Stratford Town 2 Rushall Olympic 1
Birmingham Senior Cup quarter-final
AN injury-time goal from Jamie Sheldon earned Stratford Town their first win in nine matches and a place in the Birmingham Senior Cup semi-finals.
Substitute Sheldon got the faintest of touches with his thigh to an inswinging cross from Simeon Tulloch as the ball bounced and bobbled past three Rushall defenders in the very last action of Tuesday night’s last eight tie.
It was fortuitous, yes, but no more than Town deserved after dominating the second half at the DCS.
Rushall had opened the scoring with a precise header from Josh McKenzie but a sweet Kieren Westwood strike levelled matters before the break.
Stratford had more of the play, more zest and the better chances but Sheldon’s scruffy finish was just the tonic they needed after the past month’s travails and sets up a fascinating semi with National North leaders Solihull Moors at the DCS.
Manager Carl Adams was delighted with the performance, but more importantly a return to winning ways as they face a run of games against teams scrapping at the top of the Southern League Premier Division.
Rushall are fighting for the play-offs in the Northern League Premier equivalent, but this was very much a squad line-up as they faced another tie in the Staffordshire Senior Cup 24 hours later.
Town looked the more threatening early on, with Tyrone Fagan having a shot blocked from close range and then dragging another effort wide from a Richard Gregory flick.
Fagan was denied again by a fantastic save on 32 minutes when keeper Jon Brown flew to his left to flip over the striker’s shot from an Aaron Moses-Garvey pull-back as it arrowed towards the top corner.
Two minutes later, the goal bulged, but at the other end. Jordan Fitzpatrick swung over a deep free kick from the left and giant striker McKenzie somehow had time and space to flick his header beyond the helpless Andy Kemp.
Stratford continued to do much of the pressing, only for Gregory to see his low drive blocked by Brown’s knee, but a minute before half time it was 1-1 when Emmitt Delfouneso guided a perfect through ball from the halfway line into the feet of Westwood just inside the Pics’ penalty area and the left back took one touch to control and then slotted home unerringly.
Apart from a Fitzpatrick drive gathered comfortably by Kemp and McKenzie sending a deflected low shot beyond the upright, Rushall found themselves increasingly pegged back in the second half.
Gregory and Fagan were off target and keeper Brown came to the rescue to block when Sheldon’s pass sent Tulloch haring goalwards.
Brown then pushed aside Michael McGrath’s 25-yard free-kick as it dropped towards the bottom right-hand corner.
Extra time loomed but, thanks to Sheldon’s thigh, it was not required. Rushall restarted and within two touches referee Neil Pratt was blowing the whistle for full time.