Stourbridge 4 Frickley Athletic 1
A strong second half display earned the Glassboys all three points against lowly Frickley at the War Memorial Ground.
In the end it was a fairly routine victory, but the visitors caused a few anxious moments, not least when they took a surprise lead in the first half, and the Glassboys were made to work for the three points.
Manager Gary Hackett made two changes from the win at Ilkeston a week earlier. Richard Sho-Silva’s broken jaw rules him out for the rest of the season, and Kennedy Digie came in as his replacement, whilst Josh Green slotted in for Kieren Westwood at left back.
Stour began on the front foot, but chances were at a premium in the opening 20 minutes or so. Leon Broadhurst drove a shot over from Ethan Jones’s half cleared cross, and Kayelden Brown curled a shot well wide of the far post after cutting in off the right flank, before Frickley keeper Seb Malkowski punched away a Tom Tonks cross with Brown closing in.
Frickley had their first sight of goal fifteen minutes in as Zeph Thomas glanced a header wide from a free kick, but that apart Stour held the upper hand, and they came close again when the impressive Jones got to the by-line and forced a corner.
There was a moment of concern on 22 minutes as Thomas again got into the area, hooking a cross into the six-yard box with nobody on hand to capitalise.
Stour failed to heed the warning though, and were behind on 26 minutes as a long clearance caught the back-line napping and allowed Tyler Williams in to head beyond the onrushing Matt Gould and into an empty net.
It wasn’t the first time in recent weeks that Stourbridge have found themselves having to respond to going a goal behind, but the deficit did not last long – less than a minute in fact, as Tonks lifted a ball into the box which Brown challenged for, with Luke Benbow quickest to react to volley the dropping ball into the roof of the net, giving Malkowski no chance.
The visitors’ Polish keeper had better fortune four minutes later, coming out smartly to clear as Benbow bore down, and he was called into action again before the break to save a free kick from the Glassboys’ leading scorer, and then to hold an angled effort from the same player. In between times, Jones, Benbow and Darryl Westlake all found their radar faulty with efforts off target.
Benbow tested Malkowski again with a free kick right into the keeper’s midriff at the start of the second half, and then Pierpoint saw his header from a Tonks corner blocked on the line and cleared by Jack Waters.
The goal that Stourbridge had been threatening eventually came on 56 minutes. Benbow tried his luck from another free kick, and with Malkowski only able to block at his near post, Brown was on hand to celebrate his birthday with a goal, slamming the loose ball home.
Two minutes later there was clear daylight between the teams as Jones did superbly to find space on the left and his low cross was helped on by Brown for Tonks to slot home from inside the six-yard box.
Game over? Not quite! Within two more minutes the visitors had a lifeline as they were awarded a penalty for handball, only for Luke Mangham to stroke his spot kick wide of Gould’s left-hand post, with the Glassboys keeper heading in the other direction. It may not have been a “game-changer” necessarily, but it did seem to flatten the visitors and they were rarely to seriously threaten again.
Stour were quickly on the hunt for more goals. Pierpoint headed down Westlake’s cross for Brown to hook over as he fell, and then Jones shot over the bar as he searched for space on the edge of the area.
But Jones did get the goal his performance deserved sixteen minutes from time as he retrieved the ball on the left before attacking the Frickley area and drilling a shot just inside Malkowski’s right-hand upright, with the keeper perhaps a little slow to react.
That, realistically, put the result beyond doubt, although Frickley kept at it, and Williams was unlucky to see his volley zip just wide shortly afterwards. The general pattern was still one of Glassboys control, however, and they went close again as Benbow laid the ball off for substitute Jordan Archer to fire wide from 20 yards.
The closing minutes saw Archer go close again as he headed wide when unmarked from a Benbow free kick, and then Benbow himself fired just over in stoppage time as Dodd found him in space ten yards out.