Jovan Malcolm scores hat-trick as West Bromwich Albion U23s knock much-changed Stratford Town out of Birmingham Senior Cup
Stratford Town 0-4 West Bromwich Albion
Birmingham Senior Cup, First Round
STRATFORD Town bowed out of the Birmingham Senior Cup as they went down 4-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion U23s on Tuesday night.
The Bards did well to keep the Premier League Cup winners at bay for large parts of the first half and looked on course to go into the break level, but Jovan Malcolm nodded in the first of his three goals on the night in the 42nd minute to give the Baggies the advantage.
Malcolm struck again seven minutes into the second half, firing in from Josh Shaw’s cross, to put Richard Beale’s men in control. Gavin Hurren’s young Stratford team continued to plug away and created chances but they were undone late on by two swift counter-attacks, with Malcolm completing his hat-trick in the 88th minute before substitute Akeel Higgins scored two minutes later.
It was a much-changed Stratford team to the one which battled to a 1-1 draw at Coalville Town on Saturday, with Taylor Morrison, Carl Dickinson, Jamie Molyneux and Andre Wright the only survivors.
Among the seven changes included a place in goal for Louis Beresford, while FC Stratford players Aksum White and Cameren Philip were also named in the starting XI. Among the substitutes were academy product Paddy McGrory and young defender Sacha Everard.
Prior to kick-off there was a minute’s applause for footballer Rheiss McLean who died at the age of 23. He played five times for the Bards during the 2019-20 season and scored two goals.
There was an electric start to the cup tie with the home side having three chances to break the deadlock inside the first two minutes, with Philip and Andre Wright seeing shots blocked and Dan Lafferty curling wide of the mark from a tight angle.
After that early flourish the game became an evenly matched affair with both sides enjoying spells of possession but not doing much with it. That said, the Baggies had plenty of pace and power up top and when the Bards did gave the ball away cheaply in the 23rd minute, Reyes Cleary raced into the box and pulled back to Rico Richards whose shot was expertly saved by Beresford.
Cleary, who has been a prolific figure for the Baggies’ youth ranks, was at the centre of most attacks and when he played through Richards, Beresford did well to stand tall and make a crucial block but the offside flag was up anyway.
There was very little separating the two sides and it looked as though it was going to be goalless at the break but in the 42nd minute the Premier League 2 visitors broke the deadlock when Richards’ in-swinging cross was met by Malcolm at the far post and his looping header towards the opposite corner nestled into the back of the net.
Within a minute of the restart, Philip, who had looked lively all game, came close to getting the Bards back on level terms but his turn and shot was smartly saved by the feet of Ronnie Hollingshead. Just three minutes later, though, the Baggies had doubled their lead.
First-half substitute Josh Shaw worked his way to the left-hand side of the box and delivered a low ball into the area where the unmarked Malcolm had all the time to stroke home Albion’s second of the game to put the contest to bed.
The Baggies were asserting their dominance on proceedings but some of Stratford’s younger players continued to impress. White showed a neat turn of pace to run all of 40 yards to surge his way into the box and his deflected low cross caught Molyneux, who was lurking on the penalty spot, off guard and the chance to pull a goal back went as quickly as it arrived.
Philip too was having a decent game leading the line and in the 72nd minute he forced another smart save out of Hollingshead who did well in the few times he was called into action. With ten minutes to go Albion were reduced to ten men after Shaw was shown a second yellow following a push on White, who himself earned a booking for his part in the coming together on the far side.
Malcolm went on to complete his hat-trick in the 88th minute with a deflected effort that crept into the far corner before second-half substitute Higgins rounded off the evening’s scoring two minutes later, using his electric pace to get behind the Bards defence and finish past the onrushing Beresford.
STRATFORD TOWN: Louis Beresford, Aksum White, Taylor Morrison, Josh Hawker, Carl Dickinson (Sacha Everard 54), James O’Neill, Jamie Molyneux (Paddy McGrory 75), Sam Wilding, Andre Wright (Christian Isichei 54), Dan Lafferty, Cameren Philip. Unused subs: Ashley Sammons, Liam O’Brien.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Ronnie Hollingshead, Ethan Ingram, Zac Ashworth, Kevin Mfuamba, Cianole Nguepissi (Reece Hall 62), Aaron Harper-Bailey (Matt Richards 72), Jesse Wangusi, Harry Whitwell (Josh Shaw 32), Jovan Malcolm, Rico Richards, Reyes Cleary (Akeel Higgins 62). Unused subs: Ben Cisse.
REFEREE: Callum Fisk
MATCH RATING: 2/5