A Fan's Eye View - Stourbridge 5 - 1 Bamber Bridge
Where to start? With most if not all of the match reports I’ve put together, I usually have a good idea of the opening paragraph. Today, I simply haven’t. But having had time on the journey home to reflect on the day, it’s certainly worth noting that we have lost a football match. Nothing more, nothing less. Bamber Bridge are out of the FA Trophy, but it’s just that. Massively disappointing on the day, but we will bounce back.
In fairness much of the disappointment amongst the supporters, and there was a few dissenting voices, had subsided by full time having accepted that the tie was over in the opening 45 minutes with Brig trailing 3-0, having not laid a glove on their West Midlands opponents.
The day had started so well, spirits were high following the stirring fightback in the League game at home to Warrington Rylands on Tuesday evening. Hopes were high of progression in the FA Trophy given that our Southern Premier League opponents were on something of a sticky run and not in the best of form.
A minutes applause to honour the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton pre kick off brought everyone in the stadium to their feet.
However just 15 minutes into the match and the tie was effectively over. The home side had started on the front foot and pressed their Lancashire visitors back in the opening minutes.
Brig looked to have weathered the early storm and began to impose themselves on The Glassmen of Stourbridge. I n the 10th minute good work involving Danny Edwards, Adam Dodd and Harry Benns led to a Brig corner, played short but intercepted and out for another corner, the same routine but this time delivered into the box and headed out at the far post for a 3rd consectutive corner.
This was struck too long leading to a Stourbridge throw in, level with their own 6 yard line. Unbelievably from this position the hosts took the lead just a few seconds later. A quick break down the right, a deep cross, stroked home and Brig were behind.
Just two minutes later and the tie was effectively over. A long free kick into the Bamber Bridge penalty looked to be comfortable for James Pradic in the Brig goal, but the keeper seemed to mistime his jump and the ball was met by the head of the Stourbridge striker who nodded the ball home. Brig were shell shocked and simply didn’t recover.
The hosts were on top, knew they had their visitors on the ropes and piled on the pressure. Brig were just not at the races as the half wore on and didn’t create a single opportunity to test the home keeper. The inevitable 3rd Stourbridge goal arrived on 35 minutes, a through ball saw the home striker stride in to the area, side step Pradic and sweep the ball into the empty net.
Jamie Milligan immediately looked to change things and made two substitutions before the half time break, Louis Holt, starved of any service whatsoever was replaced by Sam Billington with Mackenzie O’Neil replacing Harry Benns
There was no change to the flow of the game and the half time whistle blew with a chorus of dissenting voices from the small band of Brig supporters behind the goal. We don’t (and shouldn’t) know what was said in the dressing room but the Brig players were back on the pitch a good seven or eight minutes before their Worcestershire opponents re-emerged.
Brig looked brighter in the opening stages of the second half, but whether that was due to the home side taking their foot off the pedal is open to debate.
Brig enjoyed quite a lot of possession but without creating any openings.
With time swiftly moving on and the hosts happy to run the clock down Mark Cullen replaced Danny Edwards and with just 10 minutes remaining was he was alert to a Mackenzie O’Neil low cross from the left, stabbing the ball home at the near post. Game on, well not for long!
O’Neil, who was playing well and trying hard to make an impact in the second half saw a good low drive well held by the keeper, but any thoughts of an unlikely comeback were extinguished just seconds after that save as the hosts counter attached and added a 4th.
Four become five on 90 minutes as a left-wing cross was headed home. The referee added insult to injury by announcing 6 added minutes, that frankly nobody wanted to see. A Mackenzie O’Neil shot well saved by the home keeper was the last action of the tie.
The full-time whistle came with just 6 Brig fans left behind the goal, the others had understandably long since opted for the excellent Stourbridge clubhouse. But this is where the players, in particular, Captain Macaulay Wilson regained some respect, as he marched over to the few remaining Briggers to offer an apology, followed by the rest of the squad, manager and coaching staff. A gesture that was well received and certainly restored belief.
There's always next season !!
Brig had been well beaten by a much better side on the day and the manner of the first half performance must surely not be repeated. Some pride was restored in the second half and the reaction at the end showed that the players care.
So, the two major cup competitions are now over for Bamber Bridge leaving just the Lancashire Trophy to play for and of course the task of improving the league position and climbing the table.
A final word for Stourbridge FC, a really friendly welcoming club, great supporters who neither gloated or tried to rub in the result. We were treated with maximum respect and made to feel welcome before, during and after the match. I hope they go on to have a good run in the Trophy.
For Brig, it doesn’t get any easier as next weekend thwy are on their travels again (7 games out of eight on the road), as they make the relatively short journey to face Ashton United, currently sitting in third place in the Northern Premier League.
Match reporter: Alan Bateson
Photo: Alan Bateson