|Isuzu FA Trophy
Stafford Rangers overcame a battling display from Sporting Khalsa to book their place in the 1st Round of the FA Trophy.
The home side raced to a 3-0 lead but a goal on the half hour kept the visitors interested. The arrears were reduced further just before the hour mark forcing the Stafford fans to endure a nervy finish before they could celebrate their first win in 6 games.
Matt Hill gave loan signing Rakealan Jeffers his debut 24 hours after arriving from Stoke City. Tyreece Onyeka was also in the starting line up with Andy Burns and Jack Massey left out from the side that drew with Bradford.
The visitors – sitting mid table in the NPL Division One Midlands – looked determined to make an impact and Toumanz Sidibe forced an early save from Cam Belford after being put through by Peter Taylor.
Rangers went ahead with their first serious attack. Kaiman Anderson and Aaron Braithwaite combined to take the ball away from Todd Ferrier. Braithwaite advanced and exchanged passes with Jeffers before firing past Sherdon Martinez in the 8th minute.
Simon Njaria went close to adding a second after Martinez had dropped a long throw from Sam Bird before Onyeka did make it 2-0 on 14 minutes.
Again Braithwaite played his part, this time dispossessing Matt Fulloway. Anderson played in Onyeka who managed to get in ahead of Martinez to score. The goal came at a cost to Onyeka who picked up a hamstring injury and was replaced by Massey.
Khalsa went in search of the goal that would get them back into the game and Belford kept out Sidibe once more when the visiting number 10 looked set to score. A well struck drive from Singh a couple of minutes later didn’t give the Rangers’ keeper any concern but sent out the message that Khalsa weren’t beaten just yet.
Substitute Massey was the creator of Rangers’ third goal on 25 minutes. He beat Dominic Perkins on the right and squared for Anderson to steer past Martinez.
But it was far from game over and Singh outfoxed Ethan Stewart to cross for James McGrady to head Khlasa back in to it.
But Rangers were also in the mood for more and Jeffers forced a save from Martinez before Njaria was just off target from the resulting corner.
The home side then felt that they should have had a penalty when Perkins bundled Jeffers to the ground but referee Jake Allsopp wasn’t interested.
A flash point early in the second half saw Perkins and Massey tangle off the ball. Both players appeared to kick out and were fortunate that neither the referee or his assistants saw the incident. Hill wasn’t prepared to push his luck any further and replaced Massey with Blissett before any further trouble.
Shortly after coming on, Blissett thought he had extended Rangers’ lead when he converted a cross from Joe Dunne but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Blissett was still celebrating his ‘goal’ as Khalsa quickly restarted play and launched a counter attack which ended with Singh shooting just over.
It was the former Hednesford man who set up the exciting finish on 57 minutes when he volleyed in following a free kick on the Khalsa right.
At the other end, a shirt pull on Blissett from Perkins went unpunished while the Rangers sub had to watch the ball trickle past the post after a header took a deflection from a visiting defender.
In between, Singh went close to an equaliser with a deflected shot that landed on the roof of the net while Belford saved his side once more with a save from McGrady.
Although Khalsa kept looking for the leveller, it was Rangers who came closest to adding to the scoring in the final 10 minutes as Anderson’s drive took a deflection and Martinez was forced to make a good reaction save.
Stafford: 1 Cameron Belford, 2 Sam Bird, 3 Joe Dunne, 4 Jake Moult, 5 Ethan Stewart, 6 Simon Njaria, 7 Tyreece Onyeka (16 Jack Massey 16m (12 Nathan Blissett 52m)), 8 Aaron Braithwaite (14 Jay Ford 71m), 9 Kaiman Anderson, 10 Joe Willis, 11 Keke Jeffers. Unused Subs: 13 Jack Sandel, 15, Andy Burns, 17 Ben Woods, 18 Lewis Keeling
Sporting Khalsa: 1 Sherdon Martinez, 20 Andrew Parsons, 3 Dominic Perkins, 4 Kieron Whittaker, 5 Matt Fulloway, 6 Peter Taylor (12 Brett Lloyd 80m), 7 James McGready, 8 Todd Ferrier, 9 Gurjit Singh (14 Jonathan Letford 86m), 10 Toumanz Sidibe, 11 Sean Williams (15 Dilano Reid 68m). Unused subs 16 Carlo Franco, 17 Alex Woodhouse, 18 Luke Bastable
Referee: Jake Allsopp
Cautions: Ferrier (Sporting Khalsa)
Report by Chris Elsley
KO KO 8 14 16 25 31 45 52 57 69 71 80 86 FT