Town Youth turned in a performance brimming with character and commitment as they dented Stourbridge’s title ambitions in a pulsating clash at the MoodChimp Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The Glassboys arrived on the back of seven successive MFYL Premier Division South wins and knowing that they only needed one more to be crowned Champions, but Town ultimately outfought them and Tyrike Richards-Burke’s 70th minute strike clinched the points for Nick Ballinger’s side who as always gave 110% plus.
The Stourbridge starting line-up included skipper Jake Evans who had signed a first team contract for next season earlier in the week plus five others who had also featured in the first team squad in recent matches, and they were quickly into their stride with James Welch cutting in from the right in only the fifth minute to force a decent save out of Ryan Woodward who was deputising for regular Town Youth keeper Archie Donaldson.
But if the Glassboys thought it was all going to be straightforward from then on they were soon to be disillusioned as Town responded a few minutes later with Harry Hartin threading the ball through to Richards-Burke who dragged his shot wide with only keeper Peter Hawk to beat.
Another chance came Town’s way on the half hour mark when Richards-Burke crossed to Hartin whose close range drive was beaten away by Hawk followed soon after by a Ben Couki effort clipping the frame of the goal on its way behind.
But ten minutes before the break Evans showed a glimpse of why he is highly regarded at Stourbridge when he worked his way in from the left to create space for a fiercely struck right footer which looked destined for the top corner until Woodward pulled off a stunning save as he arched backwards to tip the ball onto the bar with the rebound then being scrambled clear.
Richards-Burke gave Stourbridge the Stourbridge backline plenty of problems with his pace throughout, and he had the first two chances of the second half in the opening minutes.
Firstly he ran onto a through pass from George Dawson only to shoot too close to Hawk who was able to save low to his left and he had a similar opportunity a few minutes later which again he put wide.
But Stourbridge were now cranking up the pressure with Evans seeing his low drive pushed away by Woodward and then firing over from 20 yards out followed by Woodward making another smart save from Jake Brigdale.
Town though were still dangerous when they were able to get forward, and after Hawk had turned behind a stinging drive from Hartin they broke away to score what turned out to be the decider with 20 minutes to go.
Inevitably it was Richards-Burke who sprinted away from his marker to latch onto a long ball down the middle and this time his finishing radar was spot on as he coolly swept the ball past the advancing Hawk into the net.
Stourbridge’s efforts now became even more frantic but Josh Aspinall-Smyth and Jamie Ford were immense in the centre of Town’s defence, and with everyone else putting in a real shift as well the minutes ticked away as Stourbridge failed to make their chances count.
Brigdale shot wide when well placed, a low cross from Alex Cameron fizzed across the face of the Town goal with no Glassboys player close enough to apply the finishing touch and on 85 minutes Brigdale blasted a 25 yard free kick wastefully over.
Right on 90 minutes Town had a scare when a centre from the left touchline was missed by everyone except the well positioned Sacha Everard who was able to steer the loose ball away to safety, and with one or two tempers now fraying Stourbridge had one final last chance from a corner in the last of six added minutes.
Hawk came up for this one and as the ball skimmed off his head to flash the wrong side of the post Stourbridge’s frustrations were complete.
They can still claim the title as long as they avoid defeat in their last match of the season away to defending champions Rugby Town Juniors on Monday, but should the Glassboys lose then the Juniors could leapfrog them by winning their final fixture which is against Town at the MoodChimp next Thursday.
And Town haven’t finished with Stourbridge yet as the two teams are scheduled to meet in the MFYL League Cup Final at Evesham United’s ground on Monday May 14th when it will surely be another closely fought encounter.