TWO late headed goals propelled Leamington into the semi-finals of the Birmingham Senior Cup at the Phillips 66 Community Stadium on Tuesday night, writes Bryan Hale.
Simeon Tulloch’s first-half strike had for a long time looked as if it would be enough to send Stratford Town through, but the Brakes hit back with two goals inside as many minutes to claim a 2-1 success.
With Justin Marsden, Jamie Spencer and Mike Taylor all cup-tied, Carl Adams had limited striking options and he elected to play Liam Francis up front alongside Charlie Faulkner and Simeon Tulloch.
Stratford were the first to seriously threaten in the 12th minute when they worked the ball in from the right for Francis to have a shot blocked at point-blank range by Jamie Hood with Will Grocott’s effort from the rebound being deflected behind.
Stratford continued to press and went ahead on 25 minutes when Francis slipped the ball though to Tulloch in the right of the penalty area, and his shot beat the diving Brakes keeper Tony Breeden, who got his right hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
Courtney Baker-Richardson went close to equalising on the half-hour mark with a fiercely-struck shot which was pushed behind by Niall Cooper and when the subsequent corner came across Baker-Richardson was not far away with an audacious overhead kick.
Ten minutes later, Dan Summerfield got forward for Stratford down the right to let fly with a decent 30-yard attempt which flew narrowly over while shortly after the dangerous Baker-Richardson was equally close with low right foot drive past Cooper’s right-hand post as the interval was reached with Stratford’s lead still intact.
Courtney-Richardson again went close for the Brakes two minutes into the second half, firing into the side netting after a strong run down the inside right channel.
Five minutes later, a corner from the right led to Guy Clark having a shot charged down and when the ball was returned into the penalty area, Grocott’s header came back off the bar with Breeden well beaten.
Ahmed Obeng was introduced to add some pace for the Brakes, but it was midfielder Darren Pond who tested Cooper in the 70th minute with a rasping effort which was spectacularly pushed behind by Stratford’s ex-Leamington keeper.
Cooper again excelled ten minutes later deflecting behind a Darren Pond strike at point-blank range, but when ex-Stratford wide man Rob Thompson-Brown launched the resulting corner into the penalty area, it was met by a bullet header from Jamie Hood to level it all up.
A minute later, the Brakes forced another corner which Thompson-Brown again delivered into the penalty area and this time it was Baker-Richardson who powered the header into the net. There was no way back for Stratford after that.
Stratford Town: Niall Cooper, Dan Summerfield, Guy Clark, James Fry (c), Liam Francis, Jean Kalenda, Simeon Tulloch, Barry Fitzharris, Charlie Faulkner (Charlie Evans 84), Will Grocott, Ben Stephens (Callum Ingram 86).