This game had an air of “last chance saloon”, “now or never, do or die” about it for both teams if either were to keep any hope of avoiding the drop alive and at the end of a breathless, frantic and eventful 90 minutes it was Histon who emerged victorious to claim all three points.
Lance Key was able to welcome Niall Conroy, Shaun Jenkins and Max York back into the side after suspension but was without the still suspended Ben Yeomans and Jake Chambers Shaw (both of whom will be available for Saturday). Lewis Clayton, Jos Gwynne, Pat Bexfield and Jordan Traynier are all still out with injury but new signings James Carman and Daniel McGinty both had important roles to play in this vital win.
After a difficult, lengthy journey down to Hampshire the team started in a whirlwind of intensity and ran riot in the opening quarter of an hour.
First, a corner from Kieran Barnes was not dealt with by the home defence and Matty Allan was in the right place to poke the loose ball home with just three minutes on the clock.
Within a minute Carman broke clear one on one but Jamie Bray in the home goal was out quickly and managed to make the save. Histon were very much on the front foot though, winning every second ball and not giving the hosts a chance to settle. Matty Allan was causing the defenders all sorts of problems in this opening period and with 10 minutes gone a robust challenge on him earned Nicholas Awford a straight red card.
Histon didn’t need any extra encouragement to get forward and seconds after the red card incident Elkanah Sibanda fired a superb ball across the 6 yard line where Carman, at full stretch was on hand to double our lead.
If that weren’t enough, two minutes later and Sibanda had space to move forward in a central position. The defender looked up and picked his spot before rifling a left footed drive past Bray from 30 yards to make it 3-0. Less than 15 minutes gone and we were 3-0 clear and a man up.
After such a dizzying start it was no surprise that the game started to settle a little after the opening excitement as the home side finally started to find their feet but despite plenty of endeavour Conroy was untroubled at the back as we defended well and went forward with purpose.
With 35 minutes gone however things started to go wrong. Lawrence Larbi latched on to a ball behind our defence and in a race to the ball, got there a split second before Conroy. Despite the presence of two defenders possibly covering the Referee deemed Conroy the last man and produced the red card. Young defender Adam Capel donned the keeper’s gloves but he had little chance with the resulting free kick that was arrowed into the top corner by Zach Nicholson-Pibworth.
The hosts found themselves back in with a sniff as we re-organised at the back and Key would have been happy to see half time with no further action to report.
Key made his first change at half time with midfielder Daniel McGinty coming on in place of Danny Gould. McGinty went in goal and Capel went back to his right back position as the second half kicked off.
All in all it was a much quieter start to the second half. Kieran Barnes came closest to adding to the score when his free kick floated in from the right came back out off the crossbar but for all the home side’s endeavour they weren’t able to trouble McGinty in the Histon goal who was confident in his handling and well protected by the impressive York and Watson at the heart of the defence.
With just under 20 minutes left though Petersfield got their second and you knew that wasn’t going to be the last twist in this game. The home side made progress down the right side and Billy Connor’s pull back across goal was met by Will Essai who made no mistake.
Somehow both teams raised themselves for the final 15 minutes on a heavy, sticky pitch that was draining on the legs and with a little over 5 minutes left the scores were level. Joe Sutton fired a free kick across goal that Cameron Watson was inches away from converting despite the, arguably illegal, close attentions of his marker. The ball broke clear and the home side countered at pace. A fine ball across field found Matt Andrews on the far side and the striker delivered a rocket of a shot into the far top corner that gave McGinty no chance.
So, 3-3 and our hosts must have thought the game was theirs for the taking but within seconds we were back in front. Matty Allan jinked his way past defenders in the box to somehow find himself space to slip the ball past Bray.
The last few minutes were, as you would expect, somewhat frantic but there were no further additions to the scoresheet and the points were ours.
Histon: Niall Conroy, Adam Capel, Elkanah Sibanda, Simon Unwin, Max York, Camern Watson, Danny Gould (Daniel McGinty 46), Shaun Jenkins (Ross Munro 79), James Carman (Joe Sutton 65), Kieran Barnes, Matty Allan.
Histon subs not used: None.
Histon yellow cards: Shaun Jenkins.
Histon red cards: Niall Conroy.
Histon goal scorers: Matty Allan (3, 86), James Carman (11), Elkanah Sibanda (13).
Petersfield Town: Jamie Bray, Olly Searle, Matthew Graham, Harry Giles, Daniel Sackman, Harry Medway, Lawrence Larbi (Billy Connor 66), Nicholas Awford, Matt Andrews, Zach Nicholson-Pibworth, Will Essai (Adam Cripps 76).
Petersfield Town subs not used: Jordan Geddes, Jay Jay Tucker, Harry Wedlake.
Petersfield Town yellow cards: Daniel Sackman, Harry Medway.
Petersfield Town red cards: Nicholas Awford.
Petersfield Town goal scorers: Zach Nicholson-Pibworth (38), Will Essai (72), Matt Andrews (84).