Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1

Tuesday 21st February 2012
Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1
Staffordshire FA Vase Quarter Final
At: Old Police Sports Ground, Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 120 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:41; second-half: 50:00

Brocton retained the local bragging rights with a 4-1 victory in the second derby of the season to follow up November’s Vase win at Evans Park. With a place in the Staffs Vase Semi Finals at stake, Sam Bell opened the scoring with an early goal and completed his hat-trick with two more in the closing stages to put the outcome beyond doubt. In between, a super strike from David Berks doubled the Badgers’ advantage and Dave Woodvine pulled a goal back to give Town some hope of forcing extra time. This was a feisty content which I watched in the company of ‘local legend’ Gary Hazlehurst who provided full match live commentary on StaffordFM.

Brocton, who have a realistic chance of winning the Midland Combination, must now wait until Saturday teatime before finding out whether they face a trip to Norton United or Walsall Wood in the semi finals on Saturday 10th March. The other semi final is Redgate Clayton or Bilston v Wolstanton United or Florence. The four Staffordshire FA Vase Quarter Final ties were due to be played 10 days ago when freezing temperatures forced all of them to be postponed.

I felt a real sense of occasion at the Old Police Sports Ground hosting its first competitive derby game between the teams– a decent-sized crowd, vocal support for both sides, the aforementioned radio commentary and keenly-contested game.

During the afternoon, I’d received a message from Henfield Bee (aka Mike) from the Non-League Matters Forum to say he was travelling to the game; it was good to chat and put a face to the name during half-time. As a coincidence, he sat near Adam Checkley, Brocton’s Assistant Secretary, during the second half who is a fellow Brentford fan. Also at the game were friends Jonathan and Jeff who came over to join in the conversation at half-time. With all the chatting, I couldn’t make use of my hospitality pass.

Even though their grounds are barely a mile apart, Brocton (5th position with 37 points from 20 games) are members of the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division while Stafford Town (15th with 33 points from 25 games) compete in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division – both at step 6 with promotion to the Baker Joiner Midland Alliance the ultimate goal.

I’ve described the Old Police Sports Ground before – after all tonight was my seventh visit. With hardstanding all round, the main floodlight pitch boasts a seated stand on halfway containing around 100 individual dark green seats.

As usual, the lineups were displayed in the hospitality room window. Stafford were lacking leading scorer Sam Agar as well as Craig Hulme and Ollie Parker who, like Agar, were injured during the 6-3 win at Darlaston on Saturday. Brocton included several former Stafford Rangers players in Matt Skinner, David Berks, Gary Fife and Richard Miller. Town’s Dave Woodvine also played for The Boro while Sam Bell is on loan from Marston Road.

“As we are, green kick,” announced referee Andy Mapperson and Brocton (wearing the usual green shirts, white shorts and greebn socks) got the game underway attacking the changing rooms end in the first half.

Stafford Town (in familiar all red kit with black trim) created some early pressure and won a free-kick 25 yards out for a foul on Morgan Hurley by Matt Skinner. Hurley hit the target and Badgers goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse made a comfortable save.

Brocton quickly got forward and took the lead in the 7th minute. Bell, on the right inside the area, was given time to fire across the face of goal and into the far left corner of the net.

The Reds had goalkeeper Russ Todd to thank for denying Brocton a second goal within two minute. Defender Richard Jones got forward to hit a low left-foot shot which the diving Todd turned round the right-hand post.

Defences were very much on top as both sides struggled to make an impact in the first third. Jordan Bloor, who certainly impressed pushed further forward down the left in a more attacking role, found Josh Anderson at the near post who saw his shot blocked by a defender – surprisingly the referee gave a goal kick. Town were awarded another free-kick in a dangerous position in the 20th minute but Mat Dockerty sent the ball over the bar.

Scoring opportunities started to be created as the interval approached. Gary Fife fed Bell on the right who fired wide of the near post. Fife then curled a free-kick across the face of goal and wide of the far right-hand post with Todd diving at full stretch. At the other end, Hurley chased a long ball which deflected off the advancing Whitehouse for a corner.

Needing a goal to get back into the tie, Stafford Town made a positive start to the second half, displaying battling qualities. Good work by Bloor set up a chance for Hurley who saw a low shot gathered up by Whitehouse. The Reds continued to threaten and Carl Morris fired wide. From a Town point of view, there was plenty to be encouraged about.

Just before the hour mark, Todd got down to hold a well-struck shot from David Harvey from 25 yards out. The contest was certainly hotting up and both Bloor and Jones picked up bookings in quick succession to add to the four names taken by Mr Mapperson during the first half.

Back in November, David Berks, once of Aston Villa and Stafford Rangers, scored Brocton’s winner in the FA Vase tie at Evans Park. And tonight, he netted another superb goal to double his side’s lead in the 74th minute. Jamie Evans got down the left and crossed low into the area. The ball was cleared to Berks, 25 yards out, who had time to pick his spot and shot straight into the top left corner of the net.

However, it was game over. Hurley had a goal disallowed for offside two minutes later and Town gained a lifeline in the 84th minute. Dockerty delivered a free-kick into a packed area where Dave Woodvine shot low into the bottom right corner.

So, there were six minutes to go plus stoppage time remaining and Town just needing one goal to force extra time. However, Bell, StaffordFM’s Man of the Match, had a final say on the outcome with two goals in three minutes at the end to put the outcome beyond doubt.

In the 87th minute, Bell latched onto a ball down the middle and beat covering defender Mark Johnson before slotting past the advancing Todd from 20 yards out.

Bell completed his hat-trick with a well-taken goal in the 90th minute. He received a pass from Fife, got past Todd and slotted into an empty net.

Derby games are coming along like buses this season and Stafford Town will face Brocton for a third time this season in four weeks time. The prize at stake on Tuesday 20th March will be a place in the Walsall Senior Cup final and again StaffordFM will be providing live commentary from the Old Police Sports Ground. Before then, the Reds need to keep picking up points in the league to ensure they finish sufficiently high to earn a place in next season’s FA Cup.

The late Bob Gee was fondly remembered by a couple of the people I spoke to. As I wrote on Saturday, RIP Bob.

Brocton (green/white/green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Richard Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Matt Skinner (capt), 5. Andy Chandler, 6. David Harvey, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Mick Fox, 9. Gary Fife, 10. David Berks, 11. Dan Lomas. Subs: 12. Richard Miller (for Bell, 90), 14. Joe Pickering (for Fox, 56), 15. Andy Bourne (for Harvey, 84), 16. Ashley Justin (not used), 17. Richard Greaves (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Russ Todd, 2. Mat Dockerty, 3. Mark Johnson, 4. Adam Seward, 5. Tom Betts, 6. James Price, 7. Carl Morris (capt), 8. Dave Woodvine, 9. Morgan Hurley, 17. Josh Anderson, 11. Jordan Bloor. Subs: 12. Jack Milgate (for Anderson, 79), 14. Wayne Bailey (not used), 15. Sean O’Callaghan, 16. Adam Price, GK. Andy Heal. Manager: Steve Dockerty.

Referee: Andy Mapperson.

1-0 Sam Bell (8)
2-0 David Berks (74)
2-1 Dave Woodvine (84)
3-1 Sam Bell (87)
4-1 Sam Bell (90)

Brocton: Dan Lomas (YC, 45+2), Richard Jones (YC, 67)
Stafford: Adam Seward (YC, 30), Russ Todd (YC, 39), Morgan Hurley (YC, 50), Jordan Bloor (YC, 65)