Stratford Town 1-4 Scarborough Athletic
After extra time
FA Cup, Third Qualifying Round Replay
Report by Colin Stoner
STRATFORD’S FA Cup dreams were left in ruins after an amazing finale to a tie which had more dramatic twists than the entire soap output of every UK TV channel.
From a delayed kick-off after Scarborough had been held up to a Town junior coach running the line after the referee was injured, Tuesday night’s replay in front of nearly 500 fans was packed with incident.
But in the end it was the finishing of two-goal substitute James Cadman which settled the tie and denied Town their first-ever appearance in the fourth qualifying round.
Carl Adams’ men had led –for the third time in the tie – when Jazz Luckie scored on 26 minutes. Having been seconds from progressing on Saturday, they were this time 14 minutes from full-time before Craig Nelthorpe levelled with a wonder free-kick.
Then the match was delayed in the first period of extra time as referee Josh Smith injured his calf and after an appeal for another official Town Under-Nines coach Justin Kearney run the line and Richard Walker stepped into the middle.
But just as penalties loomed Cadman struck in the 115th minute, added a second within 60 seconds and then Michael Coulson heaped the final misery on Stratford.
It had been nip and tuck in the opening period, with neither side able to produce much in the way of composed football. It was a case of harrying and chasing but Town had the edge, certainly in terms of chances.
They had the early impetus and a couple of sniffs of the goal in the opening stages when Grocott was just crowded out after Lee Thomas’ shimmy and cross fired the ball into the heart of the Scarborough area. Then Luckie fired a low straight into the grateful hands of keeper Thomas Taylor.
Scarborough were kept at arm’s length but there was a scare when Leon Osborne, scorer of the late, late equaliser on Saturday, nodded just wide from Max Wright’s cross.
But on 26 minutes Town had the lead. Grocott fired in a corner from the right and Luckie was quickest to react to prod home at the near post for his fifth goal of the season.
Scarborough responded with Osborne again threatening as he challenged Andy Gallinagh and keeper Louis Connor blocked.
But Stratford had a golden chance for a second on 34 minutes. Ben Stephens scampered down the right and picked out the onrushing Luckie but the forward scooped over with the goal looming.
Scarborough were becoming increasingly direct but defenders Loyiso Recci and Liam Francis were man mountains in dealing with the threat.
Hearts were in mouths just before half-time when Boro full-back Nathan Valentine sent a dipping effort which dropped just over.
But play in the second period became more and more stretched, Stratford had another brilliantly-crafted opportunity just before the hour.
Stephens combined with Dan Summerfield and when Craig Nelthorpe missed the ball Stephens charged down the right, skipping past a couple of tackles. Grocott’s subtle pass then picked out Stephens inside the area but Taylor closed down his shot.
Then Francis soared to meet a Grocott free-kick from wide on the left but the ball flashed over the angle of bar and post.
But Town keeper Connor came to the rescue at the other end with 20 minutes left when Osborne got beyond the backline but Connor hared from his goal to save.
The shotstopper was helpless, however, on 74 minutes to prevent a wonderful equaliser, with left-back Nelthorpe firing a magnificently-hit free-kick from 30 yards which arrowed into the top corner.
Town’s tails were up and a flying Connor clutched an Osborne effort and then Luke Dean’s rising shot went over before Wright’s 20-yarder flew wide.
Extra time became end to end, with Town striker Taylor’s shot being blocked on the line and Seadogs’ Dean finding the sidenetting.
But then ten minutes into the extra period, referee Smith pulled his calf and couldn’t continue so Town’s under-nine coach Justin Kearney volunteered to run the line.
The tie had more than enough drama but there was more to come when Scarborough conjured three goals in the final five minutes to snatch the win.
Sub Cadman, who only made his debut last weekend, drilled home from the edge of the area on 115 minutes after switching the ball from right foot to left to right.
Within 60 seconds, he had another, firing home from Emile Sinclair’s lay-off following Coulson’s inventive initial touch.
And Town’s hopes were finally extinguished in the 119th minute when Cadman led a swift counter-attack and Coulson clipped the ball over the sliding Gallinagh and Connor to bounce into the net.
TOWN: Connor; Recci, Gallinagh, Francis; Summerfield, Grocott, Fry, Thomas, Marsden (Bako 75); Stephens (Evans 84), Luckie (Taylor M 61). Subs: Ahenkorah, Martin (gk)
SCARBOROUGH: Taylor T; Valentine, Harkell, Hewitt, Nelthorpe; Daly, Price (Sinclair 68), Dean, Wright; Coulson, Osborne (Cadman, 108). Subs: Dempsey, Morgan, Binns, Johnson.