Stafford Town 1 Lye Town 4

Tuesday 13th March 2012
Stafford Town 1 Lye Town 4
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1
Attendance: 42 (headcount)
Weather: mild, dry
Duration: first-half: 46:13; second-half: 47:22

Stafford Town’s bid to earn a place in next season’s FA Cup suffered another blow as Lye scored two goals in each half to inflict a heavy defeat on the Reds. The visitors scored twice during the opening 17 minutes before Stafford were reduced to ten men just before the hour mark. A spectacular strike from Morgan Hurley reduced the deficit but Lye hit back with two further unanswered goals.

According to the entry requirements of the FA Cup, ‘clubs in Step 6 of The FA National League System finishing in a League position 1-4 of the season just completed’ will be ‘automatically accepted subject to the ground conforming to the minimum standard’. Also, ‘Clubs playing in Step 6 of The FA National League System finishing in a League position below 4th of the season just completed… to be accepted subject to available places and subject to the ground conforming to the minimum standard’. The West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division is a Step 6 league.

So with Wolverhampton Casuals booking a place in this year’s FA Cup by finishing last season in 12th position, both Stafford Town (currently 16th) and Lye Town (18th) still need to pick up points to climb a few vital positions up the table. The Reds last competed in the competition in 2003/04 and reached the Third Qualifying Round in 2000/01. I remember visiting Lye twice with Stafford Rangers in the FA Cup in 1985 and 1989; Stan Collymore played for Rangers in that 1989 tie.

Stafford Town (34 points from 29 games) went into this game looking to end a five-match run in the league and cup. They had also failed to score in each of the last three games though picked up a point with a 0-0 draw at Wednesfield on Saturday. Visitors Lye Town (31 points from 30 games) stood two places below the Reds in the table having played a game more. They arrived at Evans Park looking to extend their two-match unbeaten run.

Tonight was a bit different to the ‘norm’ for me as ‘GroundhopUK Chris’ and ‘Avenue Graeme’ provided good company during the game on what was their first visit to Evans Park. I also chatted to a couple of football travellers from Middlewich in the hospitality room before kick-off, as well as my usual chats with ‘Motty’ and Dave the Secretary whose help I always appreciative. Peter Baker, with whom I watched the first half last Tuesday, must have been elsewhere.

Lye (in a change kit of all white) got the game underway defending the cricket ground end in the first half. Both sides created a chance during the opening four minutes and, for Stafford, Morgan Hurley saw a low angled shot from the left kept out by the boot of Lye goalkeeper Charles Price.

The visitors took a 9th-minute lead with a simple goal. Danny Priest got to the right bye-line and crossed low for Stuart Lewis to clinically slot home at close range. It got even better for Lye when they added a second goal seven minutes later. There were no visible protests after the referee awarded a penalty for a foul by Mark Johnson on Priest inside the area – Damien Whitcombe confidently smashed the ball past Andy LeFeaver from the spot.

Stafford won three corners in quick succession after the half-hour mark as they looked to get back in contention and Hurley got a 30-yard free-kick on target which Price gathered up.

As usual, we headed for the Tea Bar hatch at the half-time where ‘Avenue Graeme’ picked-up an STFC badge – something for badge collectors to know in advance of any future trip to Evans Park.

With a two-goal deficit to overturn, Stafford’s task was made harder in the 54th minute with the dismissal of Jordan Bloor, presumable for something he said to Mr Gould, as Lye weren’t awarded a free-kick.

However, the ten men of Stafford creditably halved the deficit in the 58th minute, just four minutes after Bloor departed. Hurley hit a 30-yard volley over the head of Price and straight into the net, a spectacular way to end the Reds’ 398-minute goal drought.

Spirits noticeably lifted amongst the Stafford players though there was a scare when Lewis’s long-range effort from out on the right rebounded off the bar.

Lye restored their two-goal advantage in the 64th minute. Josh Evitts fed Priest who hit the bar with a close-range range and the ball rebounded kindly for Reece Shivlock to slot home his side’s third goal.

Steve Bull was a little fortunate to escape with just a booking for chopping down Hurley which prompted a shout from the sidelines for the visitors to “all of you calm down”.

Lye continued to create chances as they pressed forward. Whitcombe drove over on the run from fully 30-yards out and Shivlock sent another shot flashing past the right-hand post. LeFeaver produced an excellent save to tip Ashley Greenaway’s free-kick onto the bar and over for a corner.

Lewis scored his second goal and Lye’s fourth in the 84th minute. Just like the third, the woodwork played a part as Lewis slotted home a rebound after Kane Haw’s initial shot hit the Stafford bar.

Stafford remain in 15th position while Lye now on the same number of points, move up one position to 16th with the win. League leaders Black Country Rangers visit Evans Park on Saturday.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Andy LeFeaver, 2. Olly Parker, 3. Mark Johnson, 4. Wayne Bailey, 5. Matt Ainger, 6. Rob Tomlinson, 7. Carl Morris (capt), 8. Mat Dockerty, 9. Gary Beasley, 17. Morgan Hurley, 11. Jordan Bloor. Subs: 12. Seaon O’Callaghan (for Parker, 81), 14. John Kirby (for Bailey, 59), 15. Kirtis Monson (not used), 16. Adam Price (not used), 18. Dave Woodvine (not used). Manager: Steve Dockerty.

Lye Town (white/white/white): 1. Charles Price, 2. Lee Jukes, 3. Lawrence Brown, 4. Ian Millward, 5. Ashley Greenaway, 6. Steve Bull, 7. Reece Shivlock, 8. Damien Whitcombe (capt), 9. Stuart Lewis, 10. Danny Priest, 11. Josh Evitts. Subs: 12. Kane Haw (for Evitts, 75), 14. Jake Dickinson (for Priest, 88), 15. Matt Price (not used), 16. Craig Jukes (not used), 17. Darren Goodall (not used). Joint Managers: Darren Goodall and Martin Thomas.

Referee: Richard Gould.
Assistants: James Clements and Simon King.

0-1 Stuart Lewis (10)
0-2 Damien Whitcombe (17 pen)
1-2 Morgan Hurley (58)
1-3 Reece Shivlock (64)
1-4 Stuart Lewis (84)

Stafford: Mat Dockerty (YC, 30), Jordan Bloor (RC, 54)
Lye: Ian Millward (YC, 51), Steve Bull (YC, 67)