BROMSGROVE Sporting’s FA Vase dreams ended at the last sixteen stage on Saturday, as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Berkshire-based Thatcham Town, writes Max Banner.
All three goals came in the first half, with the lively Ekow Elliott scoring a brace inside the opening 30 minutes to give Thatcham a commanding advantage before a Richard Gregory penalty for the Rouslers ten minutes from the half-time whistle gave Sporting a massive chance of staging a comeback.
However, a second half which was largely a cagey, scrappy affair did not see Bromsgrove eat into Thatcham’s lead any further. A Max Loveridge effort inside the box going agonisingly wide was the best chance the Rouslers had.
In fact, it was the home side who had the majority of goalscoring opportunities in the half and were it not for goalkeeper Reece Francis, the winning margin could well have been more than one, on a day where Paul Smith’s men failed to deliver the requisite goods.
From the off, Thatcham’s attacking prowess was evident, with the prolific Shane Cooper-Clarke having a couple of shots blocked in the early stages.
Sporting’s first chance fell to Reece Hewitt, who made a darting run into the area before having his shot from an acute angle saved relatively comfortably by Chris Rackley.
The opening goal came 18 minutes in; Elliott made himself enough space inside the box to unleash a beautifully curled left-footed effort into the bottom corner.
Sporting’s woes continued nine minutes later, with the pacey winger Harry Grant finding Elliott with an accurate ball into the box, who prodded the ball across the ground and into the net.
The tie could soon have been dead and buried a mere minute later, as Grant had a cracking shot from the best part of 25 yards out clatter the crossbar; keeper Francis getting nowhere near it.
Sporting’s first and, ultimately, only goal of the afternoon came on the 35th minute. Typically impactful substitute John Pykett replaced Sam Wills around half an hour into the game and made his mark almost instantly, being felled in the area by keeper Rackley after weaving his way through the Thatcham defence.
Up stepped Gregory, who slammed his spotkick as straight as die down the middle, with the striker attempting to rouse the Sporting faithful as he collected the ball from the goal.
That goal did give Bromsgrove some momentum, with Gregory and Robbie Bunn both having half chances to bring the scores level with audacious efforts.
Following the interval, Cooper-Clarke continued to make a nuisance of himself to the Sporting defence, with a looping header over the bar a minute into the half being followed by a much better opportunity whereby his shot from close range expertly saved by the feet of Francis.
A chance for the Rouslers came in between those two; the aforementioned Loveridge opportunity. A lofted ball by Aaron Roberts was headed on by Jason Cowley, which fell to Loveridge, who missed the goal by a lick of post paint, trickling painfully wide.
A pair of golden opportunities followed, one for either side. Firstly, a Tom Browne free kick was headed towards goal by Bab Jarra, only to be cleared off the line by a Bromsgrove shirt before Gregory spurned a free header from a Roberts cross, only managing to send it wide of the post.
The final fifteen saw Thatcham dominate, which allowed them to wind down the clock as they duly wished and with this, the growing impetus Sporting were slowly building late in the first half had truly gone; in truth this had ebbed away as the second forty-five progressed.
Substitute Jemel Johnson had two chances in quick succession, the first being a one-on-one with Francis, in which the Sporting stopper got an all-important hand to the ball to prevent him tapping home into an empty net, soon followed by a shot that was blocked out for a corner.
The final highlight of the game fell to the robust Cooper-Clarke, who had yet another shot on goal, this one deflected wide for a corner in injury time.
It wasn’t to be for him but it would not matter one jot for the home side, as they saw the game out to continue their emphatic winning run to 19 games, leaving Bromsgrove deflated and dejected, as they exit the competition two stages earlier than last year.