History-making Stratford Town reach FA Cup fourth qualifying round for very first time with 3-2 victory over Long Eaton United
Stratford Town 3
Andoh 16, Grocott 31, Wilson 83
Long Eaton United 2
Walker 10, Graham 36
FA Cup, Third Qualifying Round
LEWIS Wilson struck seven minutes from time to fire Stratford Town into the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup for the very first time in the club’s history.
With the score at 2-2 as the game headed into its dying embers, it looked as though the two sides would battle it out once again on Tuesday night to secure a place in a round they had never reached before.
But in a late twist second-half substitute Will Dawes got into the box and while the initial cross was blocked, the ball was recycled back into the area and after a bit of pinball, Wilson was on hand to smash the ball high into the roof of the net from close range to send the Bards into the next round, just one win away from the first round 'proper'.
Long Eaton, who had dispatched three higher-ranked teams en route to the third qualifying round, gave Paul Davis’s men a right scare on a drizzly afternoon at the Arden Garages Stadium.
And it was the unbeaten United Counties Premier North outfit which took the lead after just ten minutes. Jamie Walker swung a deep free-kick into a crowded penalty area and with the Bards unable to clear their lines, Kieran Walker was on hand to flick the ball into the back of the net.
That goal seemed to energise the Bards and almost immediately they were back on level terms when Enoch Andoh went on a mazy run through the heart of the defence before seeing his deflected shot fly wide of the mark.
There were loud appeals for handball and the remonstrations from a clearly frustrated Andoh earned the lively winger a yellow card. Five minutes later, though, Andoh did not have anything to argue about as he got the hosts back on level terms.
Captain Will Grocott’s delivery towards the back post bounced kindly off a Long Eaton defender into the path of Andoh, who had the simple task of finding the back of the net from just a couple of yards out to bring the scores level.
The fast and frenetic pace of the first-half provided real entertainment for the 275-strong crowd who braved the rainy conditions and in what was an end-to-end first period, the Bards completed the comeback after 31 minutes.
Playmaker Ashley Sammons threaded a neat pass into the feet of Grocott that allowed the skipper to find himself one-on-one with Long Eaton goalkeeper Sam Wilson. Wilson rushed off his line and made himself as big as possible, but Grocott showed great calmness to place the ball into the bottom corner with aplomb.
Delight turned to dismay just five minutes later when Long Eaton restored parity. Long throw-ins were causing the Bards defence all sorts of problems and it was from this kind of set-piece that led to the equaliser. Kieran Walker launched the ball into the box and Romaine Graham rose highest to glance the ball past the rooted Liam O’Brien.
There was an explosive start to the second half and with barely a minute on the clock Grocott was denied from close range by Wilson following some good work from Isaac. Immediately up the other end an unmarked Micah Jebbison headed wide.
Wilson was proving to be in inspired for the visitors and he had to get down low to deny Jaanai Gordon after the striker neatly turned his man before getting a shot off on goal. Another brilliant save from the Long Eaton shot-stopper then denied Andoh from getting his second goal of the game.
It looked as though the Bards had taken the lead in the 67th minute when Ahmed Obeng collected a superb Sammons throughball and expertly finished past Wilson, but the ‘goal’ was chalked out for offside.
However, the hosts would be not denied and in the 83rd minute they got the decisive winning goal. Second-half substitute Dawes was proving a real handful on the left wing and his pace and trickery enabled him to surge into the penalty area.
While the initial cross was blocked, the ball was recycled into the box and after Long Eaton failed to clear the danger, Wilson was on hand to smash home from close range to secure Stratford’s place in the fourth qualifying round.
BARDS: O’Brien, Wilson, Isaac, Fry, Magunda, Williams, Obeng (Awadh 78), Andoh (Dawes 67), Gordon, Grocott (Turner 90+3), Sammons. Unused subs: Vann, Lafferty, James, Beresford, Turner.
LONG EATON: S. Wilson, B. Wilson, Parker (Shaw 33), Robinson (Korzenewski 76), Graham, K. Walker, Jebbison, Marshall (Fearon 76), Campbell, Gordon, J. Walker. Unused subs: Deakin, Pitts, Gwanero, Bache.