by Peter Scherer
Mickleover Reds, the second year Academy team, arrived at Stafford Rangers, undefeated without having conceded a goal.
In this table topping encounter the opening 15 minutes gave an indication of the task ahead.
There had been no early attempts on goal from either side, but after 14 minutes Stafford won a free kick, which was fired well over the bar.
Only a minute later there was another attack from Stafford, after they collected a poor kick from Mickleover goalkeeper Tom Smith.
Mickleover’s first real attack soon followed, when Josh Satchwell, playing at the back, combined well with Brodie Carter to win a corner.
Stafford’s leading scorer Jayden Hunter had already been a tough opponent and kept Satchwell and Cameron Anthony on their toes in the centre of the Mickleover defence, earning a corner which went to waste, after 19 minutes.
Much of Mickleover’s play seemed to stem from Satchwell, but after Stafford made a break on goal, Smith came hurtling out and fouled the home striker, earning himself a yellow card.
Ben Lewin and Will Robinson both worked hard on the overlap, but the final ball continued to fall short of the Mickleover strikers, amidst a flurry of hard tackling from both sides.
Hunter had a shot across the face of the goal after 34 minutes, before Carter responded with a shot just wide, earning a corner, but the closest yet for Mickleover.
It could easily have been 1-0 for Mickleover three minutes later, when George Atwal crossed and Kai Moore just failed to connect.
Although Louis Pennington and Ted Stevenson continued to push forward, Stafford were threatening still too.
Hunter collected the ball off the back of Satchwell’s head, before Smith safely collected it.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Pennington was fouled , but Atwal’s shot cannoned into the wall and away. Stevenson then had a good clean shot, forcing the Stafford keeper into a diving save.
There had been few clear cut chances for either side in the first 45 minutes, but unusually there was a lack of precision and ideas from the Mickleover side, earning them a stern talking too from coach Pablo Mills.
The second half started with promise, when after 49 minutes Robinson shot down the wing, whipped passed the approaching Stafford keeper and put a challenging ball into the box at Moore’s feet. But unfortunately he failed to connect.
Jacob Edge-Lucas came into the game more and some of his creativity seemed to help Mickleover push forward. He led a break after a Stafford free kick, which gave Carter a half chance.
Five minutes later Mickleover rued their missed chances, when after holding off Pennington’s challenge, Hunter fired a missile of a shot into Smith’s top left hand corner 0-1.
Hunter was set on goal again on the hour, but his weak shot was easily blocked by Smith. There seemed far too many free kicks given by the Mickleover team, but after Kyran Ward had come on, he combined with Edge-Lucas with a sniff of an equaliser.
Any hopes of pulling the game back were dashed however, when in the 75th minute Hunter rounded Anthony to turn the ball into the area, before a fellow Stafford striker hit the ball home from close range, 0-2.
Fin Barker came on for Mickleover, just before Ward had a clash of heads with a home defender. Both players required treatment before the game continued.
Barker pushed hard to create space, but was fouled three times in one run. Edge-Lucas then had a shot blocked by the keepers feet and then in the closing minutes, Pennington layed the ball back just falling short of Brodie’s run.
With the whistle already being raised, Edge-Lucas was fouled on the edge of the box, but Pennington’s free kick sailed high and wide and it was game over.