Staffordshire FA Senior Challenge Cup Final
Tuesday 24th April 2018 at Stoke City FC
Stafford Rangers 3 Hednesford Town 2
On the proverbial cold and wet Tuesday night in Stoke, Stafford Rangers and Hednesford Town met to decide who would take home the Senior Cup for this season.
The bet365 Stadium was the venue as these two division rivals faced each other for the third time this season with the Pitmen having won the two league encounters 2-1 and 1-0.
The game started with rain steadily falling giving the players a slick and immaculate surface on which to play their football and the derby atmosphere in the stands added to the occasion with the opening goal coming 14 minutes in and was the first real moment of quality in the game.
After a fairly bright opening from both sides, Jack Sherratt opened the scoring with a sublime long range strike that James Wren in the Hednesford goal could only watch sail into the top corner and Rangers were 1-0 ahead.
However, the goal spurred Hednesford on to their best spell of the game so far and their fans thought they had drawn level when James Lawrie’s shot from the edge of the box headed for the bottom corner only for Rangers keeper Adam Whitehouse to finger tip the ball round the post.
Whitehouse denied Glover from close range a short while later but the Pitmen were deservedly level just past the half hour mark when Anthony Dwyer let fly from 25 yards and the ball flew into the top corner to the delight of the Hednesford supporters.
The Pitmen were now looking strong but could not take advantage of their pressure on the Rangers defence and the half-time break came with the scores level at 1-1.
Goalscorer Dwyer should have put Hednesford ahead at the start of the second half when he pounced on a poor back pass from Levi Reid but his low shot was saved by Whitehouse and the chance was gone.
And Rangers made them pay for that miss with one of their first attempts on goal in the second half as Kyle Perry headed home a corner to put them 2-1 ahead with just under half an hour to play.
With the rain still falling, the Pitmen pressed for an equaliser with Whitehouse tipping a James Fitzgibbon shot around the post as the game entered the closing stages.
Robert Thompson-Brown’s free-kick with around five minutes to play looked to have sealed the crown for Rangers as his curling near post free-kick took a deflection inside the box to fly past Wren into the net for a 3-1 lead.
The celebrations were premature though as the Pitmen rallied and, as the game entered stoppage time, Ben Bailey stabbed home a low cross shot to pull them within one goal of taking the game to a penalty shoot-out.
Rangers were on the back foot with Wren in the Hednesford goal spending almost the entire injury time period in and around the Rangers area but despite a number of close calls, the Pitmen could not find a way through and Danny Glover’s late strike on goal saved by Whitehouse proved to be the last action of a frantic second half.
Congratulations to both sides on providing a fantastic final for the 847 in attendance and a massive thanks to everyone for making the effort to come and support their teams on a damp night in Stoke-on-Trent.
All that was left was for captain Josh Craddock to lift the trophy, much to the delight of the Rangers supporters as they claim the Senior Cup for the 12th time in their history.