Spirited Stratford Town push Burton Albion all the way in Birmingham Senior Cup tie
Stratford Town 2
James 30 83
Burton Albion 2
Patrick 43, Maddox 60
Burton won 3-0 on penalties
Birmingham Senior Cup, First Round
A SPIRITED Stratford Town pushed an experienced Burton Albion side all the way in the first round of the Birmingham Senior Cup on Tuesday night, eventually losing out 3-0 on penalties.
The much-changed Bards team performed exceptionally well on the night and while the visitors enjoyed most of the early possession, it was the hosts who took the lead on the half-hour mark when Owen James pounced on a mistake by Ellery Balcombe to open the scoring.
Omari Patrick levelled things up just before the break and then Jacob Maddox fired in from the edge of the area on the hour mark to put the Brewers ahead.
However, the Bards were not down and out yet, and James was proving to be a real handful up top, hustling and harrying for the ball.
And with seven minutes to go he was there to pounce on another mistake, this time collecting a poor back pass, rounding Balcombe and slotting home from a tight angle to send the game to penalties.
Here, Balcombe proved to be the hero, as he saved James’s and Lewis Wilson’s spot-kicks while Will Dawes saw his effort hit the inside of the post.
Aaron Amadi-Holloway, Terry Taylor and Ciaran Gilligan all scored to give their side a 3-0 victory in the shoot-out.
Head coach Paul Davis made no less than nine changes to the team which trounced Nuneaton Borough 4-0 in the FA Cup, with Wilson and Ashley Sammons the only players to retain a place in the starting XI.
Louis Beresford, who impressed against Leicester City in a pre-season friendly back in August, was back between the sticks, there was a welcome return to the defence for Michael O’Regan after a spell at Easington Sports while Oxford United loanee Ben Watt was also making his debut for the Bards.
Meanwhile, the Brewers team featured a string of players who have started or been involved with the first team squad for the League One outfit.
With so much experience in the squad it was no surprise that the visitors were enjoying more of the ball from the onset, but the Bards were more than holding their own in defence to repel any attacks.
There was an early test, though, for the returning Beresford who had to get down low to his right to stop Tom O’Connor’s shot from the edge of the area nestling into the bottom corner.
The Brewers were particularly dangerous down the wings, in particular Patrick was enjoying his battle up against Watt while on the opposite side Joe Nyamwema whipped in a few dangerous crosses which led to nothing.
However, the visitors were guilty of giving possession away cheaply on a number of occasions and James had two sighters midway through the first half, but both failed to trouble Burton’s second choice goalkeeper Balcombe.
Despite not having much to do, Balcombe made a calamitous error on the half-hour mark which allowed the Bards to take the lead. The goalkeeper’s touch outside of his area was heavy and James was quick to pounce to rob the ball and fire into an empty net.
However, Stratford’s lead lasted just 13 minutes when from a corner the flick on by Amadi-Holloway was palmed away by Beresford, but only as far as the dangerous Patrick who had the simple task of levelling the scores from close range.
The equaliser came just a couple of minutes after Patrick had been superbly denied by Beresford after getting in behind the home defence.
After the break it was the Brewers who had the first sight on goal, with second-half substitute John-Joe Power seeing his powerful effort from outside the area parried away by Beresford.
But on the hour mark the visitors completed the turnaround when former Chelsea man Maddox, on loan to the Brewers from Portuguese outfit Vitória de Guimarães, rifled a powerful drive into the bottom left-hand corner from the edge of the area.
Although having some relative control on proceedings, the Brewers were almost pegged back with 18 minutes to go. Dawes did brilliantly on the left-hand side to skip past Gilligan and after surging into the box, his low cross was run onto by Dan Lafferty, whose left-footed shot was saved by the leg of Balcombe.
Six minutes later the Bards missed another huge chance to get back on level terms when a mistake in the middle of the park allowed James to race through on goal, but after doing everything right he could only lash over from inside the area.
However, James would not be denied and with seven minutes to go he got the Bards back on level terms following another critical Brewers error. After intercepting a poor back pass, he managed to sprint clear, round Balcombe and somehow slot home into an empty net from an incredibly tight angle and send the tie to penalties.
Up first from 12 yards was James and his effort was pushed over the bar by Balcombe. Amari-Holloway scored his to put Burton 1-0 up.
Dawes was next and although he sent Balcombe the wrong way, the ball bounced off the inside of the post and back out.
Taylor comfortably smashed in his spot-kick to make it 2-0 and then Balcombe made his second save of the night to deny Wilson.
Gilligan then stepped up and placed the ball into the top corner to book Burton’s place in the next round.
BARDS: Beresford, Vann, Watt, Wilson, O’Regan, Elliot, Lafferty, Leachman-Whittingham (Andoh 68), Dawes, James, Sammons. Unused subs: Williams, Fry, Grocott, Gordon.
BREWERS: Balcombe, Gilligan, Redfern, Latty-Fairweather, Blake-Tracy (Hill 65), O’Connor (Power h/t), Taylor, Patrick (Niven h/t), Maddox (Emery 65), Nyamwema, Amadi-Holloway. Unused subs: Moore.