Evo-Stik CSS League Challenge Cup
Stratford Town 1-0 Cinderford Town
Report by Craig Gibbons
STRATFORD Town lifted the Evo-Stik CSS League Challenge Cup with a narrow 1-0 victory over lower-ranked Cinderford Town at the Arden Garages Stadium.
After a goalless first period, Kynan Isaac was on hand to finish from close range after a lovely free-flowing move in the 61st minute to sink a brave Cinderford outfit.
The visitors had a chance right at the death to bring the tie to penalties, but Lorean Sheehan’s deep free-kick was gathered by Ross Etheridge to bring an end to proceedings.
There were three changes to the Town team which beat Royston Town on Saturday, with Dan Creaney, Nabil Shariff and Mo Sebbeh-Njie coming in for Jamie McAteer, Mike Taylor and Will Grocott.
Cinderford came into the final on the back of a stunning run of form, having gone 12 games unbeaten and winning seven of their last eight outings to climb into the Evo-Stik Division One South play-off places.
However, it was Town who started the brighter of the two sides and only the woodwork prevented them from taking the lead a third of the way through the half as Wilson Carvalho’s dipping free-kick from all of 25 yards cannoned off the near post and away from danger.
The woodwork came to the rescue of the visitors once again seven minutes later as Sebbeh-Njie played in Dan Creaney whose curling effort from ten yards out bounced back off the opposite post.
It took until the 30th minute for the slow-starting visitors to get their first shot on goal, but Josh Hunt could only lash horribly over from all of 30 yards before Craig Norman headed over Sheehan’s free-kick a couple of minutes later.
From then on in Cinderford began to take control of possession as Town were wasteful in their attempts to push forward and it needed a smart save from Etheridge to deny Richard Greaves’ glancing header from Sheehan’s free-kick from finding the bottom corner.
Town’s fast start seemed to be a distant memory by the end of the first period and luckily their opponents did not create any further opportunities to test Etheridge between the sticks.
Two minutes after the restart Town had the ball in the net when Nabill Shariff expertly found the bottom corner from a relatively tight angle, but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside.
Barring that early chance, the second half did not prove to be much of a spectacle and it needed a desperate block from Jordan Williams to deny Matt MacDonald’s low drive from finding the far corner prior to the hour mark.
However, just four minutes later Town got the all-important goal when a superb cross-field pass from Creaney was collected by Wilson who surged into the box before squaring to the centre of goal where Isaac was on hand to slot home from close range with aplomb.
The visitors came within a whisker of levelling the scores in the 67th minute, but Hunt could only send his header wide of the far post after connecting with Richard Greaves’ delightful in-swinging cross.
Town should have gone 2-0 up five minutes later when Isaac put through Albi Skendi, but the Town midfielder could not sort his feet out and a perfectly-timed last-ditch tackle brought an end to the opportunity.
Town’s intentions to go for the killer second goal in the final 15 minutes were made apparent when Baillie brought on Chris Cox, Grocott and Taylor, and the extra attacking threat certainly made an impact on proceedings as Cinderford were pressed deep into their own half.
Despite this, the visitors still posed a threat going forward and as time whittled down, a few nerves started to creep in among the Town defence as lower-ranked Cinderford tried to force penalties.
Although the visitors had a free-kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time, Sheehan’s delivery was claimed by Etheridge and the resulting boot up the pitch brought the full-time whistle to confirm Town as cup winners.
TOWN: Ross Etheridge, Lewis Wilson (Chris Cox 72), Cody Fisher, James Fry, Mo Sebbeh-Njie, Jordan Williams, Wilson Carvalho, Albi Skendi, Nabil Shariff, Dan Creaney (Will Grocott 65), Kynan Isaac (Mike Taylor 78). Unused subs: Tom Fishwick, Rajan Shergill.
CINDERFORD: Jordan Dibble, Sam Turl, Lewis Binns, Ben Watkins, Nick Rhodes (Blaine Waugh 77), Craig Norman, Lorcan Sheehan, Richard Greaves (Andy Lewis 77), Josh Hunt, Matt McDonald. Unused subs: James Harding, Robbie Atkinson, Alex Harris.