EVESHAM United got denied a share of spoils by former keeper Andy Hannah’s penalty-and-rebound save in added time of a pulsating 4-3 defeat at Cinderford Town.

The Foresters, who started with five ex-Robins in the starting XI, led 4-1 at half-time only for United to roar back through Paul Sullivan’s second-half double – the second a gift from Hannah.

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In fairness Town had the better chances across the 90 but Evesham showed spirit and an all-out attacking approach that had everyone on the edge of their seats until the very end.

It looked like that would pay off at the death when substitute Kai Tonge was clumsily bundled down by the otherwise-impressive Sam Turl.

However, Lee Chilton’s drive down the middle was met by a strong Hannah paw with the follow up pushed from the line as the stopper got to his feet and raced back the other way.

Last season’s triple player-of-the-year Joe Turley, Hannah, Andy Lewis, Ethan Moore and Marley Thomas all started for Cinderford with Lorcan Sheehan on the bench against a United team that kicked off with 11 summer signings.

The match was fast paced from the outset with Evesham making a strong start, Chilton stinging Hannah’s palms from the left edge of the box.

It was against the run of play that Cinderford broke the deadlock, albeit from a beautifully-crafted goal as Ben Watkins played into the run of Thomas to cut back inside and find James Harding to crash in at the far post.

Watkins was again the architect with Moore this time scampering away to tee up Harding only for Lochie Robertson to somehow scramble off the line.

United took full advantage of that close shave by levelling in the 16th minute.

Brian Smikle’s chip forward was the subject of a handball claim but Adam Page kept chasing and drilled low across goal for Matt Dodd to plant into the roof of net unmarked.

Evesham hearts were in mouths when a short back pass from Aaron Roberts was seized upon by Thomas only for the pocket rocket’s stroke from an acute angle to skip past the far post.

Back came the visitors with a tidy one-two between Page and Smikle ending with Turl’s last-ditch intervention preventing a certain goal for Page.

From there Cinderford pressure began to grow and a scramble on the line from an inswinging corner was eventually bundled in by Craig Norman to restore the lead in the 31st minute.

Evesham continued to push with Roberts forced his way forward down the right, nudging out for Sullivan to cross and hit the top of the bar eight minutes before half-time but Town’s threat carried slightly more potency.

Thomas cut inside and overhit a cross to the far post but it was somehow kept in and when Harding got the better of Robertson in the battle for the bouncing ball, Moore was on hand to slam into the empty net for 3-1.

Page’s far-post header from an inviting Dan Bragoli centre was comfortable for Hannah and once again United got shown the way to goal within seconds through two more old boys.

Turley’s outswinging corner was read perfectly by the late-arriving Lewis to thump high inside the near post a minute before the break.

Manager Carl Abbott threw caution to the wind with a 3-4-3 that saw Evesham wobble briefly yet then grab a lifeline within three minutes of the restart.

Smikle, then on the right, raced on to what looked a lost cause and whipped into the near post for Sullivan to take a touch and slot past Hannah from six yards.

Cinderford kept coming too with Norman’s dash into the far post found by a deep ball but Robertson’s touch and a goal-line clearance from Paddock thwarted the hosts.

And within another two minutes the deficit was down to one when Hannah fluffed a short free-kick just outside his own box with Sullivan lobbing the stranded stopper from all of 30 yards.

Evesham kept going for the throat, inevitably leaving gaps and Town had plenty of opportunities to make life more comfortable.

Norman could not divert a looping ball on target with his head and Robertson raced out of his box to deny Harding from the wing with an outstretched boot.

The pendulum kept swinging ferociously with Dan Bragoli perhaps not United’s pick to be the recipient of a half clearance on the edge of the box as Hannah saved with ease.

Brad Maslen-Jones was blocked at point-blank range at the far post with 15 minutes to go.

Town were hardly hanging on, though, as Moore swivelled and drew another fine reaction stop from Robertson which the borrowed Bristol City stopper then bettered by tipping Norman’s daisy cutter around his right post despite having been unsighted.

Robertson had a moment to forget five minutes from the end, Moore running into the empty net having dispossessed him in the channel but referee Rob Cockle, who was very strong throughout, blew up for handball and chalked it off.

Evesham recruit and substitute Harry Franklin chanced his arm from 45 yards, Norman blasted over the angle of post and bar from six yards for Cinderford and then Liam Angel’s sliced clearance skipped agonisingly past the upright from a United point of view as minds became caught up in the hullaballoo.

The big chance came when Chilton’s arced ball for Tonge drew the error from Turl but Hannah had the last laugh with a big strong hand and follow-up save that decided matters.


A constant menace, bagged an assist and might have scored himself with a bit more luck. 

The ex-Cheltenham Town man showed his class as well as bundles of energy, as did the rest of United's side when it would have been easy to cave in. 

Defensive errors were ruthlessly punished but once again, you never had the feeling Evesham were dead and buried. 

Cinderford: Hannah 7, Turl 7, Waugh 7.5, Watkins 9*, Angel 7, Lewis 7.5, Norman 8, Turley 7.5, Moore 8, Harding 8 (MacDonald, 66, 7), Thomas 8.5.

Unused subs: Sheehan, Alder, Hicks, Wood.

Robins: Robertson 6.5, Roberts 7, Smikle 7 (Tonge, 62, 6.5), Paddock 7.5, Maslen-Jones 7.5, Sangha 7.5 (Franklin, 62, 7.5), Dodd 7.5, Bragoli 7.5, Sullivan 7.5 (Howard, 78, 6.5), Chilton 7, Page 8.

Unused sub: O’Neil.

Referee: Rob Cockle, 8.