Midland League, Les James Challenge Cup, Quarter-finals
FC Stratford 1 (Gifford 31)
Coventry Alvis 3 (Linton 45, Bourne 58, Keasey 90+1)
Report by Craig Gibbons
A LACKLUSTRE performance from FC Stratford saw them crash out of the Les James Challenge Cup quarter-finals at the hands of an impressive Coventry Alvis outfit.
Dave Poulson’s men took the lead against the run of play in the 31st minute through James Gifford’s lobbed effort, but on the stroke of half-time, the visitors deservedly got back on level terms when Dildale Linton diverted Tyrike Richards’s shot into the back of the net.
Adam Bourne put Alvis ahead in the 58th minute and then substitute Riley Keasey added the third in second-half stoppage time to secure the visitors’s place in the last four.
FC boss Dave Poulson made three changes to the team which beat Feckenham on Tuesday night, with Louis McDonald, Tom Daccus and Tom Parnaby drafted into the starting XI in favour of Michael O’Regan, Dean Poulson and Nick Cox.
But it was the visitors who got a stranglehold on proceedings early doors and they missed two gilt-edged chances inside the opening ten minutes to break the deadlock.
Ryan Palmer got in behind the Stratford defence after a lovely weighted throughball only to see his shot saved by the boot of Luis Sone before the follow-up effort from Bourne was crucially blocked on the line by Sacha Everard.
Alvis continued to enjoy plenty of the possession, but despite their dominance on the ball, they went behind against the run of play just past the half-hour mark.
James Parnaby picked off a loose ball deep in the Alvis half before playing through Gifford, who showed great composure to gently lift the ball over the onrushing Deane Paine and into the back of the net.
Stunned by the goal, the visitors came right back at the hosts and ten minutes before the break they came close to getting back on level terms.
The lively Palmer did well to create some space for himself on the right-hand side of the box before beating his man, cutting inside and firing a left-footed shot which forced a smart save out of Sone down low.
Sone then did well to tip Linton’s fierce drive towards the near post behind for a corner, but it was from the ensuing set-piece which gave Alvis their equaliser.
The hosts cleared the initial corner, but failed to deal with the recycled ball into the box and although Richards’s effort was going wide, Linton stuck out a leg and stabbed the ball home from close range.
Just like Tuesday night Stratford were sluggish out the blocks in the second half and it needed another fine stop from Sone to deny Linton from bagging his and Alvis’s second goal of the afternoon.
Linton was certainly the man having all the chances and six minutes later he saw a vicious volley from the edge of the area go straight down the throat of Sone.
Stratford struggled to get into their rhythm, although they did have a sight of goal in the 55th minute, with Alvis keeper Paine needing two bites of the cherry to grasp Parnaby’s fierce low drive from 18 yards out.
Three minutes later, though, Poulson’s men found themselves 2-1 down.
Richards went on a good 20-yard run and saw his cross-shot deflect into the air, but Linton won the aerial challenge inside the box and laid the ball into the path of Bourne who had the simple task of tapping in at the back post.
Sone then came to the rescue of Stratford just a couple of minutes later, flying to his left-hand side to superbly claw away Richards’s curling shot which looked destined for the top corner.
Dominant Alvis almost made it 3-1 with 17 minutes remaining, as Bourne’s 22-yard free-kick cannoned off the post and away from danger.
But the visitors were not to be denied for much longer, though, as they scored their third goal of the afternoon in the first minute of stoppage time.
Sone pulled off two fantastic saves to firstly deny Richards and then Keasey, but there was nothing the FC keeper could do to stop the latter tapping in the rebound from close range to secure Alvis’s place in the last four.
STRATFORD: Luis Sone, James Robbins, Louis McDonald (Robbie Sone 65), Steve Roche, Sacha Everard, Danny Janes, Tom Daccus (Rob Singer 65), Dan Atkins, James Gifford (Danny May 85), Tom Parnaby, Ashley Wilkes. Unused sub: Dan Kirby.
ALVIS: Deane Paine, Ismaeel Mahmood, Daniel Purvin, Frankie Evans (Riley Keasey 65), Mitchell Boe, Danny Cairns, Adam Bourne (Steve McKenna 90), Jacob Jones (Kier Mallen 66), Ryan Palmer, Dildale Linton, Tyrike Richards. Unused sub: Jack Hartopp.
ATTENDANCE: 46 (head count)