Stour­bridge left shat­tered as dream is ended by Ak­in­fenwa

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - SPORT - At Adams Parks

Just as they were dream­ing of pulling one of the big clubs from the hat in to­mor­row’s fourth-round draw, Stour­bridge had their FA Cup hopes shat­tered. A thump­ing header in the 82nd minute from the four-square fig­ure of Wy­combe’s Ade­bayo Ak­in­fenwa, less a cen­tre-for­ward, more a walk­ing wardrobe, dis­patched the low­es­tranked team left from the com­pe­ti­tion they rel­ish. So much for the ro­mance of the Cup.

But the North­ern Premier League side were not dis­graced. Far from it. For much of the game they be­lied the gap of 74 places be­tween them and their hosts from League Two, play­ing bright, am­bi­tious foot­ball that could never be mis­taken as agri­cul­tural. And, when Dan Scarr equalised Sam Wood’s open­ing goal deep into the second half, it threat­ened to leave a per­ma­nent mark on the com­pe­ti­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the two club nick­names, this match was billed as the Chair­boys tak­ing on the Glass­boys. Which made the tie sound like a dance­off be­tween two troupes of male strip­pers. But there was noth­ing ef­fete about the vis­i­tors. Driven by a noisy con­tin­gent of fans who had come in their throaty thou­sands down the M40, from the kick-off Stour­bridge at­tacked with pur­pose. No won­der Wy­combe man­ager Gareth Ainsworth stayed be­hind on the pitch to ap­plaud the part­timers off the field at the fi­nal whis­tle: he ap­pre­ci­ated how close they had come to achiev­ing a proper up­set.

“I will not take any­thing from Stour­bridge, I’ve been a non-league player my­self, they were fan­tas­tic,” he said. Wy­combe came into this tie on the back of 10 wins in their last 11 matches, vic­to­ries based on the sound­ness of their de­fence. An accomplished cen­tre-back pair­ing of An­thony Ste­wart and Aaron Pierre have been strolling lat­terly against League Two at­tacks. Not here. Stour­bridge pressed high and hard. Their left-winger Chris Lait – an en­gi­neer by pro­fes­sion – was an ef­fer­ves­cent pres­ence, quick and skil­ful, bristling with con­fi­dence, driv­ing up the blood pres­sure of the Wy­combe stop­pers.

Sev­eral times in the first half, the home side were in­debted to Ja­mal Black­man, the huge goal­keeper on loan from Chelsea. He saved smartly from Luke Ben­bow, Kayle­den Brown and Lait. Then he was re­quired to pull out a bril­liant div­ing save from a Scarr shot that seemed to be cut­ting its way to the top cor­ner of the net.

Wy­combe were largely re­stricted to the break­away; balls were aimed at the huge target of Ak­in­fenwa’s chest. But apart from a shot from Do­minic Gape, who in truth should have done bet­ter than fir­ing wide from 10 yards, Wy­combe had lit­tle to show from the first half.

Af­ter what Ak­in­fenwa de­scribed as “words” from Ainsworth in the dress­ing room, the home side be­gan the second in much more ag­gres­sive mood. Matt Gould pulled off a ter­rific save from Luke O’Nien, then mo­ments later was obliged to save again from the same player. This time the ball bob­bled from his grasp and, af­ter a mighty scram­ble, Wood, the Wy­combe sub­sti­tute, drilled the ball home.

Stour­bridge re­sponded with real for­ti­tude. The side who have al­ready played more FA Cup ties this sea­son than will the even­tual win­ners, pushed for­ward, win­ning a flurry of cor­ners. Af­ter a foul by Joe Ja­cob­son on Lait, a good free-kick by Dar­ryl West­lake was hoofed over the bar. Matt Dodd then fired wide. Then, on 70 min­utes, a Leon Broadhurst free-kick into the box, found Scarr in space. The de­fender who makes a liv­ing as a per­sonal trainer shot past Black­man. Be­hind the goal, Stour­bridge fans erupted as he ran into them to cel­e­brate, a mo­ment of FA Cup bond­ing for which he was booked.

“We’re go­ing to Wembley,” chanted the vis­it­ing sup­port­ers, who were pushed mo­men­tar­ily into dream­land when Tom Tonks’s cross-shot crashed against the un­der­side of the bar. But then came Ak­in­fenwa’s in­ter­ven­tion, head­ing home Ja­cob­son’s pre­cise cross, to break Black Coun­try hearts.

“Stour­bridge in the fourth round would have been a huge story,” said Ainsworth. “But it’s only the second time we’ve been in the fourth round. So it’s a huge story Wy­combe Wanderers have made it.”

Ju­bi­lant: Dan Scarr cel­e­brates his equaliser for non-league out­fit Stour­bridge

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.