Road to Bescot

Tuesday 8th October 2013
Stafford Town 0 Tividale 2
Walsall Senior Cup First Round
At: Evans Park, Riverway, Stafford
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: mild and dry

First visit of the season to Evans Park for a Walsall Senior Cup First Round tie where Stafford Town were putting their unbeaten home record on the line against high-flying Tividale.

A quick glance at the Midland Alliance league table highlighted the enormity of the task facing the Reds this evening. Tividale stood second in the table with a 100% record and only kept off top spot because leaders Highgate had amassed an extra four points from the four extra games they had played.

2. Tividale P 8 W 8 D 0 L 0 F 28 A 5 PTS 24

After bigging up the visitors, Stafford Town’s start to the Midland Combination Premier Division season needs bigging up as well – fifth in the table with just two defeats in nine league games. I saw then draw 0-0 at Pelsall Villa seven days ago.

Walsall Senior Cup First Round
Bolehall Swifts v Bolemere St Michaels
Romulus v Wolverhampton Casuals
Stafford Town v Tividale
Walsall Wood v Continental Star
Byes for Bilston Town 2007, Brocton, Chasetown, Heath Hayes, Lichfield City, Pelsall Villa, Rushall Olympic, Sporting Khalsa, Stafford Rangers, Sutton Coldfield Town, Tipton Town and Walsall.

For those of you unfamiliar with the stadium, Evans Park, named after Chairman Gordon Evans, is a relatively new ground which opened in March 2011. All the facilities are adjacent to the entrance including the 192-seater ‘Keith Mottershead Stand’. Keith has been a stalwart of football in Stafford for around 50 years and richly deserved the renaming of the stand in his honour during the summer.

Compared to the Pelsall game seven days ago [Town didn’t have a game on Saturday], the Reds’ starting line-up showed three changes with Alex Barnfather, John Warburton, Morgan Hurley in for Chris McComisky, George Burslem and the boss Adam Cunningham.

Visitors Tividale made no fewer than seven changes to the side that thumped Gornal Athletic 6-0 at the weekend. Andrew Parsons, Tim Jackson, Sam Williams and Ryan Winwood were the four who started both tonight and at the weekend.

Tividale (in all yellow) got the action underway defending the cricket ground end of Evans Park in the first half. Stafford made a “good start” as Adam encouraged his side from the technical area and urged his side to “keep it up”.

Even though neither side created a decent scoring opportunity during the opening 27 minutes, it was none-the-less a decent contest dominated by defences and midfields.

The visitors gradually started to assert their authority and, in the 28th minute, Ryan Winwood cut in from the left and hit a low shot that flashed across the face of the Stafford goal.

Tividale took the lead on the half hour with a goal that provoked much debate. No dispute as to whether it should be awarded or not but who actually should be credited with the goal? Ryan Winwood swung in a corner from the left which went into the net at the near post. My initial reaction was that Karl Edwards flicked the ball into the net [and even tweeted at the time to say so] though at half-time became persuaded that the goal was actually an own goal. Based on what Tividale subsequently tweeted and response from the striker, I’m giving it to Edwards.

Dan Brown responded and fired wide of the right-hand post before the excellent Ben Sturgeon produced two super saves in quick succession to prevent the visitors from doubling their lead. Twice in the 42nd minute, the goalkeeper first did well to push a rising 20-yard snap shot from Andrew Parsons round the left-hand post, then kept out Levi Bailey’s far post downward header from the resulting corner.

Half-time Stafford Town 0 Tividale 1

Sturgeon was again called into action early in the second half, this time to block a well-struck shot from Brett Clark.

Stafford gave a reminder to their fans just before the hour mark that they only trailed by a single goal. A neat passing move set up a chance for Francis Dacres who fired over from 25 yards out.

Sensing an equaliser, manager Adam urged his side to “raise it” and up the “tempo”.

Going into the last ten minutes, extra time still remained a distinct possibility with Stafford trailing to that 30th minute goal [I wasn’t complaining as an extra 30 minutes who have meant that Stafford’s journey on the ‘Road to Bescot’ was still alive.

A bouncing ball down the middle put the Tividale defence under pressure and the harrying Brown forced Luke Paskin to concede a corner. This was swung in from the right by Hurley across the face of goal but no one could apply the finishing touch. Close.

However, football can be a cruel game and it was certainly cruel to Stafford in the 87th minute when Tividale scored their match-winning second goal. A bouncing ball played forward into the Stafford area by Tim Jackson caused problems for Sturgeon and Brett Clark touched the ball into an empty net

Tividale advance to the second round along with Walsall Wood who defeated Continental Star 2-1 at Oak Park.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Ben Sturgeon, 2. Alex Barnfather, 3. James Wild, 4. Mat Dockerty, 5. Jon Warburton, 6. Joe Woodward, 7. Francis Dacres, 8. Jake Turner, 9. Morgan Hurley (capt), 10. Dan Brown, 11. Jamie Cartwright. Subs: 12. Jack Milgate (for Barnfather, 76), 14. Matt Oulton (for Cartwright, 63), 17. Adam Cunningham. Manager: Adam Cunningham.

Tividale (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Jack Hayfield, 2. Andrew Parsons, 3. Tim Jackson, 4. Andrew Dicken, 5. Levi Bailey, 6. Luke Paskin, 7. Samuel Wilson, 8. Sam Williams (capt), 9. Brett Clark, 10. Karl Edwards, 11. Ryan Winwood. Subs: 12. Matthew Waite (not used), 14. Stuart How (for Winwood, 89), 15. David Bellis (for Dicken, 72), 16. Thomas Overfield (for Wilson, 79), 17gk. Charles Price (not used). Manager: Stuart Scriven and Ian Long.

Referee: Mark Murfitt
Assistants: Ashley Parry and Matthew Brattley

Attendance: 45 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:38; second-half: 47:07

0-1 Karl Edwards (30)
0-2 Brett Clark (87)

Cards: none


Saturday 5th October 2013
Brocton 2 Bolehall Swifts 1
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Weather: dry, sunny spells

As a supporter, I don’t think there is a better feeling than seeing a team you follow score a late winner. I felt a sense of real elation at Silkmore Lane around 4-45pm this afternoon when a 90th-minute David Berks thunderbolt sent Combination leaders Brocton three points clear at the top with a last gasp 2-1 victory. The stunning goal was a fitting end to an absorbing and tight contest between two sides who will be challenging for promotion to the Midland Alliance all season.

The first Saturday of every month normally forces me to look at the fixtures close to home and, today, I didn’t need much persuading to watch a top-of-the-table clash on my doorstep. Both Brocton and visitors Bolehall Swifts have made an impressive start to the season, so much so, they went into this afternoon’s game at the top of the pile level on 22 points.

The Badgers (1st with 22 points from eight games), who won each of their opening six league games, remain unbeaten and were involved in an amazing topsy-turvy game at Nuneaton Griff three days ago. I followed the action on Twitter and Brocton eventually claimed the points by the odd goal in nine.

WON Sat 10 Aug – Brocton 4 Coventry Copsewood 0
WON Tues 13 Aug – Pelsall Villa 1 Brocton 7
WON Sat 24 Aug – Littleton 1 Brocton 3
WON Mon 26 Aug – Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1
WON Tue 3 Sep – Atherstone Town 2 Brocton 4
WON Tue 10 Sep – Brocton 2 Lichfield City 1
DRAW Sat 28 Sep – Lichfield City 1 Brocton 1
WON Tue 2 Oct – Nuneaton Griff 4 Brocton 5

Since the home game against Lichfield, which was covered by Pitch-side Stories, Brocton narrowly lost 2-1 in the FA Cup at Halesowen Town and progressed to the FA Carlsberg Vase First Round with a 5-3 home win over Wolverhampton Casuals after extra time.

Visitors Bolehall (22 points from 10 games) lost top spot on Wednesday and have had also won six league games including their last four.

For those unfamiliar with Silkmore Lane ground, it is the former home of Staffordshire Police and lay derelict until Brocton developed it into their smart permanent new home with two pitches, changing rooms and a hospitality room. The floodlight main pitch boasts a 110-seater stand.

Team news, as always, was provided on the whiteboard displayed in the hospitality room window and showed Brocton lacking Sam Bell and Jack Lees, who had both travelled with Stafford Rangers to Frickley Athletic.

Time for the action to commence, after I had a quick chat with the ever-popular Mick Fox (@backtogoalfox).

While Bolehall (in blue) got the first half underway defending the changing rooms end, it was Brocton who made the biggest impact during the opening minutes. Dan Shore fired wide from 20 yards out and Paul McMahon fed Craig Hulme who shot over the bar.

Gary Fife has been scoring goals since I first saw him feature for Stafford Rangers as a 17-year-old back in 2003. And he wasted no time in adding to his 200+ goal haul by putting the Badgers ahead in the 6th minute. Dan Lomas (pictured) provided the assist and Fife got forward from midfield to the edge of the area where he hammered a low shot past Bolehall goalkeeper Tom McNulty.

Brocton needed to thank Adam Whitehouse for keeping them in front a minute after taking the lead. The goalkeeper did well to block a shot from the lively Steve Day with his legs.

As chances continued to be created, an inswinging free-kick from Fife out of the left was headed off the line by a defender. Almost 2-0 but not quite.

Watching the first half in the company of the Reverend Jeff Reynolds, the contest remained a tight one with most of Bolehall’s attempts on goal being shot from outside the area.

McMahon, a recent signing from neighbours Stafford Town, forced Tom McNulty into a raction save.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that Bolehall would get back on level terms before the interval, which they did in the 42nd minute. Day exchanged passes with Chris Sturridge-Packer to get a clear shot of goal and he duly fired home off the hand of Whitehouse.

A half-time score of Brocton 1 Bolehall Swifts 1 was a fair reflection of the opening 45 minutes.

Brocton made a change at the interval with Dan Shore replaced by Damien Charie, who I remember playing for Hednesford Town a few years ago.

A nice move down the left led to a decent cross from Terry Carpenter which was inches too high for unmarked Sturridge-Packer.

Brocton had to survive some pressure from Bolehall at the start of the second half and just after the hour mark, Fife forced a diving save out of McNulty who gathered the resulting loose ball at the second attempt.

Amongst the crowd of about 110 was a contingent from Stafford Town, without a game and who should have been playing Bolehall until today’s fixtures were altered to allow Brocton to play one of their games in hand.

Both sides went close to taking the lead midway through the second half. McNulty parried a shot from Fife and Sturridge-Packer drove over the Brocton bar from the edge of the area.

With time running out in a game that could still have three possible outcomes, Brocton mounted a strong finish during the last ten minutes. Berks hit a well-struck long-range drive which beat the diving McNulty and shaved the outside of the right-hand post.

The Bolehall goalkeeper, a minute later, dived to right to hold a low-angled shot from Fife that was heading for the bottom-left corner.

The watch had ticked past 44 minutes of the second half when the game’s champagne moment came. Charie found Berks 20 yards out who sent an unstoppable volley past NcNulty. 2-1 to the Badgers!!!

There still time for Bolehall to move one last attack. Carpenter delivered a left-win corner which Day headed across the face of goal. I didn’t spot it myself but I’m told that Mick Fox’s celebration was on a par with the goal!

At full-time, it was clear that the win meant so much to the Brocton players, supporters and officials.

Midland Combination football in Stafford is buzzing at the moment. Brocton are top of the table and still involved in the FA Carlsberg Vase which Stafford Town sit in fifth position. Both are in action on Tuesday; Brocton host Bromsgrove Sporting in the league while Town hope to make progress in the Walsall Senior Cup at home to Midland Alliance outfit Tividale.

Brocton (green with white sleeves / white / green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Charlie Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Matt Skinner, 5. David Ablewhite, 6. Craig Hulme, 7. Dan Shore, 8. Paul McMahon, 9. Gary Fife, 10. David Berks (capt), 11. Dan Lomas. Subs: 12. Damien Charie (for Shore, ht), 14. Liam Haycock (for Hulme, 71), 15. Andy Bourne (for McMahon, 67), 16. Dale Roberts (not used), 17. Jethro Jarrett (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Bolehall Swifts (blue/blue/blue): 1. Tom McNulty, 2. Nick Heath (capt), 3. Brett Larkins, 4. Greg Dickie, 5. Joe Obi, 6. Mick Pollard, 7. Steve Day, 8. Terry Carpenter, 9. Chris Sturridge-Packer, 10. Dave Yonwin, 11. Chris Cowley. Subs: 12. Mitchell Piggon (for Cowley, 64), 14. Kyle Turner (for Sturridge-Packer, 82), 15. Jamie Abbott (for Heath, 72), 16. Lewis Chadwick (not used).

Referee: Dan Westwood.
Assistants: Peter Dobson and Mark Winston.

Attendance: 110 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:05; second-half: 47:20

1-0 Gary Fife (6)
1-1 Steve Day (42)
2-1 David Berks (90)

Cards: none

Solid point

Tuesday 1st October 2013
Pelsall Villa 0 Stafford Town 0
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Bush Ground, Walsall Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (16 pages)
Weather: cold and dry [coat needed]

I love nostalgic revisits, especially to places like Pelsall Villa, where my previous trip occurred years or even a couple of decades ago. Walking through the turnstile from the small car park at the Walsall Road end, my first impression, like Boston Town on Saturday, was wow! Emerging into a large seated stand, which once stood as a covered terrace at the old GKN Sankey ground, my eyes initially looked down the slope to the goal and trees at the far end. To my right, straddling halfway, were the dugouts and to my left were an assortment of interesting buildings and structures making up the tea bar, hospitality room, changing room and old stand.

It was good to be back at the Bush Ground after all these years.

The midweek games I’ve seen so far this season have been few and far between. Today, it was a case of pulling out all the stops for a first look at Stafford Town and at the same time made a first visit to Villa’s Bush Ground in 24 years. While the slope from goal to goal is obviously still a natural feature, the ground has undergone much development with the aforementioned large stand at the top of the hill and floodlights. The game itself, watched in good company, was better than the scoreline suggests though most of the key incidents occurred during the final ten minutes.

Apart from the odd blip in both the FA Cup and Vase, the 2013/14 campaign has been a good one for Stafford Town (6th with 17 points from nine games). A win tonight would have taken the Reds up into second position in the table and within two points of current leaders Bolehall Swifts.

Pelsall (13th with 14 points from 12 games) may be in the bottom half of the table but are still on the ‘Road to Wembley’ in the FA Carlsberg Vase following a 1-0 home win over West Midlands (Regional) League side Sporting Khalsa. They face a first round tie against Coventry Sphinx towards the end of the month.

The teams met at Evans Park last month with Stafford running out 4-0 winners.

Attacking down the slope in the first half, Pelsall (in red and black) got the game underway and put Stafford under early pressure with goalkeeper Ben Sturgeon producing a decent save to keep out Mark Woolbridge’s 13th minute shot.

Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested during the remainder of the first half. Town’s two chances were a long-range Jake Turner drive and a shot from captain Joe Woodward which looped over the bar off a defender.

Changes started to be created a bit more frequently during the second half. Dan Brown fired wide of the Pelsall goal while Sturgeon remained alert at the other end to block a shot from Woolbridge with his boot.

Pelsall thought they’d taken the lead in the 68th minute. Richard Taudrey’s initial shot was saved by Sturgeon and Alan Wilkes slotted home the rebound from an offside position.

With time running out for both sides, Morgan Hurley powered a close-range shot towards goal in the 88th minute which hit defender James Lewis on the line. Referee Gould pointed to the spot and dismissed the unlucky defender off for handball, a touch harsh I felt but the letter of the law. Up stepped Brown but he sent the spot kick high over the bar. No chance of using Da Vinci Code clich├ęs to describe the winner, no chance of describing the ball as spinning away from Pelsall’s goalkeeper Panasar and my run of 52 consecutive games without a 0-0 at an end. I did, however, have an enjoyable evening.

On the plus side, it certainly was a solid performance from Stafford to earn a point which lifted them into the top five and extended their unbeaten run in the league to four games.

I found Pelsall Villa a welcoming club and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit.

Pelsall Villa (red and black stripes): 1. Amarit Panasar, 2. Scott Summer, 3. John Chambers, 4. Ash Lawley, 5. James Lewis, 6. Richard Taundry, 7. Carl Morris (capt), 8. Michael Murray, 9. Mark Woolbridge, 10. Alan Wilkes, 11. Jordan Gaou. Subs: 12. Andrew Bentley (not used), 14. Kaine Mole (for Wilkes, 73), 15. Alex Parmmenter (not used), 16. Gavin Davis (not used), 17. Kieren Miller (not used). Manager: Craig Timmins.

Stafford Town (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Ben Sturgeon, 2. Mat Dockerty, 3. James Wild, 4. Chris McComisky, 5. Joe Woodward (capt), 6. Jamie Cartwright, 7. George Burslem, 8. Francis Dacres, 9. Dan Brown, 10. Adam Cunningham, 11. Jake Turner. Subs: 12. Morgan Hurley (for Cunningham, 84), 14. Alex Barnfather (for Turner, 76), 15. Dan Stockhall (for Cartwright, 69), 16. Matt Oulton (not used), 17. Jon Warburton (not used). Player-manager: Adam Cunningham.

Referee: Richard Gould
Assistants: Dave Evans and Jonathan Nelson.

Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:42; second-half: 48:20

Goals: none

Pelsall: James Lewis (RC, 88)
Stafford: Jamie Cartwright (YC, 46), Joe Woodward (YC, 63), Francis Dacres (YC, 90)