STRATFORD Town Youth advanced into the second qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup with a thoroughly professional performance against a combative Haughmond side at a wet and windy Arden Garages Stadium on Thursday evening, writes Bryan Hale.
The Shrewsbury-based visitors had achieved a notable win away at Bromsgrove Sporting in the previous round, but with the weather becoming increasingly wild they were literally blown away as Town stormed into a three-goal lead in the opening 20 minutes.
Tommy Harrington started it all off in just the sixth minute when he finished off a flowing Town move which split the Haughmond defence by driving the ball past the helpless Haughmond keeper Luke Hyde from 15 yards out.
Haughmond responded with Callum Hunt firing narrowly over, but Town kept up the pressure and when two up on the quarter-hour mark when Ross Quartermaine’s right wing corner caused mayhem in the penalty area and Josh Aspinall-Smyth blasted the loose ball into the roof of the net.
With Town totally in control, it was 3-0 five minutes later with an accomplished finish from Harry Hartin into the bottom corner from virtually on the penalty spot.
Haughmond tried to get back into the game with Town keeper Ryan Woodward saving from James Hill at the foot of his left hand post and then coming smartly off his line to deflect an Edward Shakeshaft effort behind.
And on 41 minutes they pulled a goal back when Zac Windsor’s 25-yard free-kick swerved under Woodward’s despairing dive.
Sensing they now had a glimmer of hope Haughmond introduced all three of their substitutes at the beginning of the second half and for the next ten or so minutes they enjoyed their best spell of the evening only for Windsor to miss their two best chances by shooting straight at Woodward and then volleying over from eight yards out.
But with Aspinall-Smyth and Sacha Everard in their usual commanding form in the centre of Town’s backline Haughmond’s effort began to peter out, and on 62 minutes Town added their killer fourth goal.
Gaining possession some 25 yards out, Dan Atkins used the advantage of the following wind to hit a dipping right footer which Hyde did well to get his hands to only for it to then drop behind him into the net.
There was no way back for Haughmond after that as Town regained their earlier composure and went close to extending their lead still further.
Hartin saw his shot blocked on the line, substitute Bradley West had a decent attempt only held by Hyde at the second attempt and then another beaten away by the keeper while in between Hyde could then only watch nervously as a Quartermaine free kick drifted narrowly over.
Late on, James Pomeroy cleared a Hill header off the line and in the final minute Hunt blazed over from close in but Town were long since safely through and Darren Timms’ progressive side have now won four out of five in all competitions this season.