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Sam's the man as ten-man Saltash win controversial quarter-final

By KevinMarriott  |  Posted: February 22, 2014


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Launceston 1 Saltash United 2 (aet)

Sam Hughes scored two minutes from the end of extra time to send ten-man Saltash United through to the Cornwall Senior Cup semi-finals after a pulsating and controversial quarter-final against Launceston at Pennygillam.

With the tie all square at 1-1 and heading towards a penalty shoot-out, Hughes raced onto a long clearance and as Launceston keeper Dan Stevenson came out to the edge of his area, the Ashes striker chipped his shot over him and into the far corner of the net.

It sparked wild celebrations among the visitors, who had shown incredible resilience to survive a battering from Launceston in extra time, having played with ten men since the 51st minute after Jonny Morris was shown a straight red by controversial referee Chris Stevens.

Saltash boss Martin Burgess was also sent to the dressing rooms two minutes from the end of normal time, apparently for remarks he made after Chris Menhenick had forced in Launceston’s equaliser.

The tie, played on an energy-sapping pudding of a pitch, had started routinely before Hughes fired Saltash ahead in the 11th minute with an excellent finish after turning away from Dan Jefferis.

Luke Doddridge just failed to convert a superb left wing cross from Chris Head four minutes later as the home side pressed for a swift equaliser, then Jefferis headed another fine Head cross onto the top of the net.

Launceston continued to pour forward but they found Saltash keeper Tom Blackler in magnificent form, keeping out efforts from Sam Davey and a brilliant free kick from Menhenick.

But the visitors finished the half on top and were desperately close to doubling their lead a minute from the break when a Steve Sargison shot crashed against a post before being scrambled clear.

Hughes sent another low shot inches wide and had good shouts for a penalty waved away by the referee after being hauled down by Jefferis.

The second half was all about whether Launceston could find an equaliser and their task seemed to be made easier when Morris was sent off for a late challenge on Rob Blake in the 51st minute.

It looked a harsh decision by the referee but it was far from his worst as he started to have more influence on the tie than any official should have.

Saltash almost put the tie to bed in the 70th minute with a Matt Cusack left foot shot which hit the inside of a post and rolled along the line before being cleared.

And the visitors should have been awarded a penalty seven minutes later when Cusack’s attempted cross from the left was handled by Jefferis two yards inside the penalty area.

The referee spotted the handball offence but incredibly awarded a free kick inches outside the penalty area, much to the astonishment of the Saltash players.

Worse was to follow from the official two minutes from time after Launceston substitute Sam Scott tried a speculative effort from 30 yards but badly sliced it and the ball drifted well wide.

However, the referee pointed for a corner and from the resulting cross, Menhenick turned the ball over the line after a mad scramble in the six yard box.

As the home side celebrated their equaliser, the referee summoned Saltash manager Burgess onto the pitch. Initially a yellow card seemed to be his punishment for a remark he had been alleged to have made, but it became clear that Burgess had been ordered to the dressing room.

In extraordinary scenes, the referee followed Burgess off the pitch and the two appeared to become embroiled in another heated exchange behind the dugouts as the two teams waited for the game to restart.

Saltash tried to regroup at the end of normal time but they were up against it in extra time, and only the woodwork prevented Liam Tilley heading Launceston into the lead after 101 minutes.

It seemed only a matter of time before the home side found a way through but with Blackler continuing to perform heroics in the Saltash goal, the tie headed towards a penalty shoot-out.

But with Saltash’s only clear cut chance of the extra 30 minutes, Hughes came up with a touch of magic to clinch a semi-final against either Wendron United or Bodmin Town, who play their delayed quarter-final next Saturday.

In the other semi-final, local rivals St Austell and St Blazey were paired together. The venues for both semi-finals will be announced by the Cornwall FA in the next week.

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