Stratford Town win penalty shoot-out to progress in Birmingham Senior Cup
LAST season Stratford Town exited the Birmingham Senior Cup after coming out second best in a penalty shoot-out to Solihull Moors, but they had better luck in another spot-kick showdown at the Arden Garages Stadium on Wednesday evening to progress to the second round against Coventry City’s under-23 side, writes Bryan Hale.
The scheduled 90 minutes had been played at a generous pace throughout but neither side had really threatened to score and a goalless draw had seemed a certainty from some way out, but in the shoot-out Town were emphatic winners.
As usual for this competition, Town fielded an experimental starting line-up with only Chris Cox and Jordan Williams retained from the team that kicked off against Rushall at the weekend.
Keeper Richard Walton, who was to be the hero in the shoot-out, defensive midfielder Guillaume Taty and striker Jordan Patrick all made their debuts followed in the second half by Ty-Rhys Paul-Jones and Josh Cooke from the subs bench as the number of players used by Town this season reached 32, compared with 24 used in the whole of the last campaign.
There was little to enthuse the crowd in the opening quarter of an hour as both teams found it difficult to create a decent opening with Town understandably taking time to gel, but Taty - who spent time at PSG’s Academy - was soon catching the eye with his willingness to get involved as the youthful Sky Blues showed some nice touches, but with little end product.
But there was almost a bizarre goal on the half-hour mark when Patrick’s persistence led to Coventry keeper Corey Addai fluffing his clearance which was picked up by Ross Oulton some 30 yards out, only for his attempted shot at the empty net to drift way off target.
Soon after, Jarrell Hylton sprung to life as he hit decent effort straight at Addai, but there was no real Town pressure until the closing minute of the first half when they forced two corners in succession, both taken by Claudio Dias with the second being confidently claimed by Addai in spite of a challenge from Patrick.
Jack Burroughs had an early chance for Coventry after the break only to delay his shot and be crowded out, but the Sky Blues went the closest yet to opening the scoring in the 51st minute.
Town conceded a free-kick 20 yards out and Chris Camwell’s fiercely-struck effort was spectacularly beaten away by Walton taking off full length to his right.
The game was at last opening up and a couple of minutes later James Hancocks wasn’t far away for Town with a low drive which flew narrowly wide.
With Hancocks starting to boss the midfield Town were having more and more of the meaningful possession and Paul-Jones had a useful attempt deflected behind with twenty minutes to go.
Into the last ten minutes and a stray pass from Ross Oulton was seized on by Jak Hickman who whipped in a tempting cross which had to be turned behind by Dias and from the resulting corner David Bremang’s header landed on the roof of the net.
Addai then held a low cross from Hancocks and Bremang had a shot charged down, but hard though they tried neither side could find that elusive strike which would surely have been the winner and it was all down to the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Dias and Jazz Luckie fired Town into an early 2-0 lead after Hickman had blazed over and Josh Eccles saw his shot superbly pushed away by Walton plunging to his left.
Oulton followed Hickman’s example by shooting over which allowed Camwell to reduce the Sky Blues deficit to 2-1, but Josh Cooke calmly made it 3-1 for Town and when Walton kept out Lewis Green’s effort it was all over and Town were through.
“It’s good to get the win even though it was via a penalty shoot-out” said head of football Tom Baillie afterwards.
“It had been a hectic afternoon with three players being signed on to play in the game and we also used the evening to look at players who had been training with us.
"So we changed a lot of things round and it worked well giving us a number of selection headaches which is what we were looking for.
"I felt that the game was played at a decent tempo and we had to work hard against a good Coventry team, but neither side was able to break the other down which is why it had to be decided in the way it was.
"Overall though I’m happy with our performance and it provided useful game time for all the players involved.”
Stratford Town: Richard Walton, Chris Cox, Cody Fisher (Ty-Rhys Paul-Jones 46), Ross Oulton, Jordan Williams (c), Guillaume Taty, Kynan Isaac, Claudio Dias, Jarrell Hylton (Jazz Luckie 69), Jordan Patrick (Josh Cooke 61), James Hancocks. Subs not used: Kieren Westwood, Lewis Wilson.
Coventry City: Corey Addai, Jak Hickman (c), Sam McCallum, Chris Camwell, Morgan Williams, Reece Ford, Jack Burroughs, Lewis Green, David Bremang, Jodi Jones (Billy Stedman 46), Josh Eccles. Subs not used: Dexter Walters, Tom Bilson, Jonathan Ngandu, Costelus Lautaru.