Nantwich Town 1 Stourbridge 0 (FA Trophy)
By Richard Clark
Stourbridge discovered that lightning does indeed strike twice as for the second time this season they fell to defeat at Nantwich with a late goal.
It was sub Steve Jones who broke Stourbridge hearts once more and ended the Glassboys hopes of making it through to the Quarter-Finals of the F A Trophy. Jones having also scored Walsall's winner against Gary Hackett's men back in 2009 when Stourbridge reached the 1st Round Proper of the F A Cup for the first time and played host to the Saddlers.
On this occasion he ghosted in at the far post on 89 minutes to get on the end of Sean Cooke's inswinging free-kick from 20 yards out, close to the left-hand edge of the box and direct a header past Matt Gould to give the Dabbers a deserved victory.
Nantwich had had the better of proceedings for much of the evening, shading the first period before forcing the pace after the break, but the Glassboys managed to ride their luck at times, with Gould also showing up well with a number of worthy saves or blocks as the visitors came within a whisker of forcing a replay, despite being without the services of three starting regulars, the suspended Matt Dodd, the holidaying Dan Scarr and Sean Geddes who missed out through a rib injury.
Leon Broadhurst lined up at the heart of the Stour defence alongside Pierpoint with Sam Whittall coming in for his first start in midfield, partnered with Drew Canavan.
The Cheshire hosts settled quickest and on 7 minutes a cross from Matt Bell on the left caused Brian Smikle to hesitate on the ball in the middle, allowing Matt Kosylo to dispossess him, but his angled close range shot was blocked by Matt Gould. Three minutes later a penetrating move from the Dabbers laid on a chance for Bell who saw his shot blocked by Pierpoint before Smikle cleared the ball to safety. Stourbridge threatened for the first time on 13 minutes. Kristian Green clipped the ball into the path of Ben Billingham who brought it under control before drilling a left-foot shot from just outside the box past Terry Smith's left-hand post. Nantwich were soon back on the attack and Bell squandered an opportunity when the ball sat up nicely for him invitingly inside the area, but he miscued his attempted volley. Midway through the half as Stourbridge started to find their feet, Lait turned the ball inside from the left for Smikle, however his early 16-yard shot cleared the crossbar. The home side then went close after 34 minutes as Elliott Osborne worked a short corner on the right with Bell. Bell then drifted in a teasing inswinging ball that carried just over the head of Liam Shotton in space at the back and curled narrowly wide of the far post. A good spell for the Dabbers saw Kosylo head home from a left-wing cross, but his effort was disallowed for a push spotted by the eagle-eyed ref. A long range shot from Sam Hall was also safely collected by Gould, while three minutes before the interval, Bell delayed in getting his shot away from a promising position, enabling Pierpoint to get across to block.
Nantwich soon laid down the gauntlet after the re-start. In the 49th minute Kosylo held off Canavan before lifting his shot over from the left-hand side of the area. Stourbridge then had a big let-off after 62 minutes when a tidy ball in from Kosylo picked out Shotton wide open in-front of goal, however he failed to make a clean connection on the ball and instead the visitors were able to recover and clear their lines. A minute later Hall had a shot blocked before Osborne followed up to drive in a low shot that Gould saved well down to his right. Both sides then made a change. Callum McFarlane was brought on for his debut in place of Billingham. McFarlane went to the left-hand side of midfield with Lait, who was being well-shackled, moving to the right. The home side took the opportunity to introduce former Northern Ireland international Jones for Shotton. More home pressure on 66 minutes saw a short corner taken on the left before being played across for Andy White to strike a 20-yard shot that drew another good save from Gould. Five minutes later Bell fed Osborne and he twisted and turned to make room for a low drive that flew inches wide of Gould's right-hand upright. Little had been seen of Stourbridge as an attacking force in the second period, but some classy play from Karl Hawley almost broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute. He received a pass from Canavan in the right-channel area and his early rising shot curled inches wide of the far post with Smith beaten. Nantwich, having introduced Cooke as their second change, might have been left to rue another golden chance wasted on 76 minutes when a poor free-kick from Pierpoint was easily cut-out allowing Josh Hancock to thread a pass inside Smikle for Jones to fasten on to, leaving him one-on-one with Gould. He clipped his angled shot past Gould but watched on in anguish as the ball ran narrowly wide of the far post. By now Stourbridge were looking to hold out for a draw, but the visitors defence was opened up in the 82nd minute as Kosylo slipped a short pass to Lewis Short on the left-hand side of the box, however Gould reacted quickly and spread himself well to block. It looked like Gary Hackett's men might cling on to force a replay until Jones atoned for his earlier miss with his 89th minute header to put the Dabbers in-front and three minutes into stoppage time with Stourbridge desperately searching for an equaliser, a sudden break from the hosts led by Jones through the right channel area ended with White firing against the post, but it mattered not as the final whistle sounded as the ball was cleared away to confirm Nantwich's place in the last eight with a home tie against Dover Athletic to look forward to.