Bescot beckons as FC look to retain cup
AN experimental line-up paid off for FC Stratford boss Jon Hill after his side booked their place in the Midweek Floodlit Challenge Cup final – the competition they won last season.
Two goals from Dan Chaundy and another from Collins Tanor – all in the first half – wrapped up a 3-1 victory over visitors Paget Rangers at the end of a cup tie that saw some subtle changes to the line-up.
Central defender and skipper Cian Hamer started the game just in front of the backfour with Dan Atkins moving to a more advanced role as Hill looked to try something different against the MFL Division One side.
The FC boss explained: “We played Cian in midfield as we felt he could get on the ball, win challenges and break things up. That meant we could play Dan Atkins a bit higher as we felt that would suit Sam Rodber, our striker, with Dan winning the flick-ons and being the decoy to allow people to move off him.
“It was something we experimented with and then in the second half we moved back to a more traditional, defensive line-up to see the game out and get us into the final.
“We had an objective at the start of the season to try and be competitive in all our cup competitions and obviously having won this one last year, this was one we were keen to retain. I’m proud of the way the lads showed their togetherness and fight – it wasn’t a classic second half but I’m proud of the way they dug in.
“We had some really good chances in the first half. We hit the bar and Sam Rodber has gone close on a couple of occasions with their keeper being forced into a couple of good saves. It could have been four or five but it was about us staying with the game plan even when we went a goal down and not pressing the panic button.
“We said to the lads that if we keep to what we believe in which is keeping the ball, then we would tire them out and eventually the goals would come. By half-time we knew we were halfway there but they came back into it. In the second half they were pretty gung-ho and threw the kitchen sink at us to really give it a go. They changed their shape slightly which really suited their direct approach as they put it on us.
“But one thing that we have worked on lately is being more resilient and being able to see games out, being tougher to beat. That is all part of their development. So, to grind it out was pleasing for us.”
Cradley Town beat fellow MFL Division One side OJM Black Country in the other semi to set up an intriguing final at the end of the season.
Hill added: “I’m pretty sure the final will be at the Bescot again. We had a great day out there last year. Cradley is going to be a really tough game but we will prepare and look forward to it being a carrot at the end of the season. Hopefully we can now bring it home two years in a row.
“The final will be after the season and play-offs so it is a bonus for us and the great thing about cup games is that it can boost your league form. We have been a little bit indifferent in the league but a result like this is going to give us a boost so we can try and turn our ground into something of a fortress, which it should be.”