ACCORDING to Huntingdon Town manager Ricky Marheineke, the last thing his team needed was 120 minutes of football on Monday night.
Following on from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Spalding United in the United Counties League, Huntingdon were back in action on Monday night – this time in the first round of the Hinchingbrooke Cup, with Peterborough Northern Star winning a penalty shoot-out at Jubilee Park.
Now, on Wednesday, Huntingdon will face Newport Pagnell Town back in the UCL.
“It was the worst possible scenario,” said Marheineke, who had been hoping to make best use of his squad against PNS before Stuart Eason (work) and Dave Townsend (ill) were forced to pull out.
“I had to play quite a strong side,” he said. “We had four or five really good chances but even before the end of the first half I could tell it was going to be one of those days.
“We could have done without those 120 minutes, to be fair.”
With the final score 1-1, Huntingdon’s Dan Moyes, Declan Rogers and Jack Warwick missed their penalties – but Marheineke is counting the cost of more than just a cup exit.
Ben Sawyer and Moyes both picked up injuries in the game and they are both doubtful for tonight’s game, while defender Victor Torres is out for two-to-four weeks after being carried from the pitch with an ankle injury on Saturday. What a difference a couple of days make.
The match against Spalding was a tough one and the home side earned their point with a competent display which was soured by a poor second period of the first half.
Third-place Spalding, who were the UCL’s pre-season favourites, went 1-0 up in the first half and could have put the game out of Huntingdon’s reach from the penalty spot, but Enol Ordonez made a superb save to keep his side in the game.
In the second half, Huntingdon battled hard and captain Ricky Dear forced the ball home with 15 minutes to go after the Spalding goalkeeper Michael Duggan had fumbled a Rogers high ball into the box.
“For the first 15 or 20 minutes we played at a very good tempo and we moved the ball quickly and Jamie Graham could have made it 1-0 in the first 30 seconds, but when you play against a team like Spalding with the players they have got, at some stage you are going a phase of the game where they dictate.
“Because we started so well we became a little too confident.”
Spalding’s goal was sloppy. Ryan Spencer gave Ordonez too much to do with a poor back pass and the goalkeeper was unable to get to the ball before Dan Cotton toed it past him.
But the turning point, then, was the penalty save – and what a fantastic save it was.
“It was a stonewall penalty,” said Marheineke. “I’m not too sure what Ollie [Medwynter] was doing, he was all over the player’s back, but credit on Enol, it was hell of a save.
“We were fortunate to go into half time at 1-0 but while you’re at 1-0 you always have a chance.”
In the second half things improved and the team defended well and played the game in Spalding’s half. Marheineke introduced Townsend and Niks Savalneiks and eventually the equaliser came.
“We’re in good form but we haven’t played anybody like Spalding – in my opinion they are the best team in the league.”