F.A. Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Stratford Town

Bailey (11)

Hednesford Town

(1) 1

(0) 0



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Ryan Young



Halesowen Town (A) 18.10.04

Amidst horrible conditions at Masons Road, the Pitmen are unceremoniously dumped out of the F.A. Cup by Midland Alliance outfit Stratford Town this evening as they suffer a bout of 'after the Lord Mayor's show' following their 6-0 win over Hemel Hempstead Town at the weekend

Perhaps unsurprisingly, player/manager Chris Brindley stuck faith with the same squad that hammered Hemel Hempstead on Saturday, with Carl Palmer passing a late fitness test to continue alongside Lee Williams in midfield

Stratford - sitting in a lowly eighteenth place in the Midland Alliance - had been gifted their shot at the step three Pitmen due to first qualifying round visitors Sutton Coldfield Town being booted out of the competition for playing the unregistered Damien Markman in the tie. Manager Lennie Derby made five changes to the side that had drawn 1-1 at home to Biddulph Victoria on Saturday as goalkeeper Wayne Starkey, Jamie Barnes, new signing Tom Bates, Nick Heath and veteran former Premier League striker Dennis Bailey all came into the side at the expense of Simon Owen, Danny Hicks, Craig Pountney, Geoff Amos and Michael Crawford respectively

It was an utterly miserable evening in Warwickshire, with incessant drizzle falling on the Masons Road pitch for the majority of the game. The hosts got to grips with the conditions well and former Coventry City man Bates almost made a dream start to life at Stratford in the second minute of his debut as Bailey won a free-kick just outside the Hednesford penalty area, which striker partner Bates curled inches over the crossbar 

Starkey's first contribution to the game came three minutes later as he parried a low drive from Andy Bell around his post for a corner kick as the ball kicked up off the greasy surface and skipped towards goal

In the seventh minute, Saturday's hat-trick hero Leon McSweeney failed to test Starkey as he pulled his angled shot from fifteen yards out just wide of the post with Bell making a late run into the six-yard box


However, it was the home side that swept into the lead in the eleventh minute of the game as Stuart Eades fed the ball to Bates down the left flank, with the striker producing a fine cross for Bailey to ghost in between both Lee Barrow and Brindley and head the cross beyond the reach of Ryan Young from six yards out

The Pitmen produced a swift reaction and Starkey made an outstanding save to deny them an immediate equaliser in the fourteenth minute as he pushed a Marlon Walters shot away from goal with a fine one-handed save to deny the former Wolves midfielder

The away side had the ball in the net two minutes later as a cross from Matt Turner picked out Bell, arriving at the far post, whose header into the far corner of the net was disallowed by referee Mr Cox for a late offside flag

A goalmouth scramble in the Stratford penalty area midway through the first half saw Bell attempt to turn the ball home at the far post, but a combination of Starkey and former Hednesford defender Nigel Niblett managed to scramble the bouncing ball away from goal

Good play from the visitors on twenty-six minutes saw Turner and McSweeney combine down the right-hand side of the pitch before teeing up skipper Palmer, whose powerfully struck rising shot ended up in amongst the hardy Hednesford fans behind Starkey's goal, getting drenched by the ongoing rain that continued to fall

Bailey and Bates continued to give the Hednesford defence the runaround with their pace and movement, with Bailey firing wide of goal on thirty-two minutes after a quick one-two with his new strike partner played him in behind Barrow

Two minutes later, a deep cross from Dennis Mulholland was spilt by Young as he failed to hold on to the greasy ball, dropping it at the feet of Paddy Connelly but recovered well to make a save at the second attempt and deny the midfielder

On thirty-seven minutes, Starkey had a decidedly dodgy moment of his own as a deep cross from Willams was fumbled by the Stratford stopper at the feet of McSweeney, only for skipper Niblett to make a goal-saving challenge

Good play down the right flank from the step five hosts four minutes from the break saw Eades and Bailey combine to set up Bates, only for the striker to pull his shot just wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the penalty area when he could have taken the ball closer to goal

On forty-three minutes, a superb cross-field ball from Bates found Connelly making a late run in on goal down the left, in behind Teesdale who got caught ball-watching. The forward took a slightly heavy touch and allowed Young to come off his line and make a tremendous block to prevent a certain goal

In first-half added time, young left-back Mark Branch was the first player to see his name taken by Mr Cox as he pulled Bates back to stop him running in on goal, culminating in Bates lifting his free-kick from an angle over the crossbar with the final action of the half

The Pitmen had struggled to recreate their blistering form in front of goal from Saturday as they had been well shackled by a determined Stratford side that had played the awful conditions better than their step three visitors. Having struggled to compete in the middle of the park, the Pitmen made an attacking change at the break as Williams was taken off in favour of Anthony Maguire

Bailey missed a golden chance to put Stratford two goals to the good just sixty seconds into the second period as he was played straight through on goal by Nick Heath but was denied by another fine, and timely, diving stop by the excellent Young

Bailey's presence on fifty-one minutes saw him nick the ball off a meandering Teesdale and play Bates in on goal, but the ball ran away from him on the sodden turf and allowed Brindley to clear the danger

Four minutes later, Turner won a free-kick to the right of the Stratford penalty area and saw McSweeney spot the ball. His curling free-kick beat the Stratford wall but was straight into the arms of Starkey on his goal line

Connelly beat Branch for pace on fifty-eight minutes and laid the ball off to Paul Longthorne, whose twenty-yard drive was just wide of Young's left-hand post

The Pitmen's poor evening got worse on sixty-two minutes as Turner was stretchered off after falling badly on his ankle on the wet turf; he was replaced by youngster Damien Charie after a long spell of treatment on the pitch

Longthorne was caught in possession by Maguire four minutes later, with Maguire setting Charie away down the right. The teenager took a couple of touches and teased his way past Phil Mortimer before crossing for Bell, whose scuffed effort drifted wide of the near post from eight yards out

Brindley's header from a Walters free-kick was a whisker away from dipping in underneath the crossbar on seventy minutes as he looped the ball over the head of Starkey from ten yards out

Bell fired wide of the post five minutes later as he got away from Niblett to run onto a Walters pass, but fired wide of the near post with Starkey coming out to narrow the angle

This was to prove the end of Niblett's evening as he was forced off due to a hamstring injury picked up as he looked to chase Bell down, with Ashley Pringle coming on in the veteran's place

Eleven minutes from time, Maguire's outswinging corner kick was flicked on by Barrow and the near post and into the path of Palmer, whose miscued header skipped wide of the post from ten yards out

Barrow himself headed wide two minutes later as he nodded another Maguire cross wide of the near post as he nipped in ahead of Brindley and Pringle to meet the ball from eight yards out

Brindley moved forwards to play as an auxiliary forward for the final few minutes of the game to help the disappointing pair of Bell and McSweeney. His downward header from Teesdale's searching cross fell at the feet of Charie, only for Mulholland to hack the ball away in a timely fashion

With three minutes remaining, another fine delivery from Maguire found the slight figure of Charie lurking at the far post, only for the youngster to see his header come back off the crossbar before substitute Jamie Barnes cleared the danger

Chris Gray was thrown on with two minutes remaining to try and force home an equaliser and earn the Pitmen a replay that they barely deserved. In the first of six added minutes, Longthorne brought down Walters twenty yards from goal but McSweeney drive his twenty-yard free-kick straight into the Stratford wall

The hosts had been good value for their win and thoroughly deserved a crack at Southport on Saturday in the next round after beating a Hednesford side that had been desperately disappointing in front of goal and had failed to adapt to the conditions over the ninety minutes. Bath City visit Keys Park on Saturday as the Pitmen look to return to league action with a win over their long-time Conference and Southern Premier League rivals

Stratford Town: Starkey, Mulholland, Mortimer, Niblett © (Pringle 75), Longthorne, Heath (Barnes 65), Eades, Bailey (Wright 89), Bates, Connelly     Subs Unused: Crawford, Adams

Hednesford Town: Young, Teesdale, Branch , BarrowBrindley, Williams (Maguire 45), Walters (Gray 88), C. Palmer ©, Bell, McSweeney, Turner (Charie 62)     Subs Unused: Beckett, Evans