Stafford Town are out of the North West Counties First Division Cup (Edward Case Cup) after a 3-0 away defeat to Shropshire-based Ellesmere Rangers in the 2nd Round. The game was in truth however, far closer than the final score-line suggested, with Stafford matching the hosts for long periods and creating much clearer chances than in previous games. Indeed, the second Ellesmere goal only arrived after Stafford almost equalised but instead hit the post and the third came in injury time. An early Stafford cross by Cydon Walker was cleared by the hosts as Ellesmere looked to play the ball into the channels and force long throws into the box, with one such attempt scrambled away in the tenth minute and another low cross from the left flashed across the goalmouth. Unlike recent matches, Stafford looked to be carrying a greater threat going forward, Declan Arber and Ryan Taylor linking up to good effect on several occasions. Ellesmere then took a 16th minute lead, Stafford failing to react quickly enough to a poor clearance by ‘keeper Joe Williams, leading to a low cross and finish from the left. Stafford fought back, Arber forcing a low cross from the right side of the box that was side-footed wide by Taylor at the front post. Stafford were then indebted to Dan Kelly as he blocked a goal-bound effort on the goal-line in the 27th minute before Ellesmere hit the bar a minute later. Stafford were still working hard for their clear chance in the game but on the whole were matching the hosts, both sides struggling to play much good football on a difficult pitch. Another dangerous Ellesmere long throw was scrambled away in the 42nd minute as Stafford entered the break a goal behind but certainly not out of the game. HT 1-0 Ellesmere Rangers. The opening fifteen minutes of the second half continued in much the same pattern as the first, Ellesmere firing wide in the 57th minute after a break. Stafford were giving as good as they got however, as five minutes later Ben Wood tried his luck from distance but although his effort was on target it was comfortably saved. In the 68th minute an attempted interception by Matt Dudley inadvertently looped over a stranded Williams and hit the bar before being cleared to safety. Stafford should have equalised a minute later as an attack into the Ellesmere box ended with a well hit shot by Taylor that struck the inside of the post with the ‘keeper beaten before ricocheting to safety. Stafford were left to rue that chance as Ellesmere doubled the lead immediately after, Williams a little slow off his line to deal with a forward ball into the box and the chance was finished into the corner. Ironically the goal had arrived at the end of a good spell for Stafford when the game appeared to be possibly heading for a draw and the lottery of penalties. The hosts looked to manage the remainder of the match but Stafford had another strong ten minute spell and were unlucky not to pull a goal back when Arber rolled his man to get in behind the Ellesmere defence and squared the ball inside to an unmarked Taylor for a glorious chance that he fired high over the bar when he should have at least tested the ‘keeper. Ellesmere then gave the score-line a more comfortable look in injury time when a break-away led to a mix-up between Williams and Jake Cartwright, resulting in an easy finish. FT 3-0 Ellesmere Rangers. Stafford must see the performance as a step in the right direction as they face another cup match on Saturday 15th October with the visit of Barnton to Evans Park in the 1st Round of the Macron Cup before a return to league action on Saturday 22nd October, taking on Alsager Town at Evans Park.