Stone Old Alleynians 2-0 Hanley Town
Stone Old Alleynians booked their place in the semi-finals of the Staffs Vase with a resolute defensive performance against North West Counties League side Hanley Town in blustery conditions at Wellbeing Park.
Second half goals from Ben Lewis and Luke Askey were enough to see the Old Boys through, although there was a nervy last ten minutes when Alleynians were reduced to ten men after Askey saw red.
The win stretches Stone’s unbeaten run to twelve games, with ten victories and two draws since their loss to Penncroft in early October.
The visitors dominated the early possession but found it difficult to break down a well-organised Alleynians side, rarely threatening Lewis Paglia in the host’s goal, although Paglia did have to be alert to deal with a Theo Stair free-kick midway through the half.
But for all of their defensive endeavour, the Old Boys lacked any real quality in possession making for a half that lacked any clear-cut chances.
Hanley made a change at the break in the hope of changing their fortunes, bringing on striker Dwayne Spence.
And that move nearly paid dividends when a probing right wing cross flashed across the face of goal, but was agonisingly out of the reach of the stretching Spence at the far post.
The hosts began to show some of the quality that has underpinned their good run of form of late, and their first chance came through Cameron Sinclair, who found himself through on goal after some patient build up play in midfield, but the winger dragged his shot wide.
That effort should have served as a warning to the visitors. As minutes later Danny Heard played in strike partner Ben Lewis, who raced clear of the Hanley defence and drilled his shot past the keeper from a wide angle, into the back of the net.
The goal kicked the game into life, as the visitors went in search of an equaliser, but Stone were equal to it, repelling the wave of attacks, with centre backs Ian Whalley and Luke Askey dominant.
Askey was then rewarded for his efforts as an Old Boys counter attack resulted in a corner for the home side. And with Hanley leaving a number of players up field, the skipper was left unmarked and easily headed home Lewis’s corner.
His joy was short-lived however as a rash tackle earned him his second booking of the day.
But the Alleynians defence remained defiant in his absence, and dealt with the bombardment of balls into the box, including some testing set pieces from Stair, to book their place in the semi-finals, much to the joy of manager Matt Smith.
“It was a fantastic win for us today I’m really proud of the performance. It was great to see the number of supporters that came to help us get through as well and it’s greatly appreciated by us all.
“We were disciplined and defended really well, allowing them possession in front of us at times but they couldn’t get through us to create any chances. We were far better in the second half and that’s what won us the game.
“The club has never been this far in the competition and we will look forward to the semi final now but it’s back to the league next week where we will be looking for another win.” Said Smith.
Stone OA: Paglia, Bigham, Askey(c), Whalley, Wilson, Sinclair, Thorley, C Heard, Thomas (Dibden), Lewis, D Heard