Stafford Town 1 Lichfield City 2

Tuesday 2nd October 2012
Stafford Town 1 Lichfield City 2
Les James Challenge Cup sponsored by Endsleigh Second Round
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: Mild, dry after rain
Attendance: 22 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:28; second-half: 47:10

I’ve been waiting almost two months for Stafford Town to have a competitive home midweek game; the last one, a 2-2 draw against Bolehall Swifts, took place in early August before the end of the Summer Olympics. As I headed down to Evans Park, I wondered if tonight’s game against Staffordshire rivals Lichfield City would be as good as the one I read about on Saturday between the teams at Brownsfield Park which finished 3-3. Three days ago, Lichfield thought they’d scored a late winner only for Paul McMahon to score a last gasp equaliser for the Reds.

As always, I felt warmly welcomed at Evans Park, starting with ‘Motty’ who was manning the paybox. Again, thanks to Dave the Secretary for the line-ups and the details of the match officials as all three listed in the programme had been replaced.

Was it a good game tonight? Well, not in terms of the result from a Stafford Town point of view. They lost 2-1 though I’d have been delighted with extra time and possible penalties had Darren Alexander’s injury time shot gone in rather than agonisingly hit the post.

Following the draw on Saturday which I mentioned, five points and three league positions separated Stafford (10th with 15 points from 11 games) and Lichfield (13th with 10 points from 11 games). Of course, tonight the league was put aside with more local pride at stake under the lights at Evans Park, together with a place in the third round of the Les James Challenge Cup.

Lichfield (in blue), on their first visit to the ground, got the game underway defending the cricket ground end (or should that be ‘rugby club training end’) in the first half.

Darryll Johns went close to giving Stafford an early lead with a header across the face of goal from Mat Dockerty’s deep cross from the right to the far post.

While Stafford dominated the opening 13 minutes in terms of corners and chances, it was Lichfield who opened the scoring. Ashley Evans’ corner was cleared out of the Stafford area only for the ball to be lofted back in and central defender Todd Perry rose to head past Karl Smith.

While I’d have preferred the Reds to have scored, Perry’s header nonetheless took me into the ‘nervous nineties’ as my run without a goalless draw nears the magical 100 mark!

The visitors created two decent opportunities to double their lead before half-time. Leon Morgan played the ball across the face of goal but former Blackwood forward Jacob Snape failed to apply the finishing touch from barely a yard out. Smith dived to his right in the 37th minute to keep out a low right foot shot from Snape and did well to pounce on the loose ball as a Lichfield attacker challenged.

At the other end, Paul McMahon ran on to a perfect throughball but Lichfield goalkeeper Craig Johnson got down to push clear the resulting shot. John Kirby headed straight at Johnson as the interval approached.

The equaliser came nine minutes after the restart. Kirby, tackled on the edge of the area, was able to lay the ball back to Darren Alexander who hit a sweet low drive straight into the bottom right corner of the net.

Soon, Johns tested Johnson with a well-struck shot which the goalkeeper turned round the left-hand post at the expense of a corner. With their tails up, Stafford continued to threaten, with manager (or rather tonight player-manager) Adam Cunningham urging his side to “keep it going boys, it’s going to come, better”.

Both sides made changes during the second half and it was one of Lichfield’s substitutes who turned out to be the match-winner in the 79th minute. Fed by Ashley Bennett wearing yellow boots, Harry Reece latched on to a perfect defence-splitting pass and slotted the ball past Smith into the bottom-left corner.

Despite the scoreline, I was enjoying the game so wouldn’t have minded an extra 30 minutes. The wish almost came true in stoppage time when Alexander beat Johnson only to see the ball rebound off the right-hand post.

So, Lichfield progress into the Third Round rather than Town.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Karl Smith, 2. Jason Cunningham, 3. Ishmale Reid, 4. James Price, 5. Mat Dockerty (capt), 6. Darren Alexander, 7. John Kirby, 8. Ryan Fox, 9. Paul McMahon, 10. Adam Cunningham, 11. Darryll Johns. Subs: 12. Steve Bennett (for Adam Cunningham, 72), 14. Liam Evans (not used), 15. Tom Hind (not used), 16. Neil Brasenell (for Fox, 53), 17. Wayne Bailey (not used).

Lichfield City (blue with white V / blue / blue): 1. Craig Johnson, 2. Nathan White, 3. Jordan Hunt, 4. Todd Perry, 5. Jon Huckfield, 6. Dan Worrall (capt), 7. Ashley Bennett, 8. Leon Morgan, 9. Jacob Snape, 10. Liam Holt, 11. Ashley Evans. Subs: 12. Lee Ashmore (not used), 14. Ollie Budd (not used), 15. William Evans (not used), 16. Harry Reece (for Morgan, 63), 17. Dan Thurnstance (for Snape, 83).

Referee: Paul Stonier.
Assistants: Brian Heath and Mike Mooney.

0-1 Todd Perry (13)
1-1 Darren Alexander (54)
1-2 Harry Reece (79)

Stafford: Darren Alexander (YC, 8), Jason Cunningham (YC, 44), Ryan Fox (YC, 51)
Lichfield: Liam Holt (YC, 71)