• Rob McNeil

Long Eaton's FA Cup dreams end at Stratford

FA Cup Third Qualifying Round

Stratford Town 3

Andoh 15, Grocott 31, Wilson 83

Long Eaton Utd 2

K Walker 10, Graham 36

Lewis Wilson’s late goal for Stratford Town saw Long Eaton bow out of the Emirates FA Cup in a close-fought competition at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Blues took the lead early in the first half as Kieran Walker’s poked effort flew past the diving Kiam O’Brien and into the far corner. Five minutes later, the hosts levelled through Enoch Andoh before Will Grocott put Stratford in front mid-way through the first half.

Romaine Graham equalised in the 36th minute, but Wilson netted with seven minutes left to play to knock Long Eaton out of the cup.

Stratford looked to use pace to their advantage in the opening minutes as Ahmed Obeng got the better of Sam Parker and found Jaanai Gordon in the box with a cross that was sent towards goal, but luckily the effort did not trouble Sam Wilson.

It was the Blues that opened the scoring in the tenth minute through Kieran Walker. A Jamie Walker free-kick curled dangerously into the box and was not dealt with by the Bards defence, which allowed the loitering centre back to react and poke past O’Brien from close.

Andoh levelled the scoreline only five minutes later, when a cross was misjudged by Sam Wilson and sent low, back across goal for the Bards’ winger to slot into an empty net.

Action from Long Eaton's clash with Stratford. Photo: Long Eaton Utd.

O’Brien denied Danny Gordon a trademark Emirates FA Cup goal in the 20th minute, after Robinson found the ball at his feet on the by-line and was able to cut the ball back to Gordon on the edge of the box for a shot, but the Bards’ keeper stuck out a leg to deny the midfielder.

Just after the half-hour mark, Stratford etched back in front – Grocott latched onto a forward pass and found himself one-on-one with Sam Wilson, then with composure, the midfielder was able to knock the ball past the Blues’ shot-stopper and into the bottom right corner.

In the 36th minute, Long Eaton snatched their second. From goal scorer to provider, Kieran Walker launched one of his trademark long-throws into the box, and captain Graham rose highest to flick the ball just inside the far post.

The second half started in similar fashion to the first, as pacey full-back Kynan Isaac drove to the by-line and found Grocott, in position to shoot, with a driven cross into the box, however, Sam Wilson reacted exceptionally to deny the midfielder his second.

Andoh had another chance for the hosts mid-way through the second half when he received the ball inside the box and attempted to curl a strike into the far corner, but once again Sam Wilson was on call to tip the ball around the post superbly.

The Bards thought they had taken the lead in the 66th minute through their pacey winger Obeng. The forward latched on to a well-timed forward pass and struck the ball venomously into the roof of the net, however, the referee adjudged Obeng to be in an offside position.

With 10 minutes left to play, substitute James Shaw came close to a winner – Fearon and Kameron Campbell linked up well in the centre and found Shaw down the left, the forward then cut inside and struck the ball towards the far post, but O’Brien got down well to push the strike around the post.

The Bards broke the hearts of the travelling Blues fans as they snatched a winner late in the second half. Will Dawes did well to drive to the by-line and send a cross into the box, which caused pinball, and eventually fell to Lewis Wilson to smash into the roof of the net.

Long Eaton piled on the pressure in the final few minutes with lofted balls up the pitch as they looked for an equaliser, but the Bards stood their ground and saw out the victory that sent them into the fourth round qualifying of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time in their 80-year history.