Stockton Town FC v Stourport Swifts
Stourport, who are one of the oldest clubs in the country, made the long trip from Worcestershire to Teesside for this hugely anticipated 5th Round FA Vase tie. Manager Michael Dunwell made three changes bringing back Tom Coulthard, Jimmy Ward and Fred Woodhouse in place of Adam Nicholson, Alan Cossavella and Chris Stockton.
A record 663 spectators crammed themselves into Bishopton Road West and the persistent rain made the pitch even slicker than normal. The opening 20 minutes was a little cagey and both teams seemed a little anxious to not make a mistake. Nathan Mulligan had obviously read his own inspiring interview in the local paper and immediately set about letting the Swifts know they were in a game in the first 5 minutes. It was Stourport who had the first effort on target shortly after when a whipped cross come shot had to be dealt with under his bar by Liam Jordan who acrobatically clawed it away. Stocktons first chance came on 16 minutes with Tom Coulthard getting a head on a Max Craggs corner but the Keeper Richards and a defender managed to block it on the line. The Anchors were warming to it a little now and 5 minutes later a nice 3 man move saw Woodhouse feed Owens who's chip was clawed out by the keeper, the deflection was picked up by Woodhouse himself but from a tight angle his effort was deflected away off the line. Carter and Hayes linked up after 24 minutes and Hayes breezed past the full back to roll Craggs in 16 yards out but his measured effort was brilliantly blocked by the Stourport defender. Stourport were working hard to contain Stockton and a break down the left by the winger saw a cross just evade the onrushing Prest and cleared by Jimmy Ward. Risbrough was getting on the ball now and found himself running at the Stourport defence and drew two players out to deal with him in the box but his whipped cross was cleared as Owens and Craggs rushed into the box on 31 minutes. The Swifts best effort brought a superb one handed tip over save by Jordan as a free kick was headed out by Mulligan and the Swifts winger hit a cracking volley from the edge of the box. Anchors took the lead they just about deserved in injury time of the first half as Owens jinked one way then the other on the edge of the box, played a one two with Woodhouse and as the keeper went to ground he dinked it over him and Kevin HAYES running in at the far post volleyed it home from close range.
Second half saw the Anchors in control mostly. Stourports best effort was a header by McPherson from Perry's free kick on 71 minutes which Jordan parried and just a minute later the Anchors increased their lead Dale Mulligan hit a ball down the line to Kev Hayes who stretched the Swifts defence but his ball inside was a little strong, however Fred Woodhouse got his toe to it and the ball sat up invitingly for Chris Stockton to crash a 22 yard shot at goal, keeper Richards could only parry and Jamie OWENS pounced to fire home low into the corner to ease a few nerves amongst the home supporters. Hayes was weaving his magic now and with Carter and Stockton flying down both wings a tiring Stourport were struggling to cope. Chris Stockton fired into the side netting from 6 yards out after a great cross by Carter. Max Craggs free kick was just wide with keeper Richards not getting there and then the best move of the game came on 82 minutes, Hayes starting back on the halfway line committed the full back again and rolled the ball into the path of the Woodhouse who's endless energy took him into the box, a clever look up saw him draw the keeper and then pull the ball back for Jamie OWENS to slot home from 12 yards. A corner in the final minute saw two goal line clearances in succession from Owens and Craggs and tbh a fourth would have been unfair on Stourport.
Although you couldn't call it comfortable, in the end Stockton were well on top of the last 20 minutes and deserved the victory. Mention for some good defensive performances by Joe Carter, Dale Mulligan, Tom Coulthard and Jimmy Ward who restricted Stourport to very few chances today. Kevin Hayes just keeps delivering but Sponsor Northshore Windows Man of the Match was Jamie Owens. Into the hat for the Quarter Final Draw on Monday and this amazing journey just keeps getting better. Everyone is trying really hard not to think about Wemberlee but its hard not too as its within touching distance.