Stafford Town 5 Pelsall Villa 0

Saturday 24th September 2011
Stafford Town 5 Pelsall Villa 0
FA Carlsberg Vase Second Qualifying Round
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Attendance: 47
Weather: cloudy, occasional drizzle
Duration: first-half: 45:10; second-half: 50:30

A third visit of the season and seventh in total to Evans Park for what was arguably the biggest game for Stafford Town since the two FA Cup Third Qualifying Round ties against Harrow Borough almost 11 years ago? The prizes on offer to the winner today were £700 and a home tie in the First Round against either Wolverhampton SC or Atherstone Town, and The Reds stormed into the next round with a five-goal haul against Pelsall Villa who were made to pay for failing to convert any of their numerous scoring opportunities.

Pelsall should have been two-goals up by the time Tom Smith opened the scoring for Town in the 19th minute. By half-time, Craig Hulme and Sam Agar had both increased the lead even though the visitors created the bulk of the chances. Daniel Battison saw ‘red’ for his part in an off-the-ball incident that few saw and Stafford finished off a memorable afternoon with late goals from Agar and Hulme.

Stafford Town (14 points from 7 games) went into the tie in 7th position in the West Midlands League Premier Division table on a decent run of six league and cup games without defeat. Visitors Pelsall Villa (5 points from 5 games) occupied 13th position in the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division table and they hadn’t tasted defeat since the end of August. The visitors included former Stafford Rangers defender Jon Patrick in their starting line-up.

In the previous First Qualifying Round, Town travelled to division rivals Goodrich and came out on top 7-6 after extra time thanks to a last minute penalty. Villa also won by the odd goal, 3-2 at home to Coleshill Town of the Midland Alliance.

Stafford Town (in their familiar all red kit) got the game underway attacking the cricket ground end – of should that be rugby end with St Leonards playing at home at the same time!

It really should have been 1-0 to Pelsall in the 12th minute after defender James Price failed to clear Ryan Williams’s low cross and unchallenged Daniel Battisson surprisingly fired the loose ball over the bar from just a few yards out. Ashley Lawley then saw a header blocked at the near post. Having survived these scares, Town keeper Andy Heal pulled off a superb save to tip over a dipping 20-yard volley from Phillip Gale. Nervous moments for the Reds.

But it was Town who took the lead in the 19th minute. Sam Agar stayed onside to latch onto a ball down the left and unselfishly squared a pass for Tom Smith to side foot home from 10 yards out (pictured right). Agar was again involved four minutes later when Villa keeper Chris Collins made a mess of dealing with his right-wing cross to present Craig Hulme with a simple tap-in.

Needing to get back into the game, Pelsall (in white shorts, black shorts and black socks) continued to create chances. Heal kept out a free-kick from Williams and did well to palm a dangerous corner over the bar delivered by the same player. Just before the half-hour, Jason Holmes fired against the bar and Heal saved Battisson’s follow-up shot.

The Pelsall defence was breached again in the 41st minute when unchallenged Agar converted a low left-wing cross at the far post.

The start of the second half continued in the same pattern with Pelsall continuing to create chances. A low right-foot drive from Williams flashed past the right-hand post and Holmes fired across the face of goal.

Just before the hour mark, Smith had the ball in the back of the Pelsall net but from an offside position. In the next attack, the same player surged between two defenders and fired narrowly wide.

Perhaps the only moment of real controversy occurred in the 71st minute which few actually saw and not by me sat in the stand. The assistant of the far side, running the line for the Stafford defence, raised his flag and as a result Villa’s Battisson was dismissed while Town’s Price escaped with a booking.

Even with ten men, Pelsall remained a threat and Heal was forced to make saves to deny Holmes and Williams. Stafford needed a fourth goal and though they’d got it when Carl Morris slotted home Matt Buckham’s pass. But celebrations were cut short by a raised flag for offside.

The fourth goal did come in the 89th minute to settle any nerves. Agar turned inside the area and fired a right foot shot past Collins into the bottom left corner. And Hulme netted his second and Town’s fifth in stoppage time. From out on the left he hit a low cross-cum-shot that ended up in the far corner of the net.

Full credit should be given to Stafford for converting their chances and working hard to keep a first clean sheet of the season. They now face a home tie with Atherstone Town in four weeks time.

1-0 Smith (19)
2-0 Hulme (23)
3-0 Agar (41)
4-0 Agar (89)
5-0 Hulme (90+3)