Donaghue free kick. Carl Griffiths strong run was ended when he was fouled on the corner of the Finchampstead box. With Hill, Tunnicliff, Slender all waiting on the far post everyone deemed the cross would go to one of these but instead clever thinking by Dongahue put the ball into the opposite top corner to make it 4-2. Chances then were becoming more & more frequent for Saracens & it was inevitable Moore would add to his goal tally for which he obliged. Moore’s goal was set up Carl Griffiths, who received a good pass from Tunnicliff, Griffiths 30yd run saw him ghost past the tiring Finchampstead players and with only the keeper to beat, unselfishly squared the ball to the far post for the waiting Moore who scored with ease to settle the affair 5-2. Chances came and went for Saracens, their defending was superb throughout & their attacking options in abundance. Saracens next opponents are Ardley who they lost 0-2 to in the opening game of the season. Manager is expecting a clean bill of health and should have a full squad to choice from.