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Bishop's Stortford's 15-game unbeaten run ended cruelly with a penalty shootout defeat at Cheshunt in the third round of the Buildbase FA Trophy



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Bishop's Stortford's 15-game unbeaten run ended cruelly with a penalty shootout defeat at Cheshunt in the third round of the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday, writes Daniel Williamson.

The match ended 0-0 after 90 minutes at Theobalds Lane before the Ambers beat the Blues 4-3 on spot kicks.

Cheshunt and Stortford are fourth and fifth in the Pitching In Isthmian League, Premier Division respectively with the same number of points, so this was always going to be a tight match.

The Blues, who were helped by their band of ever-noisy travelling fans, started well, moving the ball around nicely, but often struggled to pick out the final pass.

Cheshunt, who are now 15 matches unbeaten in all competitions themselves, grew into the game and started to create some half-chances, but the match soon became congested around the halfway line, with both sides being reduced to hitting hopeful long balls.

The second half started with Cheshunt winning a free kick in a threatening position. The danger was dealt with comfortably by Stortford's stubborn defence, who were keeping in-form Cheshunt striker Rowan Liburd quiet. It was one of only a few times that Cheshunt got near the Blues' box as, from then on, the visitors took a real hold of the game.

As Cheshunt struggled to play a sequence of more than three passes, the Blues' press trapped them inside their own half. The best chance fell to midfielder Ben Marlow when Cheshunt goalkeeper George Marsh rushed from goal to claim a long ball from Stortford's defence. A mix-up with his own defence meant the ball fell nicely to Marlow, however his volleyed shot drifted wide of the gaping goal.

As Cheshunt started to tire, Stortford continued to threaten, especially from Jonny Giles' consistently brilliant set-piece deliveries. Despite the Blues getting the ball in Cheshunt's box continuously, they struggled to create any clear-cut chances.

As the clock ticked by and frustration grew that a goal had not yet come, the competitiveness went up a level. Words were exchanged between the sides when Blues captain Ryan Henshaw went to ground claiming a penalty. The calls were rejected by the referee, who booked Henshaw for his persistent protests.

After a nervy last 10 minutes for both sides the whistle blew, sending the tie to penalties.

After four well-taken penalties, up stepped Stortford's player-of-the-match Giles, who sent the keeper the wrong way but saw his penalty come back off the bar.

Cheshunt continued to calmly slot their penalties into the back of the net, putting pressure on Stortford's last penalty taker Johnville Renee, whose nervy attempt was parried by Marsh to spark jubilant Cheshunt celebrations.

It was a very harsh way for Stortford to be knocked out of the competition as they were the better team overall. There was also a red card for the Blues' Mark Haines after he was booked just before and then after the shootout.

The Blues don't have long to avenge the defeat however as the two sides will face off again at the R&D Advisors UK Stadium on New Year's Day in the league. Before that, Steve Smith's side will look to get back to winning ways at Bowers & Pitsea on Monday December 27.

Cheshunt: Marsh, Ekongo (Camara, 9min), McClean (booked, 69), Kassarate (booked, 63), Crowther, Gardiner, Beckles-Richards (booked, 54), Reynolds, Liburd, Miles, Newton. Not used: Ojo.

Blues: Giddens, Church (booked, 54min), Robbins, Henshaw (booked, 84), Giles, Marlow, Cass, Merrifield, Renee, Jack Thomas (booked, 62), Haines (booked, 90 & 90; sent off, 90). Not used: Bird, Harris, Cracknell, Baker.

Attendance: 387.



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