SCEFL Challenge Cup Second Round
The Challenge Cup may not be the most glamorous trophy on the football scene but 33 spectators made their way down the unlit dirt track to turn up at Oakley Road on a freezing cold Wednesday night to take-in an action packed match between FC Elmstead and Stansfeld.
The beer was cold but the welcoming in the Clubhouse was warm as the well-wrapped supporters read through the impressive programme before the match. I had exactly the right amount of time to flick through it and enjoy the previous match reports from ‘Joe the Scoop’ before the ref led the teams out.
Elmstead started well and took the lead on 15 minutes when the impressive Jordan Samuel crossed deep and Marcus Howell was able to head home. Samuel continued to trouble the Stansfeld defence and on 25 minutes he broke into the box before being brought down. He dusted himself off to take it himself, before slamming the ball home. 2-0.
Stansfeld worked their way back into the game. Jake Williams was arguing every decision but he is a talented player and proved it in the 44th minute. He picked the ball up on the left side before cutting in beating his man and firing home hard and low past Larry McArdle to put Stansfeld back in the game. 2-1.
That should have been it for the first-half but the away team seemed determined to shoot themselves in the foot. Samuel delivered a long diagonal ball to the far-side of the box where Ben Lockett had sneaked in unseen as the keeper approached him he slid it across the six yard box for Charlie Sharman to put into the empty net. It was a well worked goal for Elmstead and gave them a generous 3-1 lead at half-time.
I fully expected Elmstead to go on to win comfortably in the second half but Stansfeld came out fired up. Elmstead were just not on it, maybe they thought the game was over or at-least under control but Stansfeld had other ideas. A few chances came and went before Jake Williams again cut in from the wing, the defence shielded him well so he fired away a shot that the sliding defender blocked with his arm. The ref gave the penalty which Billy Jolley went on to take. It was the perfect opportunity to get Stansfeld back in the game however a great save from McArdle denied Jolley and it was still 3-1.
Stansfeld were motoring now though. Jolley was not affected by the penalty miss and was impressive in his wing-back role. In the 65th minute he flew down the right before delivering a very deep cross and Mike McKenna was there at the far post to nod home to get Stansfeld back in the game. 3-2.
Stansfeld were clearly on top and surely an equaliser was close. Jolley was impressive from one side and on the ball Jake Williams was always dangerous. Billy Shinners was battling hard upfront and Lennie Wise was solid and winning everything at the back. There were many flash-points though. A few penalty appeals and some home-team decisions angered Billy Hamlyn and his team. Yellow Cards were starting to be dished out for both teams. The ref was losing control but it seemed tougher on Stansfeld.
We moved into the final few minutes and it looked as though Elmstead would hold on to the win. Captain Christian Howell plays the Quarter-Back role for his team and consistently barked out orders to his men. They needed the whistle to go but there was still to be more action in this one. A long throw-in to the box was missed by the Elmstead defence, it bounced high but Nathan Flaher jumped higher and headed over the advancing keeper to grab the equaliser! 3-3. Certainly a deserved scoreline from this second-half performance. Then they nearly nicked it! The ball arrived from wide and the hard-working Billy Shinners rose highest to meet the ball. Unfortunately for him his header clipped the bar and went over. The whistle went and we were off into extra-time. 3-3 Full-Time.
Elmstead woke up for the First-Half of Extra-Time. Jordan Samuel, so effective early on in the match, broke free out wide before squaring the ball to his team-mate who shot but a diving Lewis Collier just reached the ball and kept it all square. Two minutes later Samuel again went free, this time one-on-one with Collier who stood tall and found the shot fired into his mid-rift. Two great chances for the home team and two great saves. Then things went wrong….
The referee, Jordan Crichlow, was not having a great game. He didn’t command any respect from the players from the outset. He is a young man and probably at the early very early stages of his career but senior non-league matches are a tough place to learn your trade and incidents in this match proved it. The odd word in the ear of a frustrated player early on may have helped him before things escalated later and I certainly feel if he was louder and explained why he made some decisions that would have helped throughout. Stansfeld will feel they got the raw end of the deal as they were on the wrong end of most of his decisions. A few of their players had already been booked for dissent and for fouls/tackles before Jake Williams was awarded a free-kick just inside the Elmstead half. Jake decided to take it quick and put the ball through to his forward, but the ref pulled it back. A frustrated Williams was then booked, either for his reaction or for kicking the ball away. His team-mates tried to get him to leave it there but Jake argued his point saying he was not kicking it away and was simply playing a through-ball. Unfortunately in this discussion he allegedly remarked on the colour of the skin of the ref, the same colour as his own, leading to the ref to show a second yellow followed swiftly by the Red. It got even uglier as the Stansfeld player virtually refused to leave the pitch. The management team eventually got him away and after trying to sit on the bench, with the ref threatening to abandon the game, he went off to the changing room. It was an ugly scene which hopefully does not cast a shadow over a decent cup-tie. I would expect problems ahead from this one once the report goes in from the ref. Whether Jake Williams deserved it or not is one thing but in the uture he certainly needs to look at his temperament as he is a decent player and I worry that this side of him could hold him back. He is clearly passionate for the win but he crossed the line with his reaction here, however poor the referee may have been.
After this event the game just went through the motions until we got to penalties.
Billy Jolley had missed a penalty during the game but he started the scoring in the penalty shoot-out. Elmstead scored through Samuel before Stansfeld took the lead again. Mark Axell stepped up and shot wide for Elmstead to give Stansfeld the advantage. Each team then scored all their penalties until we got to the stage where a Billy Shinners goal would give Stansfeld the win. He put it away and we have Stansfeld in the next round.
A decent cup-tie had been won by Stansfeld 5-3 on penalties after a 3-3 draw. The away team will be happy with the way they came back into the game to deservedly take the honours. The Elmstead team will wonder where their first-half performance disappeared to.
M.O.M Lennie Wise, a beast at the back.
Thanks to Elmstead for the hospitality, hot half-time cuppa,the chilli and entertaining cup match. I shall return soon for another game and maybe next time I will bring a torch for that path.