Stafford Town found the perfect distraction to their recent league woes, dumping local rivals Brocton out of the First Division Challenge Cup (Edward Case Cup) with a 4-1 First Round victory at Evans Park, a repeat of the scoreline from the league encounter earlier in the season. The match had been due to be played at Silkmore Lane but was reversed due to the recent stormy weather in order to prevent subsequent fixture congestion. Stafford had to ride their luck as Brocton had several first half chances before eventually taking the lead, but an equaliser just before halftime and a second half blitz saw Stafford retain local bragging rights as they won their third consecutive ‘El Staffico’ to set up a Second Round encounter with near neighbours Eccleshall. Brocton arrived with a clear game plan to press Stafford high up the pitch in the hope of winning the ball close to goal and capitalising; Stafford falling into the trap by not being brave enough in possession, often aimlessly kicking the ball upfield back to Brocton in fear of making a mistake near their own goal. Brocton created the first opportunity of the match in the 5th minute; a good low cross from the right lacking a finishing touch. ‘Kaz’ Danilian delivered two consecutive free kicks into the box for Stafford before Charlie Swingwood scuffed a half chance wide. Brocton were on top however, hitting the post with a 24th minute free kick and forcing Stafford ‘keeper Sam Amedu into a superb double save a couple of minutes later. After another shot from a Brocton cross was fired over, the visitors got the lead their early endeavours warranted in the 34th minute; Stafford were unable to deal with a cross from the left, the ball eventually dropping free for a Brocton player to ripple the net. A minute later a Brocton break resulted in another good cross and a shot over the bar at the back post. This chance appeared to rouse Stafford from their slumber, an attack down the left ending with a shot by Ben Wood into the side netting. An excellent off the ball run by the returning Ravel Wallace was matched by a delightful lofted ball over the Brocton backline into the box by Danilian, but a poor first touch saw the chance evaporate. In the final minute a good through ball by Nathan Scott set Declan Arber in on goal but he dragged his shot wide across the goalmouth. Brocton were unable to reach the break in front however, switching off on a Stafford corner as Danilian played a quick one-two with Chris Anderson before driving into the box and drilling the ball through the crowd into the net, the ball perhaps taking a slight deflection along the way. HT 1-1. The decision to press Stafford high for the entire first half clearly required a great deal of energy from Brocton and they were unable to continue doing so in the second half. However, Brocton continued to play a high defensive line, falling into Stafford’s hands as an excellent long diagonal pass by Swingwood allowed Scott to outpace the Brocton defenders in behind, beautifully controlling the ball in his stride before delicately lofting the ball over the ‘keeper to give Stafford the lead in just the third minute of the half. The pace and directness of Scott was starting to cause Brocton all kinds of headaches, another overlap down the right resulting in a low cross that was just cleared. Scott was at it again in the 61st minute, breaking down the right before cutting inside and driving a shot across goal into the corner to stun the Brocton contingent and give them serious doubts of a comeback. Brocton were unable to get going in the half, a Rolls Royce performance from Matt Dudley aided by centre back partner Henry Smith meant that Amedu was relatively untroubled. As expected in a derby match, tensions had been running high throughout and things were not helped by some poor refereeing which ultimately led to an unsightly melee in the 66th minute that involved the entirety of both teams and benches. It took five full minutes for things to calm down and the final result was a red card for a Brocton player and another for one of the Brocton substitutes. The fact that no Stafford player received any sort of punishment was bizarre in the extreme and Brocton rightly felt hugely aggrieved, indeed the number of cards for both teams should have been far higher and it appeared the referee had clearly lost track of what had happened in the chaos. After play had resumed, an unpunished high foot by a Brocton player left Stafford joint-manager Dominic Heath incensed and he was dismissed from the dugout as he berated the officials for failing to protect the players on the pitch. Stafford put the result beyond doubt with ten minutes to go, another ball over the top by Danilian to Scott was only weakly cleared to Arber, who caught out the Brocton ‘keeper with a low shot into the corner from 25 yards or so. Scott was then fortunate to escape serious injury as Brocton attempted a cynical foul to stop another break down the right, the ball reaching Arber but his shot was saved. Brocton had a couple of chances to pull a goal back in injury time, Amedu saving a volley from the edge of the box before the Stafford defence were forced into clearing a dangerous cut back. FT 4-1 Stafford Town. Stafford will be looking to use the result as a springboard to better performances in the league, beginning with a trip to East Manchester to face playoff contenders Abbey Hey on Saturday 26th February followed by the rearranged fixture with Abbey Hulton United on Tuesday 1st March.
Ten mins of cracking footage can be found here at Stafford Town TV: https://youtu.be/NGiWhQcNdNQ