Pitching In Northern Premier League
Tuesday 29 March 2022
Marston Road’s biggest Staffs Senior Cup crowd for more than 30 years saw Stafford Rangers progress to the final of the competition at the expense of a youthful Stoke City side.
Rangers made a number of changes to the side beaten at South Shields with Matt Hill taking the opportunity to give squad members some valuable game time while also taking in to consideration those that needed to play to ensure availability for the final were they to win. Ben Forrest, injured in pre-season, made his first appearance of the campaign as a last minute substitute.
There was never any danger of Rangers not booking their place in the final. Experience proved a telling factor as Rangers asked all of the early questions without getting a clear look at goal.
Blondy Nna Noukeu provided the crowd with some entertainment as he dropped a number of high crosses and comically fell over one of his own team mates after another flap.
The Stoke keeper did show a touch of class on 36 minutes when he clawed away Josh Endall’s header which was heading for the top corner but it was business as usual from the resultant corner. The ball was played back to Joe Dunne who sent in a deep cross that eluded Nna Noukeu and the Stoke defenders and landed in the back of the net.
Having fallen behind, Stoke enjoyed their best spell of the half but failed to threaten the Stafford goal and the home side took their lead into the interval.
Stoke continued to press after the break with Jack Griffiths firing over from just outside the area and Patrick Jarrett shooting tamely at Ty Belford. Soon after, Ibrahim Sy struck the Stafford cross bar – Thomas Sparrow followed up but blazed high over.
But Rangers responded in the best possible fashion when Tom Tonks extended the lead on 59 minutes with a moment of genius when he lobbed Nna Noukeu from the right hand touchline – some 50 yards out.
The biggest concerns Rangers had on the night were injuries picked up by Theo Bailey-Jones and Jake Charles although neither were expected to be anything more than precautionary withdrawals from the game.
Rangers will now face fellow Stafford Borough outfit Stone Old Alleynians in the final tie at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium on 4 May.
The gate of 608 is the largest to watch a Staffs Senior Cup tie at Stafford since they beat Tamworth 2-0 in January 1989.
Stafford Rangers: 1 Ty Belford, 2 Andrew Burns, 3 Joe Dunne, 4 Alex-Ray Harvey, 5 5 Luis Morrison-Derbyshire, 6 Josh Endall, 7 Joe Kenton (17 Ben Forrest 90+5m), 8 Tom Tonks, 9 Jake Charles (12 Kaiman Anderson 73m), 10 Alex Fletcher, 11 Theo Bailey-Jones (14 Tre Pemberton 66m). Unused Subs: 15 James O’Neill, 16 Ethan Stewart
Stoke City: 1 Blondy Nna Noukeu, 2 Thomas Sparrow, 3 Tom Curl, 4 Adam Porter, 5 David Okagbue, 6 Matthew Baker, 7 Jack Griffiths, 8 Ibrahim Sy, 9 Max McCarthy (16 Nathan Lowe 76m), 10 Ted Cargill (15 Joshua Ireland 65m), 11 Patrick Jarrett. Unused Subs 12 Joshua Bickerton, 13 Robbie Hemfry, 14 Sam Knowles
Cautions: Curl, Okagbue, Ireland (Stoke)
Referee: Michael D’Aguilar
Report: Chris Elsley