Stafford Town 1 Brocton 3

Saturday 2nd February 2013
Stafford Town 1 Brocton 3
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: sunny spells, icy cold wind
Attendance: 130
Duration (45): first-half: 46:26; second-half: 48:49

Brocton retained the upper hand in recent games against local rivals Stafford Town with a comfortable 3-1 victory at Evans Park. A header from captain David Berks gave the Badgers an early lead which was extended before the interval by Sam Bell. Spencer Gunnell gave Town a chance of grabbing a point during the second half but Bell's second goal ended those hopes in stoppage time.

After those long train trips over the past three Saturdays because of bad weather around here, I couldn’t have asked for anything more local today that a tasty derby between Stafford’s two Midland Combination Premier Division sides, Town and Brocton.

Rather surprisingly, they hadn’t met in a league game for over 20 years – the 1992/93 season in the Staffordshire Senior League – as Town decided to progress down the West Midlands League route and Brocton down the Midland Combination route. After the end of last season, Town moved across the pyramid to the ‘Mid Comb’ and today we had the first of the two league derbies with the second being played at Silkmore Lane in seven days time.

Evans Park was the usual welcoming place it always is. Once again I was indebted to Town’s Secretary for providing the lineups (thanks Dave) – a team sheet was also displayed on the tea bar window.

In the table, there was little to separate today’s two teams – Town (31 points from 20 games) occupied 7th, one place and one point above Brocton (30 points from 19 games). Bromsgrove Sporting (44 points from 24 games) topped the Premier Division table, seven points clear of second-placed Littleton who have five games in hand. The top two met at Bromsgrove this afternoon.

Teams changed ends after the toss and Brocton (in green and white) got the game underway attacking the cricket ground end (or should that be rugby end with St Leonards pplaying today), defending into both the icy wind and low sun.

The Badgers couldn’t have got off to a better start with an opening goal in the 7th minute. After his initial corner was only partially cleared, Gary Fife was allowed to get to the left bye-line and deliver an inch-perfect corner for David Berks to head home at close range.

Perhaps due to only playing two games since the second Saturday of December, Town made a slow start and were encouraged “all of you, up it”, as well as told to “get stuck in”. However, it was Brocton who created the chances and former Town captain Carl Morris saw a shot blocked after good work on the left by another ex-Town player Jordan Bloor.

Stafford upped their game and nearly equalised in the 27th minute. Craig Hulme got into the Brocton area down the right and hit a well-struck rising right-foot shot which Adam Whitehouse tipped over at the expense of a corner.

However, a meat move down the left led to Brocton’s second goal two minutes later. The diminutive Jamie Evans crossed low into the area where Sam Bell put away a stretched volley past Town goalkeeper Matt Challinor. Town’s last win against Brocton came 21 years ago in 1992 and the chances of breaking that sequence suddenly became an awful lot harder.

Stafford could have reduced the deficit in the 41st minute. Chris Morris got the better of three defenders on a run to the right bye-line and set up Hulme who shot over the bar from 10 yards out.

There was time before the interval for one further Brocton chance. Richard Jones fed Bell who saw a near-post shot turned round by Challinor.

The lively Bloor took advantage of a slip by a Town defender soon after the restart and sent a low shot past Challinor from a good position but just wide the left-hand post.

To salvage at point or better, Town needed to show some urgency and did just that. A free-kick from Chris Morris from the right into the area was flicked on at the near post and out of a defender. The resulting corner was partially cleared to Chris Morris who fired over the bar.

Adam Cunningham made the first chance, replacing Hulme with leading scorer Paul McMahon.

Bloor then crossed deep from the left to Bell who fired a low angled shot against the near post. Just before the hour, a decent Stafford move set up an opportunity for Chris Morris who saw his shot held by Whitehouse - “Much better, keep it up”.

Brocton certainly weren’t satisfied with just a two-goal lead. Bell crossed low from the right into the area where both Fife and Dockerty attacked the ball at the near post, leading to another Brocton corner. Cunningham then brought on Steve Hopkinson who, like McMahon and several others on the pitch, used to play for Stafford Rangers.

A 28-yard free-kick from Berks flashed past the Stafford goal and a low shot from the excellent Bloor just missed as well.

Town got back into the game with a goal in the 77th minute. McMahon fed Spencer Gunnell who fired home past Whitehouse at close range.

As the game entered the last ten minutes, Brocton were awarded a free-kick on the left 25 yards out which Fife fired against the left-hand post.

Brocton wrapped up the win with a third goal in the second minute of stoppage time. Joe Pickering looked as if he was going to wind down the clock by taking the ball into the corner. Suddenly, he got free of his two markers and crossed low for Bell to clinically slot home from a few yards out.

The win moved Brocton up one position to 7th while Town slipped down to 10th in the table. Littleton won 3-1 at leaders Bromsgrove Sporting to close the gap at the top to just four points. Today’s Premier Division results: Bolehall Swifts 3 Pilkington XXX 2 (att 40); Bromsgrove Sporting 1 Littleton 3 (att 271); Castle Vale JKS 0 Earlswood Town 2 (att 15); Coventry Copsewood 2 Pershore Town 1 (att 35); Stafford Town 1 Brocton 3 (att 130).

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Matt Challinor, 2. Steve Bennett, 3. Joe Woodward, 4. Mat Dockerty (capt), 5. James Wild, 6. Ryan Fox, 7. Ishmale Reid, 8. Chris Morris, 9. Spencer Gunnell, 10. Craig Hulme, 11. Darryll Johns. Subs: 12. Steve Hopkinson (for Johns, 64), 14. Paul McMahon (for Hulme, 51), 15. Liam Evans (not used), 16. James Price (for Woodward, 90), 17. Darren Alexander (not used). Manager: Adam Cunningham.

Brocton (green with white sleeves / white / green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Richard Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Andy Chandler, 5. Rob Tomlinson, 6. Carl Morris, 7. Sam Bell, 8. Jordan Bloor, 9. Gary Fife, 10. David Berks (capt), 11. Dan Lomas. Subs: 12. Joe Pickering (for Bloor, 89), 14. Charlie Jones (for Morris, 77), 15. Michael Fox (for Fife, 84), 16. Sam Hollinshead (not used), 17. Dave Ablewhite (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Referee: Mark Wharmby.
Assistants: Jon Wilding and Mark Winston.

0-1 David Berks (7)
0-2 Sam Bell (28)
1-2 Spencer Gunnell (77)
1-3 Sam Bell (90+2)

Stafford: Chris Morris (YC, 64), Ryan Fox (YC, 79)
Brocton: Jordan Bloor (YC, 26)