Redditch United 3 Stratford Town 4
Southern League Challenge Cup first round
CARL Adams hailed the energy of youth after teenage debutant Ben Ellicott completed Stratford Town’s riproaring comeback with an 89th-minute winner on Tuesday night.
Town looked to be heading out of the Southern League Challenge Cup at the first hurdle when they trailed 3-1 barely 50 seconds into the second half at the Valley Stadium.
But Dior Angus and Kieren Westwood added to Warren Brooks’ sumptuous opener to level matters with 13 minutes left.
Then, with former Reds striker Edwin Ahenkorah a constant menace, substitute Ellicott bundled home Ahenkorah’s angled cross-shot with a couple of minutes left.
Manager Adams was delighted with the spirit showed by his young team, which included half a dozen past and present youth-teamers.
“It was a really entertaining game and I’m so pleased for the youngsters,” said Adams. “Before the game, I told them to go out and enjoy it and they did that and came away with the win.”
It’s fair to say the League Cup is nowhere near the top of the priorities for either team and that was reflected in both line-ups which featured a clutch of young prospects and fringe players.
Although clearcut chances were scarce in the first half, there was no lack of commitment or positive approach work.
The Reds went closest early on when Town keeper James Cutts tipped a David McDermott shot on to the bar and over but Stratford struck the first goal with a scorcher on 26 minutes.
Westwood dispossessed Javia Roberts and raced down the left before Ahenkorah rolled the ball into the path of Brooks 30 yards from goal and the midfielder side-footed an exquisite right-footer into the top corner.
If that was a long-distance effort, the Reds bettered that to level on 35 minutes. Cutts raced from his goal out to the right to clear from the advancing Roberts but the ball dropped to Reece Hales ten yards inside the Town half and steered a perfect lob over the back-pedalling keeper and defenders to bounce into the net.
It was becoming a Goal of the Match contest when the Reds went ahead in first half injury-time. McDermott collected a cross field pass on the left-hand side of the area and shimmied to drill a low drive into the bottom corner.
Barely 50 seconds into the second half, it seemed the Reds had an unassailable lead. Trovarn Thompson, on his debut, was the quickest to react and prod home after Max Loveridge’s shot hit the bar following McDermott’s teasing run.
Stratford brought on Ellicote and Callum Ingram to join fellow teen prospects Cutts, Charlie Faulkner and Rob Ormston and they sparked Town to find more of an attacking menace.
Ahenkorah was increasingly involved and so was fellow front-runner Angus, who slammed home Town’s second on 62 minutes after Brooks escaped to collect Ormston’s pass and then drill a low cross into the danger area.
Suddenly, it was one-way traffic and Town levelled when Westwood rifled home another sweetly-timed shot from a sharp angle 13 minutes from time.
Defender Frank Hazell cleared Ahenkorah’s shot a couple of feet from the line and penalties seemed to be looming but, with a minute left, Town struck. Ahenkorah bided his time down the right after getting beyond his marker and Ellicott was in the right place to find the net to seal a thrilling win.