STRATFORD Town Tornados U13s retained the Ambassador Evesham League Cup by winning 2-0 against Redditch-based Oakenshaw Lions at Pershore Town FC on Saturday.
The triumph is an amazing feat for the side, who have won the cup for a second successive season. Indeed, the majority of the Tornados squad previously played for the now disbanded Bidford Bombers and have now recorded an historic fourth consecutive cup victory having won the cup in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Oakenshaw were the quicker out of the blocks, putting together a series of slick passing moves throughout the first quarter of the match.
However, they were thwarted by some solid defending from Stratford’s Brandon Garvie and Nathan Brook who were playing together in the centre of defence for the first time.
Gradually Stratford managed to get back into the game and some probing forward passes from central midfield duo Tom Price and Tommy Williams began to swing the pendulum their team’s way.
However, despite some trademark mazy runs into the Oakenshaw area, lone striker Lewis Robinson continued to find himself isolated.
It was only the introduction of the combative Jimmy Middleton, in his first game after a long spell out with injury, late in the first half that added the extra ingredient to spice up Stratford’s offensive threat.
Just when it seemed the first half would end goalless, Middleton burst into the Oakenshaw half, running past three defenders before steering the ball past the oncoming keeper to give his side a 1-0 lead.
At the start of the second half Stratford introduced Sam Hill and Lucas Brannan, another returnee from injury, to sharpen their attacking threat. While Hill ensured more quality balls from midfield, Brannan’s pace on the right kept Oakenshaw’s defence busy.
As the second half progressed, Oakenshaw’s determination to put themselves back on level terms meant long periods of sustained pressure and more than once Stratford keeper Max Gregory’s concentration was severely tested.
It was Gregory’s quick thinking which led to the cushion of his team’s second goal when a pinpoint kick found the ever-willing Middleton in space deep in the Oakenshaw half and the big forward lost his markers to slam the ball home.