Stafford Town almost caused a major upset in the Staffordshire Senior Cup against the current holders, local rivals Stafford Rangers, matching them for long spells in the game before ultimately suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat in front of a bumper Evans Park crowd of just over 500 spectators. Rangers faithful may point to a couple of missed chances but they did not dominate in the manner many would have expected given the three tiers between the sides, Town also having some good chances that would have sent the game into a penalty shoot out. An early Josh Wilson free kick into the wall and a Rangers shot over the bar were the prelude to a gripping encounter; Declan Arber then getting in behind the Rangers defence and shooting across the goalmouth, Kyle Ashman retrieving the ball and playing it back into the box for Arber to head at the ‘keeper. Rangers best chance of the half came in the tenth minute, an excellent cross to the backpost from the right struck goalwards, Town ‘keeper Henry Smith brilliantly positioned to save. Three minutes later a Rangers break down the left resulted in a low cross that was saved for a corner, subsequently leading to a Town break that ended with a shot at the ‘keeper by Arber. Rangers were trying to pin Town in their own half but defenders Matt Dudley, Chris Anderson and Harry Bowers swept up confidently as Town were certainly having a say in the game, Rangers scrambling an effort off the goal line in the 19th minute. Aided by his midfield partner Ben Wood, Town captain Charlie Swingwood seemed to be everywhere, challenging aerially and on the ground as he drove his men onwards, whilst Arber and Josh Oultram were giving the Rangers defence no respite. Rangers then headed wide from a corner and forced Smith to push another header wide ten minutes later. As the final ten minutes of the half approached Ryan Taylor skewed an effort wide from a cut back following more good work by Arber. Rangers then wasted a good opportunity, shooting wide after forcing their way into the penalty area. The final chance of the half was a superb shot by Wilson from the edge of the area that required an equally stunning save as the ball was tipped to safety. HT 0-0. Taylor and Wilson combined with some neat interplay on the right five minutes into the second half, ending in a cross that was well defended before a Rangers attack down the left two minutes later saw another shot over the bar. Rangers almost took the lead in the 55th minute when an outstanding shot from outside the box crashed off the post. Rangers were able to breathe a sigh of relief as they eventually took the lead in the 67th minute, winning the ball in the Town half and ultimately firing the ball under Smith into the net. If Rangers expected Town to capitulate then they were in for a shock, as Town continued to cause problems. A Town corner in the 73rd minute was only partially cleared, the ball back into the box finding Anderson at the backpost but the angle was tight and his effort was wide. Substitute Nathan Scott saw a cross-shot from the right tipped over for a corner as Town began to press for an equaliser. Oultram had been involved in a great battle all match with the Rangers centre halves, culminating in a superb driving run in the 79th minute, the ball eventually slipped through to Arber before a brilliant last ditch tackle in the box prevented the shot. Rangers dragged an effort wide with five minutes to go after a mix-up in the Town defence as they looked to play out before Oultram was caught fractionally offside on the halfway line when he looked to be clear. Rangers had one final attack in injury time but were unable to finish, Smith channelling his inner defender to make a sliding tackle in the box with his feet to dispossess the Rangers forward. Town had a final break of their own but Rangers survived the scare to progress. Best of luck to Rangers in the next round and for the remainder of their league fixtures. FT 1-0 Stafford Rangers. Town must now refocus on their own league campaign, starting with a crucial home match on Saturday 4th December against Cheadle Heath Nomads. Town then travel to Manchester again to take on unbeaten league leaders West Didsbury and Chorlton on Saturday 11th December.
Extended highlights can be found here at Stafford Town TV: https://youtu.be/UP4DjQe0P3g