Stratford Town 0 Solihull Moors 2
Birmingham Senior Cup semi-final
CARL ADAMS declared himself proud of his team’s efforts as Stratford Town’s giant-killing Birmingham Senior Cup run came to an end on Tuesday night.
Town had dumped Coventry City and Walsall out of the county cup as they moved to within 90 minutes of a first Senior Cup final in 53 years, but they found National League North champions-elect Solihull too tough a nut to crack.
It was not down to any lack of effort or endeavour and indeed they looked the more likely goalscorers as they ended the first half at the DCS Stadium the stronger side.
However, Moors, who could be crowned champions on Saturday, withstood the pressure without 42-year-old keeper Darren Acton – deputising for the injured Danny Lewis – being forced to produce any real tests of his agility or elasticity.
Therein lies the problem for Town, who have now failed to score in four matches in a row since their win at Poole. Their positive play, much of it revolving around Jamie Sheldon and quick bursts from Dior Angus, faltered in the final third and left central striker Tyrone Fagan with few clear openings.
Fagan, however, came closest to breaking the deadlock in Town’s best spell eight minutes before the break when the striker’s instinctive close-range effort from a Sheldon corner beat Acton but a Moors boot whacked the ball clear just in front of the line.
Moments later, Simeon Tulloch sent a rasping 25-yarder over and then Sheldon dispossessed Theo Streete just inside the Moors half, raced goalwards, stepped to his right and smashed over.
Town had faced few scares in the first period, with Moors’ only notable efforts bringing headers over the target from Liam Daly and Jimmy Armson.
Fagan again threatened for the hosts early in the second period when he just failed to get enough contact on his header from Sheldon’s free kick, but Moors gradually took control.
The first goal in such a tight game was going to firmly tip the balance and on 61 minutes it fell to the visitors when Daly’s aerial prowess allowed him to nod Steve Leslie’s corner into the six-yard box and the alert Byfield bundled home at the second attempt.
Byfield was denied a quickfire second by keeper Andy Kemp’s block but the former Aston Villa and Walsall striker showed just why he has played at the top level with a sumptuous finish on 69 minutes. Controlling Armson’s right-wing free kick with a precise touch, he turned to his left and rammed a low shot past the helpless Kemp.
Apart from an Aaron Moses-Garvey shot which flashed over, Moors’ defence held Stratford at arm’s length for the final 20 minutes as they booked their end of season date with Birmingham City in the final.
Adams said: “I was proud of the players and the performance against a strong side like Solihull. We were really up for it but we just didn’t have little bit of quality to get through their defence.”