Match Report: Midweek Floodlit Challenge Cup
A dominant first-half display sees FC Stratford claim the Midweek Floodlit Challenge Cup at Bescot Stadium.
With Wednesfield looking to defend their title, it was FC Stratford who came flying out the blocks with a point to prove. Matt Reed came close in the opening moments of the encounter, finding a yard of space inside the Wednesfield area before firing wide of the near post. An early warning sign for Wednesfield.
A poor defensive clearance, however, fell perfectly to Stratford as they continued their push for an early opener. Reed on hand once again made no mistake this time round, tucking the ball into the bottom-left corner to put his team in front inside the first ten minutes.
The opposition rocked, Stratford continued to mount pressure on the Wednesfield goal, a great through ball splitting their defence to find Johnny Johnston who coolly slotted the ball past the onrushing keeper to double their lead with a second goal in three minutes.
A dangerous delivery moments later from Jake Collins wasn’t dealt with by Wednesfield, the ball falling into the path of Dan Atkins on the edge of the area who wasted little time rifling an effort into the top-right corner past Craig Pain to establish a three-goal lead inside the first quarter on an hour and firm control of the affair.
Brendon Herkes looked to launch a comeback for his side, his effort from distance forcing a strong stop from Callum Monaghan low to his near post to tip behind, the resulting corner smashing against the post from Ashley Bellingham’s header.
Wednesfield enjoyed their best spell of the half as Herkes went close again with his strike from distance clipping the post while Craig Tuckley glided past two defenders before forcing another strong stop from Monaghan.
FC Stratford meanwhile ended the half in a similar manner to how they started it, Reed finding space inside the area to drill the ball across goal into the bottom-left corner for his second of the evening. The no.9 wouldn’t have to wait long for the match ball either, smart counter-attacking play from FC Stratford finished off by a pinpoint ball across the danger zone from Collins for Reed to roll home and make it five moments before the break.
The second period began in a very different fashion to the first, Wednesfield dominating the possession inside the final third with Tuckley having one of the first attempts at goal but proved to be comfortable for Monaghan.
FC Stratford continued to create problems for Wednesfield on the counter, Dan Chaundy running into space down the left side and picks out Reed at the back post, only to be denied by a superb stop from Pain to deny the forward a fourth before the rebound was fired narrowly over from Johnston’s overhead kick.
A late opportunity for Wednesfield fell to the feet of Jack Dew, the substitute curling narrowly wide of the target as they game entered its final chapter.
An emphatic showing from FC Stratford sees them secure victory against the holders of the competition after Wednesfield ran out 2-0 winners last year against Darlaston Town.
• Wednesfield: Pain, Parker, Griffiths, Paddock, Bellingham ©, Sullivan, Walker, Herkes, Tuckley, Bennett, Dunkley. (Subs: Yates, Dew, Handley, Lee, Sharman).
• FC Stratford: Monaghan, Hodson, B. Cook, Atkins, Everard, Hamer ©, Poulson, Sone, Reed, Johnston, Collins. (Subs: Chaundy, Beresford, Machisa, Osbourne, H. Cook).
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