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Hungerford in seventh heaven as Crusaders thrash Plymouth Parkway on opening day





Hungerford Town began their Southern Premier League season with a spectacular 7-0 thrashing of Plymouth Parkway at Bulpit Lane on Saturday.

It took Hungerford until October 7 last season to score seven goals but a hat-trick from Conor McDonagh, a brace from Michael Fernandes and goals from Luke Carnell and Elis Watts saw the Crusaders hit seven in just 72 minutes in a devastating opening day display.

Hungerford boss Danny Robinson handed competitive debuts to seven new signings, while Parkway manager Lee Hobbs welcomed combative frontman Matt Wright back for his second spell with the visitors.

Conor McDonagh takes the plaudits after completing his hat-trick from the spot. Pictures by Phil Cannings
Conor McDonagh takes the plaudits after completing his hat-trick from the spot. Pictures by Phil Cannings
Hungerford Town boss Danny Robinson
Hungerford Town boss Danny Robinson

The wet and windy conditions were less than conducive to fluent football, with Curtis Angell, who was unavailable, rolling up his trousers and shirt sleeves to clear the drainage in the ground and ensure Bulpit Lane was above the waterline prior to kick-off.

There wasn’t much to separate the two teams in the first 10 minutes, with veteran goalkeeper Ryan Clarke, who played more than 200 times for Oxford United, forced into a remarkable save diving to his left to thwart Jack Crago after he headed skipper Ryan Lane’s free-kick towards the far corner.

Ryan Clarke makes a superb save the score at 0-0
Ryan Clarke makes a superb save the score at 0-0

The Crusaders cleared the ball upfield and the advancing Parkway goalkeeper Cory Harvey and retreating midfielder Callum Hall suffered a serious lapse of communication, with Harvey’s attempted clearance rebounding off Hall and into the path of Michael Fernandes, who tapped in to open his account and make it 1-0.

Cory Harvey and Callum Hall in disbelief after their mix-up led to Michael Fernandes’ opening goal
Cory Harvey and Callum Hall in disbelief after their mix-up led to Michael Fernandes’ opening goal

Robinson has added some much-needed height and muscle to his ranks this summer and towering defender Luke Carnell made it 2-0 with a powerful header in the 25th minute before heading Jack Stanley’s corner from the right onto the head of McDonagh, whose smart flick made it 3-0 two minutes later.

Conor McDonagh opens his account for the season
Conor McDonagh opens his account for the season

Things got even worse for Parkway straight from kick-off at the beginning of the second half when the visitors made a mess of the restart and Ryan Lane was given a straight red card after he flew into a challenge on Brad Hooper.

It was 4-0 in the 48th minute after McDonagh plucked a looping ball out of the sky, created some space and produced a cool finish to double his tally for the afternoon.

Conor McDonagh fires in his second goal of the afternoon
Conor McDonagh fires in his second goal of the afternoon

McDonagh had the chance to complete his hat-trick after 63 minutes when Jack Crago blocked Sean Moore’s cross with his hand on the edge of the box and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot.

Parkway’s Jack Crago fouls Ryan Clarke
Parkway’s Jack Crago fouls Ryan Clarke

The former Swindon Supermarine man, who welcomed the birth of a son on Thursday, stepped up to take the penalty and sent Harvey the wrong way, burying the ball into the left hand corner to make it 5-0.

Conor McDonagh celebrates his hat-trick
Conor McDonagh celebrates his hat-trick

McDonagh was given a well-deserved rest a few minutes later after he was replaced by new man Elis Watts, who signed on Friday following the departure of Karnell Chambers.

And the 21-year-old attacker, who won promotion to the National League South with Weston-Super-Mare last season, announced himself in style just a couple of minutes after his introduction, beating two defenders before bending a left-footed strike from distance into the far corner to extend the hosts’ lead to 6-0.

Substitute Elis Watts made a real impression on his Crusaders bow
Substitute Elis Watts made a real impression on his Crusaders bow

The Crusaders completed the rout 18 minutes from time when substitute Jack Alexander’s raking pass found marauding full-back Jack Stanley, whose cross was cleared to Fernandes on the edge of the box and the former Farnborough winger buried a half-volley into the bottom corner for Hungerford’s seventh goal of the afternoon.

Michael Fernandes beats two Parkway defenders
Michael Fernandes beats two Parkway defenders

There was one blot on the Crusaders’ copybook in the 80th minute when Sean Moore received his marching orders after he collided with Cory Harvey while chasing a long ball over the top and, having already been booked in the first half, was given a second yellow and sent off.

Sean Moore received a second yellow card for this challenge on Parkway’s Cory Harvey
Sean Moore received a second yellow card for this challenge on Parkway’s Cory Harvey

Hungerford travel to well-fancied Chesham, who were leading 3-0 when their curtain-raiser with Hanwell Town was abandoned due to the relentless rain at half time, on Saturday.



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