Etheridge the hero in Town’s penalty shoot-out win

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Ross Etheridge

FOOTBALL

Didcot Town 1-1 Stratford Town
(Stratford won 4-2 on penalties)
CSS League Cup
Report by Bryan Hale

STRATFORD edged into the quarter-finals of the CSS League Cup after keeper Ross Etheridge saved two penalties in the shoot-out decider.
On a damp evening which made for a skiddy playing surface, it was Stratford who made an encouraging start with Claudio Dias letting fly with a 25-yard drive after eight minutes which was turned behind by Didcot keeper Leigh Bedwell at the foot of his right hand post.
But Bedwell was well beaten on the quarter-hour mark when Ross Oulton’s long-range free-kick thudded against the opposite post and ricocheted away tlo safety.
Stratford were having most of the play but they fell behind on 33 minutes when Aaron Woodley’s shot from the edge of the penalty area was fumbled round the post by Etheridge and from the resulting corner Adam Learoyd climbed highest to head into the net.
Then four minutes later it was the turn of Stratford’s number 6 to get on the scoresheet with Jordan Williams levelling with a header from another Oulton free-kick.
Both sides had chances early in the second half.Josh Cooke had a fierce effort well held by Bedwell while at the other end Morgan Williams made room for a sharp left footer which flashed narrowly wide.
Kieren Westwood wasn’t far away after a decent Stratford move on 66 minutes followed by Morgan Williams hitting a free-kick straight at Etheridge.
Brett Gardner went close with a header for Didcot and a Jarrell Hylton shot was blocked at point blank range by Bedwell while both Jimmy Fry and Chris Cox fired tantalisingly wide of the Didcot goal as the game headed into four minutes added time.
So for the third time in Stratford’s season they faced a penalty shoot-out.
Etheridge got them off to the perfect start by brilliantly beating away Callum McNish’s effort and followed up by another save from Woodley while Stratford’s penalties were confidently despatched by Fry, Dias, Taylor and Hylton to send them through to the last eight.