Away cup match played on 16 August 2014.
Kicked off at 3:00 PM

Smithswood were raring to go today after last weeks 3-0 win over Burntwood Town. Today’s opposition was Alcester Town in the Les James Challenge Cup. It was always going to be a tougher game as Alcester Town are amongst the favourites for Division 3 and were themselves coming off an opening day win after beating Leamington Hibernian 5-1.

Smithswood arrived at the ground nice and early with fifteen players after Daniel Billingsley pulled out of the original sixteen man squad named by manager Paul Ryder in the week.

Ryder decided to switch his team up, as it was a cup game and gave three players a start that were on the bench last week. He was eager to point out how important it was to get at them from the off and get the first goal but to use the pace we had in the team on the wings and up front. He went with the following line-up:-

McKenna, Evans (Capt), Glenn, Godwood
Thomas, Harris, Thompson, Wall
Anderson, Short

Subs:- Hemming, Shenton, Shiels, Taylor

Smithswood were at Alcester Town from the off attacking down the wing and took the lead within two minutes. Aaron Anderson played the ball to Ed Godwood wide left. He drilled his cross in which the keeper came for and under a challenge from Anthony Short, spilled it into the back of the net. Ed Godwood turned away in celebration clearly claiming the goal as Smithswood were up and running.

Curtis Thomas fired wide shortly after following some great work from Lee Harris spreading the ball wide to Aaron Anderson who squared the ball to Thomas before he shot wide.

It wasn’t all Smithswood in the opening ten minutes as Alcester Town had two great chances. The first came from the right hand side when they whipped in a fantastic ball that beat all the defenders but was just a little too quick for their striker and he could only direct his shot wide of goal. Then a short back pass to Captain Craig Evans gave their striker the chance to get in ahead of him and he was through one on one with David Stratford but the Smithswood keeper was quickly off his line and smothered the ball before he could get his shot off.

Smithswood doubled their lead seventeen minutes in. Curtis Thomas put a great ball over the top of the defence and Aaron Anderson was quick to react and get ahead of the last defender. Their keeper sensed the danger and came out to kick clear under pressure from Anderson but his clearance dropped to Anthony Short who hit a first time 30-yard shot into the net.

Ryders team were playing well but were still looking vulnerable on the flanks as their full backs were sometimes being left two on one. Their attacking play was good with Anthony Short holding everything up that came into him and bringing the midfield into play. Ed Godwood pinged a 40-yard cross-field ball to Curtis Thomas. He controlled it first time and skinned the full back. Thomas unselfishly pulled it back for Lee Harris whose shot was saved by the keeper but Smithswood were showing how quickly they could change from defence to attack with Godwood showing his excellent range of passing.

David Stratford made a crucial save twenty-six minutes in as he diverted a fierce shot to keep Smithswood two goals in front. He couldn’t keep them out just after the half hour mark though as Alcester Town again had some joy down the right and whipped a ball in for a tap in from their striker to make it 2-1 to Smithswood Firs. Alcester started to pile the pressure on as Smithswood were missing tackles all over the pitch giving them the chance to run at them and get crosses in which was frustrating Smithswood. Anthony Short was booked for bad language by the referee.

With two minutes to go the referee awarded Alcester Town a dubious penalty as Andrew Glenn was judged to have handled the ball in the area. Alcester had a great chance to go in at half time with the momentum but David Stratford was up to the task with a brilliant save and pressure on the rebound, which was fired over. It was a pivotal moment in the game, which meant Smithswood went in with the lead rather than being all-square. Andrew Glenn also picked up a yellow card a few minutes later for a miss-timed challenge.

Paul Ryder’s half-tme team talk was centered on stopping Alcester Town in the wide positions as they were getting too many crossing opportunities. He asked his two wingers to support his full backs a little more and also play a little narrower to combat their three players in midfield.

Early in the second half Smithswood worked much harder for each other. They were all tracking back and stopped Alcester Town from creating down the wings. In the first half, Alcester Town’s main threat was their number 9, Chris Brown but Smithswood stifled him in the second half and he hardly got a look in. As well as Smithswood were playing defensively, it was taking the edge off their attacking play as they were defending well but not able to attack as much as they were in the first half.

Smithswood had to make two changes due to injuries but it helped them out as Ryder had to change their attacking options, and they became more of a threat. Daniel Wall and Carl Thompson picked up knocks so Stuart Taylor and Carl Shiels replaced them. They key change was that Lee Harris moved back to the left of midfield where he put in a man of the match performance last week. Harris looked more of a threat wide and created a few chances for Smithswood in the last half hour.

Anthony Short was working tirelessly up front and got his second goal of the game following some great work from Aaron Anderson to win the ball and put him in. Short still had plenty to do from the edge of the area but buried the ball in the bottom corner. Short soon had the chance for his hat trick when Smithswood were awarded a penalty on sixty-six minutes. Short stepped up but the keeper made a great save down low to deny him.

Adam Hemming replaced Aaron Anderson on seventy-two minutes as Smithswood went in search of the fourth goal to kill the game off once and for all. Carl Shiels went close firing over the bar following some good work from Stuart Taylor. Lee Harris was next to go close for Smithswood. Curtis Thomas angled a 35-yard cross to him, which he took down first time and then cut inside. Over the years he has curled a few of them into the top corner but this time his shot was just wide.

The fourth goal finally came on ninety minutes following some brilliant work from Anthony Short who covered every blade of grass today as he worked back to win the ball and play it off to Curtis Thomas. Thomas had a lot to do as he had two defenders to beat but he beat them both with his quick feet and close control and then had the skill to bend the ball in off the far post to make it Alcester Town 1 Smithswood Firs 4.

Lee Harris was causing them lots of problems down the left as he collected the ball wide again and using his quick feet won Smithswood a second penalty. Anthony Short stepped up looking for his hat trick again but the keeper denied him onc again. Alcester Town went down the other end and got themselves a late consolation goal with a powerful shot from outside the area, which beat Stratford in goal.

The referee blew up for the end of an entertaining game of football, which had six goals and three missed penalties. Smithswood progresses to the First Round proper of the Les James Challenge Cup where they now face Division 2 team Sutton United. That game will be a great test for Paul Ryder and his team as they bid to gain promotion in their first season so they can play them level of teams every week but concentration must turn back to the league and getting another three points next week against Redditch Borough.

Paul Ryder was extremely happy with his team in the changing room at full time. Their second half performance had been excellent and they had been solid defensively. Once again McKenna, Evans, Glenn and Godwood had looked good as a back four. Alcester Town had got in a few times which will always happen but second half they were brilliant and behind them, David Stratford put in a quality performance too with key saves at key moments in the game. In midfield, Thompson was solid again protecting the back four and Harris excelled when he moved to the left side in the second half. Curtis Thomas just slotted in easily on the right and was a constant threat and Daniel Wall’s second half performance was also impressive. Up front Anthony Short and Aaron Anderson worked really hard for the team. Short held the ball up well while Anderson was quick to close down the defence to create chances. Off the bench Stuart Taylor, Carl Shiels and Adam Hemming all looked lively and slotted in when they came on with ease.

Next week will be tough for Paul Ryder as Adam Rooke is back from suspension and Nathan Leek is available again so there is competition for places in the Smithswood Firs sixteen man squad which is a great headache for a manager.

Smithswood Firs v Redditch Borough is next up on Saturday 23rd August 2014, kick-off at 3pm at the Mackadown Pitch

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