The current holders of the trophy produced a decisive and professional display to see off a Romulus side who are in a transitional phase following the appointment of new manager Mark Swann last week. To their credit the MFL Premier Division side stuck to their task manfully and were rewarded with a goal twelve minutes from time that briefly hinted at an unlikely late fightback.
Boss Gary Hackett signalled his determination to have a good go at defending the trophy by naming a strong side with the only player not to have started a game in the last week being goalkeeper Niall Maher who took over from James Wren between the sticks. Besides Wren, only Aaron Forde, Greg Mills and the injured Jordaan Brown were missing from the 17 players to have featured regularly in recent weeks.
The hosts were on the front foot from the start as they attacked the Shed End. In the 2nd minute Kaiman Anderson laid the ball back to Brad Birch and he played a first time pass into the feet of Luke Benbow, who turned and hit a low shot that was saved by keeper Bradley Clarkson.
Further Glassboys pressure paid off with 10 minutes gone. A raking pass from Leon Broadhurst found Callum Powell on the left and he cut inside and accelerated past his marker before arrowing a shot beyond the keeper into the opposite side of the net.
As Romulus continued to take rear-guard action a ball forward by Stuart Pierpoint was collected by Benbow and his shot was deflected over the bar for a corner.
Darryl Westlake had the ball in the net on 16 minutes but his shot was ruled out for offside.
Three minutes later Chekaine Steele laid the ball back for Broadhurst to drill a low shot that flew past the far post.
In the 28th minute Benbow delivered in an inswinging free-kick from the left and Aaron Hayden got in a header that was saved by Clarkson on his line.
A minute later though the Glassboys doubled their lead. A first-time flick by Benbow released Anderson away in the clear as the visitors appealed in vain for offside. He went round the keeper before angling a shot into the net to put the hosts firmly in the driving seat.
Six minutes later it was three with a Benbow free-kick from 25 yards beating the wall and catching out the keeper as it flew inside Clarkson’s left-hand post.
Stourbridge remained in the driving seat in the run-in to half-time. In the 37th minute Birch chased a ball into the left-hand side of the box and he then touched a pass back to Benbow and his low shot was touched into the side-netting by the keeper.
Soon afterwards Christophorou found Benbow with a throw-in and he, in turn, fed Steele, who struck a low shot that took a deflection and hit the base of Clarkson’s right-hand upright.
In the 44th minute a Birch shot from just inside the area was pushed round the post by Clarkson and then from Steele’s right-wing flag-kick Hayden saw his downward header stopped by the Roms keeper.
HT Stourbridge 3 Romulus 0
Luke Benbow tried to start the second period in cheeky fashion with an attempt on goal straight from the kick-off and his effort wasn’t too far away, but it cleared the crossbar with Clarkson backpedalling.
In the 47th minute Steele shot goal-wards from the right-hand side of the box, but it was blocked by Clarkson at his near post.
After that there was something of a lull in proceedings and with the Glassboys holding a strong position, the home side began to ring the changes. Cameron Walker replaced Benbow on 63 minutes and a double change followed seven minutes later with Tom Tonks making his first appearance of the season following his ankle surgery and youngster Jamie Mastropierro was also introduced with Powell and Broadhurst making way.
Tonks was soon in the thick of the action launching one of his trademark long throw-ins into the Romulus box where Hayden couldn’t keep his header down.
Maher hadn’t seen much action during the contest, but he was called on to make a good diving save away to his left to turn a shot round the post, but moments later he was caught flat-footed on his line from the right-wing corner and sub Leon Taylor powered in-front of him to nod home and pull a goal back for the visitors as a reward for their battling efforts. They tried to push for a second goal in the latter stages but were unable to test Maher again and Stourbridge were able to reflect on a good night’s work and a quarter-final tie at home to Halesowen in the New Year to look forward to.
Team - Maher, Hayden, Christophorou, Westlake, Pierpoint, Birch, Powell, Broadhurst, Benbow, Anderson, Steele
Subs - Walker (for Benbow 63 mins), Tonks (for Powell 70 mins), Mastropierro (for Broadhurst 70 mins), McCone, Thompson-Brown (not used)
Updated 23:37 - 10 Dec 2018 by Nigel Gregg