Stratford fall in Bulls cup shock

AFC Mansfield pulled off a giant-killing on Saturday as step three side Stratford Town were knocked out 2-1 in the first qualifying round.

Monday, 5th September 2016, 3:26 pm
Updated Monday, 5th September 2016, 4:31 pm
Ryan Williams gets a shot in for AFC Mansfield. Photo by Peter Craggs.

The win has set up a trip to another step three side in the shape of Coalville Town in the next round and secured £3,000 in prize money for the Bulls.

AFC Mansfield boss Rudy Funk adopted a cautious approach, allowing the visitors possession while compacting play in the opposing half.

This invited Stratford on and the home side rode its luck in the first half. As early as the second minute Jason White was in action, turning a rasping drive from Jamie Sheldon around the post.

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The keeper was in action five minutes later having to dive at the feet of Richard Gregory after Gavin Allott’s backpass was a little short.

Gary Bradshaw’s audacious effort from fully 40 yards caught Niall Cooper off his line, the keeper furiously backpeddling and just getting his fingertips to the ball taking the sting out and then gratefully collecting the ball just before it crossed the line.

A minute later and White pushed Jordan Liburd’s curling free-kick away for another corner, then Bradshaw fired just too high after a defensive error from the visitors.

On the half-hour mark Stratford went close to breaking the deadlock, White saving at point blank range from Gregory and the follow-up by Edwin Ahenkorah hitting the far post and rolling along the line into White’s hands.

A Ryan Williams free-kick saw Cooper get down well to his left on 35 minutes and at the other end Gregory fired tamely at White.

At the end of the half a neat move around the Stratford box saw the ball fall to Bradshaw who chipped it over Cooper and into the net but the assistant’s flag had gone up and the half ended all square.

The second period started with AFC Mansfield looking a little sharper and eager to take the game to Stratford.

The Bulls took the lead through Bradshaw’s superb finish, curling the ball past Cooper after a through ball from Williams.

The lead lasted eight minutes as Guy Clark rose above everybody to power home a header from a corner on 75 minutes.

The home side had to deal with five minutes of pressure before grabbing the winner. From a Stratford free-kick 30 yards out the ball came back off the wall to the feet of Ollie Fearon. At this point he was 75 yards from the visitor’s goal and off he went, racing down the left flank past several Stratford players. He reached their box and beat another defender before firing a low precise drive past the advancing Cooper to send the home crowd wild.

There followed a tense last ten minutes but the Bulls held their nerve to seal their passage through.

AFC Mansfield: White, Wilson, Dudley, Allott, Plummer, D’Laryea, Williams (C), Cotton (Annable 86), Fearon (Naylor 82), Bradshaw (Karkach 80), Ghaichem. Subs not used: Wright, Chadburn, Madin.