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Strong second-half Shrewsbury Town showing ends Stratford Town's magical FA Cup run



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THREE second-half goals in the space of eight minutes helped Shrewsbury Town avoid a huge FA Cup first round upset and overcome a brave and spirited Stratford Town side, running out 5-1 winners.

Will Grocott scored the opening goal of the game. Photo: Mark Williamson
Will Grocott scored the opening goal of the game. Photo: Mark Williamson

There was a fantastic atmosphere prior to kick-off and the home fans were handed a real moment to cherish when captain Will Grocott opened the scoring after just five minutes, with his tame shot squirming under goalkeeper Harry Burgoyne.

The four-division difference between the two sides certainly wasn’t that clear in the opening half and it took until the 25th minute for Steve Cotterill’s men to get back on level terms, with Ryan Bowman getting the first of his two goals after getting on the end of Nathanael Ogbeta's cross from the left.

The Bards would do well to keep the scores level going into the break, but an eight-minute goal spree in the second period blew them away. Bowman got Shrewsbury’s second before stunning efforts from Luke Leahy and Elliott Bennett put the visitors into a commanding 4-1 lead.

Stratford would not sit back and gave their all to try and give the fans another goal to cheer, but the afternoon’s scoring would be concluded by Shrewsbury in the second minute of stoppage time, with substitute Tom Bloxham confidently stroking home.

Substitute Tom Bloxham scored Shrewsbury Town's fifth goal. Photo: Mark Williamson
Substitute Tom Bloxham scored Shrewsbury Town's fifth goal. Photo: Mark Williamson

This magical cup run may be over, but the Bards did not disgrace themselves. The players put on a really good account of themselves and the club in front of the ITV4 cameras – and the scoreline did not give a fair reflection of the effort they gave. A mention must also go to all the volunteers, directors and chairman Jed McCrory for putting in a stellar effort to make the day possible and one to remember.

Head coach Paul Davis made four changes to the team which lost to Royston Town in the FA Trophy last Saturday, with Lewis Wilson, Kynan Isaac, Jaanai Gordon and Will Dawes coming in for Michael O’Regan, Owen James, Jack Turner and Enoch Andoh.

Even before the game got under way there was drama as one of the assistant referees spotted there was a hole in the net guarded by Liam O’Brien. Groundsman Mark Bickley was quickly on the case and after a short interlude, the match was given the go-ahead.

Over the course of the first round weekend there had not been many monumental shocks, but with just five minutes on the clock the Bards found themselves ahead.

Aaron Pierre conceded a free-kick on the left-hand side of the box for a foul on Gordon and the resulting set-piece caught the visitors napping. Grocott played a neat one-two with Sammons and his somewhat miscued effort rolled underneath Burgoyne and into the back of the net.

Stunned by going a goal behind, the Shrews were struggling to really settle into their rhythm and were coming up against a stern Bards defence, with Jordan Williams in particular being in the right place at the right time to put an end to any threats.

Action from Stratford Town's defeat to Shrewsbury Town. Photo: Mark Williamson
Action from Stratford Town's defeat to Shrewsbury Town. Photo: Mark Williamson

A lot of the Salop play came down the left and it took until the 22nd minute to force O’Brien into a save, with Ogbeta cutting inside and seeing his shot parried away. Three minutes later, though, the Shrews reaped their rewards from the left-hand side as a dangerous Ogbeta cross was met by Bowman who managed to poke the ball home from six yards out.

Despite being pegged back, the Bards did not let that get them down and despite the four-tier difference between the two teams, the hosts were more than holding their own.

As for Salop, they continued to focus their attacks down the left-hand side. But it was actually the opposite side where their next big chance came in the 45th minute. Daniel Udoh cut inside onto his left foot and his powerful shot looked bound for the top corner, but Williams was perfectly placed to put his head on the line to make the block.

Cotterill’s Shrews continued to push forward, but they could not find a way through this stubborn Stratford side that deserved to go into the break level.

After the break the Shrews were immediately on the front foot and five minutes after the restart Williams came close to putting a cross from the left into his own net, with the ball luckily clipping the edge of the post. From the resulting corner Pierre could only head over.

However, the visitors were not to be denied and in the 54th minute they nosed themselves ahead and it was the Ogbeta-Bowman combination once again. The former Manchester City youth player was causing havoc on the left and his deep cross was met by Bowman who had the simple task of prodding in from close range.

Proud Stratford Town fans applaud the players off the pitch.
Proud Stratford Town fans applaud the players off the pitch.

And three minutes later it was 3-1. From a Stratford corner, the Shrews quickly broke up the other end and a stunning long-range effort from Leahy gave O’Brien no chance, with the world-class strike flying over the former Coventry City shot-stopper and dipping just underneath the crossbar.

The Shrews continued to go up the gears and they had their fourth just past the hour mark. A free-kick on the left side of the penalty area looked like it was going to be delivered by Leahy, but Bennett decided to go for goal and his fabulous effort curled into the top corner to all but end Stratford’s hopes of causing an upset.

The Bards would not go down without a fight and continued to plug away to give the bumper crowd something to celebrate, but they almost found themselves 5-1 down with ten minutes to go when a misplaced pass by Wilson allowed the hat-trick seeking Bowman to race through, but he could only blaze over from just inside the area.

In the second of seven minutes of added time the Shrews bagged their fifth goal when substitute Bloxham breached a stretched Bards defence and confidently stroked the ball home past the on-rushing O’Brien to cap off a fine second-half Shrews display.

Despite the scoreline, the Bards can be proud of their FA Cup run which will live long in the memory of the supporters and every involved with the club for many, many years to come. The hope now will be to get to the first round again in the near future, but now the focus shifts back to the bread and butter of the Southern Premier Central campaign.

BARDS: O’Brien, Vann, Isaac, Fry, Wilson, Williams, Gordon (Andoh 76), Grocott, Sammons, Obeng (James 45+5), Dawes (Power 82). Unused subs: Lafferty, Beresford, O’Regan, Chambers, Turner, Elliott.

SHREWS: Burgoyne, Bennett, Ebanks-Landell, Pierre, Nurse, Ogbeta (Caton 88), Davis, Leahy, Pyke (Leshabela 88), Udoh (Bloxham 85), Bowman (Cosgrove 85). Unused subs: Bevan, Vela, Wilson.

The Stratford Town players applaud the fans. Photo: Mark Williamson
The Stratford Town players applaud the fans. Photo: Mark Williamson


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