Joel Richards Memorial Cup, Quarter-finals
Stratford Town Youth 1 (Singer 52)
Rugby Borough 1 (Jack Edwards 75)
(Town won 6-5 on penalties)
Report by Bryan Hale
HARRY MILES’S coolly taken spot-kick propelled Stratford Town Youth into the semi-finals of the Joel Richards Memorial Cup, as they edged out Rugby Borough in a penalty shoot-out after the hard-fought 90 minutes ended with the match all square at 1-1.
Both sides had made a cautious start with no real threat to either goal in the opening quarter of an hour apart from a Jamie Spiers effort for Town which spun away off a defender and a Joel Heeley attempt for Rugby which was an easy save for Town keeper Callum Monaghan.
Heeley went closer in the 20th minute with a dipping shot from the edge of the penalty area which was confidently held by Monaghan under his bar, while at the other end Rob Singer’s pace and persistence was causing the Rugby backline plenty of problems.
But there continued to be few clear-cut chances.
Jack Ballinger twice went close for Town either side of the half-hour mark followed by Monaghan again saving from Heeley, but it was only the woodwork that prevented Rugby from taking the lead a minute before the break when a close-range effort from Dan Hoskins came back off the foot of Monaghan’s right-hand post.
Town, though, were a lot sharper after the restart and went ahead in the 52nd minute when Rob Sone’s perfectly weighted pass split the Rugby defence, allowing Singer to sprint clear and skip round the advancing keeper Noah Murray to slot the ball into the empty net.
With Rugby temporarily stunned at being behind, Town could soon have extended their lead, but substitute Michael Boyd was crowded out at the far post when picked out by a Sone cross from the right followed by Sone surging into the penalty area down the inside right channel only to fire wide.
Murray then plunged full length to his right to push away a well-struck effort from Spiers.
But having survived that spell of Town pressure, Rugby started to have more of the possession and piled forward in search of the equaliser.
Jack Edwards wasn’t far away with a header and Ben Wilson blasted a free-kick from a promising position straight into the Town wall before the former levelled it all up with 15 minutes to go as he found space to hit a low drive into the bottom corner.
That gave Rugby the momentum to press for a winner, but with Jack Vickers and Jacob Williams giving stand-out performances in the middle of the Town defence, they couldn’t find a way through as Town held on to the final whistle.
Under the rules of the competition it was straight to penalties and Rugby made no mistake with their first five while Sone, Spiers, Singer, Cook and Boyd were equally efficient for Town, but when Andrew Kear blazed Rugby’s sixth high over the bar it gave Town the chance to finish it.
And Miles kept his nerve to do exactly that and send Nick Ballinger’s side to an away tie at Rushall Olympic for a place in the final.