Stafford Town 3 Bustleholme 0

Tuesday 24th April 2012
Stafford Town 3 Bustleholme 0
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: cold, dry, brief shower
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:36; second-half: 50:26

Morgan Hurley scored a hat-trick and goalkeeper Andy LeFeaver kept a clean sheet as Stafford Town finished off their 2011/12 home league fixtures with 3-0 victory over Bustleholme. The striker put the Reds ahead in first-half stoppage time and added two more near the end to take his season’s tally to 14 goals.

Continuing my theme of finding end-of-season games with something at stake, there was one on my doorstep this evening with relegation-threatened Bustleholme arriving at Evans Park, as the programme editor highlighted, ‘requiring points to avoid finishing in the bottom two’.

Stafford Town have produced some indifferent performances at Evans Park this season from impressive victories in the FA Vase and a draw against likely runners-up Black Country Rangers to defeats at the hands of Lye Town and Darlaston Town.

I can’t say I bring the Reds much luck, so out went the yellow-trim trainers, beige NY hat and a seat behind the home dugout in favour of my blue-trim train, blue English Heritage hat and a seat behind the away dugout. As the result suggests, my changes did the trick!

Both sides went into the game in the bottom five with Stafford Town (18th in the 22-team division with 43 points from 38 games) two positions higher than Bustleholme (20th with 23 points from 39 games). Bottom club Darlaston and either Bromyard or Bustleholme could be relegated from the Premier Division to Division One at the end of the season.

As usual, there was a warm welcome at Evans Park. As I’d lost track of fixtures, there wasn’t a ‘Pitch-side Stories’ article in the programme. Instead, the editor paid tribute to Stan Robinson, a real supporter of non-league football in the Stafford area who passed away earlier this month.

Bustleholme (in yellow shirts, green shorts and socks) got the game underway defending the cricket ground end in the first half.

Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested during the opening 25 minutes in which Bustleholme enjoyed plenty of possession. While Town were told to “raise it all round”, the visitors were urged to “turn it up” and they did just that by almost taking the lead in the 27th minute. Danny Hill crossed deep from the right and Darrell Francis headed against the left-hand post.

Stafford had the ball in the net soon after the half-hour mark. Paul McMahon hooked the ball home from Matt Buckham’s corner but was adjudged to have impeded Bustleholme goalkeeper Matt Martin.

As the interval approached, Spencer Lloyd fed Hill who saw a dipping right-foot shot from the edge of the area superbly tipped over by Andy LeFeaver.

Town responded with a strong finish to the half. From another Buckham corner, Morgan Hurley saw an initial shot saved by Martin and a follow-up blocked on the line.

Hurley wasn’t to be denied in stoppage time. He got clear to latch on to a throughball from McMahon and lifted an accurate chip over the advancing Martin into the net to put the Reds in front at the break. My half-time cuppa was a lot more enjoyable because of that goal which extended my personal sequence without a 0-0 draw to 38 consecutive games.

Now attacking the cricket field end, Bustleholme had a penalty appeal waived away when a shot from Lloyd hit a defender inside the area. The visitors' bench told their side to “get the ball moving quicker” and on the hour, from a free-kick by Matthew Harris, Town’s John Kirby headed against his own bar.

Sensing Bustleholme were raising their game, Town manager Steve Dockerty wanted his side to “pick it up, all of us” and moments later a chip from Hurley dropped just over the bar.

Both sides were now creating chances. Francis sent a free-kick just wide of the Stafford goal and at the other end McMahon forced a diving save out of Martin.

Stafford were awarded a penalty in the 76th minute when Hurley was brought down by Tom Hyatt inside the area. Buckham stepped up only to see his spot kick superbly saved by Martin diving to his right.

Would the miss prove costly? It did a couple of minutes later when Jamie Clews fired home at close range, only for the Bustleholme striker to be denied by an offside flag. The visitors weren’t impressed with the decision.

Town took full advantage of the reprieve by doubling their lead in the 81st minute. Mat Dockerty played a free-kick forward into the area from which Hurley scored with a glancing header into the far left-side of the net.

Hurley completed his hat-trick in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Buckham fed McMahon who saw his initial shot saved by Martin but Hurley put in the rebound to score his 14th goal of the season.

While the win lifted Stafford up three places into 15th position, the defeat left Bustleholme needing to win one of their last two games to make sure they don’t slip into the bottom two. Stafford now face three away games at Malvern Town (28/4), Bromyard Town (5/5) and Shawbury United (tba) to complete their fixtures while Bustleholme have a home game against Shawbury (2/5) followed by a trip to Goodrich (5/5) remaining.

Elsewhere in the Premier Division, Gornal Athletic won 2-1 at Malvern to move three points clear of Black Country Rangers at the top and at the same time pass the 100 point mark. They need just one point from their remaining two fixtures to secure the title and promotion to the Baker Joiner Midland Alliance.

Results (24/4): Bewdley Town 2 Pegasus Juniors 1, Bromyard Town 2 Dudley Town 6, Malvern Town 1 Gornal Athletic 2, Stafford Town 3 Bustleholme 0, Wolverhampton Casuals 2 Cradley Town 1, Wellington 3 Darlaston Town 2.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Andy LeFeaver, 2. Sean O’Callaghan, 3. Adam Price, 4. Wayne Bailey, 5. Mick Davies, 6. Mat Dockerty, 7. John Kirby, 8. Dave Woodvine (capt), 9. Paul McMahon, 17. Morgan Hurley, 11. Matt Buckham. Subs: 12. John Salt (for O’Callaghan, 86), 14. Carl Morris (for Price, 63), 15. Tom Cunningham (not used), 16. Matt Ainger (not used), 18. John Gaughan. Manager: Steve Dockerty.

Bustleholme (yellow/green/green): 1. Matt Martin, 2. Conor Deeley-Brewer, 3. William Hutt, 4. Matthew Harris, 5. Phillip Ellerby, 6. Tom Hyatt, 7. Darrell Francis, 8. Spencer Lloyd (capt), 9. Jamie Clews, 10. Danny Hill, 11. Max Whitehouse. Subs: 12. Adam Morton (for Hill, 65), 14. Steve Yates (for Lloyd, 89), 15. Tom Jeavons (not used), 16gk. Steve Wibberley (not used), 17. Jamie Bedford (not used). Manager: Mark Foster.

Referee: Paul Wainman.
Assistants: Gareth Morris and Greg Smith.

1-0 Morgan Hurley (45+1)
2-0 Morgan Hurley (81)
3-0 Morgan Hurley (90+5)

Stafford: Morgan Hurley (YC, 65), Mat Dockerty (YC, 70), Dave Woodvine (YC, 84)
Bustleholme: Darrell Francis (YC, 80)