Cobblers escape with victory despite late cup scare

Danny EmertonBishop’s Stortford 1-2 Northampton Town

FA Cup First Round

Sunday, November 10th 2013

We can all breathe a big, fat sigh of relief. The banana skin has been avoided, the upset did not materialise like the rest of the country hoped and the Cobblers progress into Round Two of the FA Cup with only a late scare to offer any sign of an alternative outcome. Town made hard work of their Conference South opposition and should have sealed the game by half-time but the most important stat is the score line that sends us through to a less enticing trip to either Grimsby Town or Scunthorpe United.

The hosts made us work hard for the victory and on another day could well have nicked a replay at the death but ultimately the Cobblers did a professional job and were deserved winners in deepest Hertfordshire thanks to goals from the recalled Danny Emerton and striker Luke Norris.

ITV had earlier built up the underdogs as usual and the ever dreary Adrian Chiles did his best to convince the viewing public that the upset was on the cards. As the team line-ups were flashed onto the screen, so too were the part time occupations of the Bishop’s Stortford first team with the stage apparently set for us to fall.

Fortunately the Cobblers weren’t listening to the hype and came flying out of the blocks. An early corner led to Mathias Doumbe’s header being cleared off the line before Norris got on the end of a Chris Hackett cross to test home keeper Joe Wright. As Town continued the early pressure, Kane Ferdinand hit the bar with a looping header.

As the half wore on, though, Stortford settled and were invited back into the game. They hit the bar themselves before Norris was once again denied by Wright at the other end.

Chris Hackett was then sent clear through on goal on the right hand side and after he lobbed the keeper, just missing out on giving us the lead, he was clattered by the Stortford keeper and had anyone at all dressed in black kept their eyes on the incident we would surely have had a penalty alongside questions being raised over whether Wright would have stayed on the pitch.

Reece Prestedge found an opening late in the half but Paul Reid did well to block his effort at the end of a decent spell for his side but the half ended goalless with the Cobblers needing the break more than the increasingly confident Blues.

We came out in the second half much like the first and after a couple of half chances the breakthrough came on the hour mark. Danny Emerton picked the ball up on the left and curled in a superb effort into the top corner. The former Hull man ran directly to Aidy Boothroyd to celebrate and no-one in the ground would have been more relieved than the Town boss.  

The first goal was always going to be crucial and we built on it almost immediately with a second that should have completely killed the game off. Hackett did well again and raced into the box to see his shot palmed away by Wright into the path of Norris who side footed the ball into the net.

That should have been that but being the Cobblers it always felt like there could be a twist to come. We were right to not be sitting completely comfortably.

Prestedge was to be the man to give us the late jitters as he made the most of a break in the area to blast in an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net with ten minutes to play. That was enough to raise his side for one last effort but the Cobblers reduced them to a few dangerous crosses. Somehow the officials found five minutes of stoppage time to play on our nerves even more but it wasn’t enough for Stortford to claim an unlikely replay.

It wasn’t the vintage and blowing away performance that Boothroyd may have wanted and big questions are still a long, long way from being answered. Blyth and Norris have real potential as a front two but it’s a short term fix as things stand. Both played well but I got the feeling that Blyth tired after his recent spell on the sidelines. By the time there is real synergy between the forwards at least one of them will likely be back at his parent club.

Ricky Ravenhill had a decent debut and had some bite about him whilst Kane Ferdinand flitted in and out of the game whilst making an awful lot out of a brush to his cheek in one incident. Watching someone writhe around on the floor after a mild touch from an opposition player isn’t what we need right now and he could be another luxury player.

Chris Hackett was named man of the match and rightly so. The winger was given the freedom of the right wing and created chance after chance for the front two. What is vital now is that it continues for him back in the league – we need that version of him back, and soon.

Another man we could do with having back is Kevin Amankwaah. The right back position was filled by Lee Collins and then Ben Tozer and neither looked comfortable there – more clinical opposition will expose their weaknesses and really exploit them.

A word on Bishop’s Stortford, though, and I thought that they were terrific battlers to the end and can be proud of their efforts. They seemed overawed by the occasion early on but once they settled caused plenty of problems. Star striker Kyle Vassell was kept quiet before coming off injured but it felt like some of the home side’s belief waned after his departure from the play.

All in all, then, a good afternoon and the fact that we’ve avoided an embarrassment is reason for cheer in a run of form that’s been lacking in any – even small – pieces of good news. The true test of Aidy Boothroyd’s ever changing side, though, comes back in League Two and with the visit of league leaders Fleetwood Town next weekend. Any adversity in that one will measure the character of the squad more than this game did, as tricky as it was.

Victory against the Cod Army, though, and this result won’t just be one that acts to hide our current problems. 

Bishop’s Stortford v Northampton Town: FA Cup First Round Match Preview

fa_cup_6057891Bishop’s Stortford v Northampton Town

FA Cup First Round

Sunday, 10th November 2013

The Cobblers live on TV in front of the nation early on a Sunday afternoon away to a non-league outfit – it’s a perfect recipe for disaster and evokes shuddering memories of defeat to Canvey Island in 2001. Everyone tuning in that’s not a Cobblers fan will be baying for blood and almost expecting an upset as they finish off their Sunday lunches.

The game couldn’t be much more set up for a shock. Conference South Bishop’s Stortford have won all of their last seven games in all competitions while the Cobblers have been plummeting to the bottom of the Football League, plugging massive holes in the squad with short term loan deals and feeling confidence drain out of them bit by bit.

Stortford have beaten Hendon (5-0), Chipstead FC (6-1) and Conference Premier side Forest Green Rovers (1-0) to get to this point and will be confident of their biggest scalp so far against a shaky Town side.

What has happened this week with the re-signing of Jacob Blyth and the arrival of Ricky Ravenhill does shake things up enough to make you believe that Aidy Boothroyd is recognising his mistakes in the summer transfer window and his comments after last week’s latest injury time defeat makes you think that the dressing room is not a nice place to be right now. But Stortford won’t be worried a bit about that, nor should they be – this is their big day and we have to make sure that we’re not splashed all over the back pages come Monday morning!

Blyth...back at Sixfields

Blyth…back at Sixfields

Team News…

Bishop’s Stortford could be giving Kyle Vassell his final game for the club with Peterborough United appearing to be close to signing the striker. Vassell has scored sixteen times this season and has also had scouts from the Premier League tracking his progress.  Tommy Fletcher is available after joining on loan from Wycombe Wanderers this week whilst Manny Sackey has re-signed in time for the game.

The Cobblers, meanwhile, will give a second debut to Jacob Blyth who starts his second loan spell of the season from Leicester and he should partner Luke Norris up front should he, and fellow Brentford loan man Stuart Dallas, receive clearance to play in the game from his parent club. Also featuring will be new temporary signing Ricky Ravenhill who joined from Bradford City this week. Ravenhill hit the deciding penalty for the Bantams in their FA Cup First Round Replay victory over the Cobblers a year ago. Kane Ferdinand has been given permission to play by Peterborough United and we could end up with five loan players on the pitch! Elsewhere, Matt Heath, Kelvin Langmead and Alex Nicholls are long term absentees whilst strikers Clive Platt and Roy O’Donovan aren’t ready to return just yet.

The last five seasons in the FA Cup…

2008/09: Bishop’s Stortford were eliminated in the Fourth qualifying round after a narrow 1-0 defeat at Dorchester Town whilst the Cobblers held Leeds United to a 1-1 draw at Elland Round in the First Round but were demolished 5-2 in the relay at Sixfields.

2009/10: Stortford were knocked out in the Second qualifying round a year later thanks to a 3-2 home reverse against Thurrock. The Cobblers beat Fleetwood Town in the First Round but Southampton claimed a 3-2 win at Sixfields to put us out in Round Two.

2010/11: Bishops’ Stortford again failed to get past the Second qualifying round – having been held by Bromley in the first game they lost out 2-1 in the replay. Meanwhile, Town eased past Forest Green Rovers before coming up short again in Round Two and again by a 3-2 score line, this time at Sheffield Wednesday.

2011/12: After coming past Canvey Island and Burnham, Stortford were one game away from the First Round but were beaten at home by Salisbury City and missed out at the last once again. The Cobblers lost 1-0 at Conference Premier side Luton Town and that was enough to cost manager Gary Johnson his job.

2012/13: In last season’s competition, the Blues beat Enfield Town 4-1 in the Second qualifying round and then came past Chalfont St. Peter in a replay before progressing into the First Round proper by winning 3-1 at Welling. Eventually, they lost 2-1 at home to Hastings United, who would end up going all the way to Round Three. We had no luck once again – having held Bradford to a draw at Sixfields, a youthful Cobblers side battled to a 3-3 draw after extra time at Valley Parade before missing out on penalties.

The man in the middle…

Stephen Martin will take charge of Sunday’s clash having been the official in games in all three Football League divisions and in the Capital One Cup this season. The last time that he was the referee in a Cobblers game was the 3-3 Sixfields draw with Southend United in August of last year.

Prediction…

I’ve been trained to expect the worst in this type of game, especially when we are struggling and the opposition are a high flying non-league outfit but I think we’ll scrape through. It won’t be easy so I think we’ll nick it by the odd goal. 2-1

More preview blogs:

Part One: Meet Bishop’s Stortford

Part Two: Meet the manager – Rod Stringer

Part Three: The Stadium – ProKit UK Stadium 

Part Four: Fan Feature, with Padraig Curran

FA Cup Week: Part Four – Bishop’s Stortford Fan Feature

The FA Cup First Round draw takes place on Sunday afternoon

Part Four of the FA Cup Week special blogs sees us catch up with Bishop’s Stortford fan Padraig Curran, a former stadium announcer at the ProKit UK Stadium. He discusses past glories, who the key men to watch will be on Sunday and predicts the outcome of the big game. You can follow Padraig on Twitter at @PadraigSCurran.

How did you come to support Bishop’s Stortford?

PC: I’ve lived in Bishop’s Stortford all my life and Stortford were always my local club, my Dad was born and bred and has lived all his life in the town and used to watch Stortford at Rhodes Avenue when he was a kid. My Grandad was also a Stortford fan and even played for the club for a little while, so I guess it’s in the blood really. I got my first season ticket aged 14 but used to watch the club fairly regularly before that.

What have been the highlights of your time supporting the Bishops?

PC: I’ve had some great experiences supporting Stortford with some great trips to away games and some brilliant matches at home. Watching Dwight Gayle at the club a couple of years back was fantastic and I’m glad that he’s made the move to Palace and is now a Premier League player. On a personal note, my highlight was being Stadium Announcer at Woodside Park for 2 seasons from the age of 16 up until the point I left for University. It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed working at the club.

Who are your key men to watch?

PC: All of them!! Reece Prestedge has always been a great player for us, a commanding midfielder and really sorts the team out. From what I’ve seen so far this year from a distance, Kyle Vassell looks like a cracking player and has scored some great goals too for us so far not least the one only last weekend against Tonbridge Angels. Those two are probably the two to look out for next weekend.

What have been the key reasons behind your excellent start to the season?

PC: This is all down to the great work by our boss Rod Stringer and his coaching team. Rod has been fabulous since he came to this club, we had tough times in the North but he took us successfully through that difficult period in our history and we’re now reaping the rewards for his work on the pitch back in the South. He has brought in some great signings and has brought back a sense of confidence, self-belief and his team really gels together and is such a strong unit.

Any famous fans?

PC: Not that I know of! I suppose the Arsenal legend John Radford who was also our manager could count and also the BBC Radio One DJ Greg James who comes from the town.

Finally, a score prediction for the game?

PC: Stortford to nick it 2-1. Vassell to get them both!

 

Bishop’s Stortford Links…

Official Website: http://www.bsfc.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bishops.stortfordfc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Bis_Storford_FC

Forum: http://forums.footballwebpages.co.uk/forum.jsp?id=30

Local news site: http://www.hertsandessexobserver.co.uk/Sport/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bishop’s_Stortford_F.C.

Podcast: http://bsfc.podbean.com/

FA Cup Week…Part Three: Bishop’s Stortford – The Stadium

BISHOPS STORTFORDAs FA Cup week continues and we grow closer to the First Round clash on Sunday, today I take a look at the stadium where the drama will unfold.

The ProKit UK Stadium (Woodside Park) has only been the home of Bishop’s Stortford since 1999 with the club residing in various different venues in the eighteen months prior to its opening including Boreham Wood, Dagenham and Redbridge, St. Albans City, Ware and Hitchin Town. The first game at the new ground was a pre-season meeting with Norwich City on July 17th.

Before the move to the 4,000 capacity Woodside Park the Bishops were at the Laundry Field from their early beginnings until 1919 and then the George Wilson Stadium until the eventual move to their current location. The stadium is situated right next to Stansted Airport (some Cobblers fans joking that it gives Aidy Boothroyd a quick exit plan if we lose!) and also near to the M11 services.

There are covered terraces at both ends of the pitch with the main Brian Bayford stand to one side which holds 300 supporters, press facilities and a directors’ box. A club house is situated on site and is open to all supporters while there is also a food stand just outside the main stand. There is space for 150 cars at the stadium with more parking available nearby. The ground is a twenty minute walk from the town centre and from Bishop’s Stortford train station (taxis available from outside the station).

Tickets are on sale as we speak for Cobblers fans with ALL seats sold out and only around 200 terrace tickets remaining at the end of the day on Tuesday. They remain on sale to members and season ticket holders today before any remaining are released on general sale tomorrow.

Ravenhill...new Cobblers loan signing

Ravenhill…new Cobblers loan signing

More FA Cup build up…

Big movements into Sixfields this afternoon as Jacob Blyth arrives back on a second loan spell up to the middle of December. Blyth scored three times in eight games earlier in the season before injury cut short his initial deal but comes back in at just the right time with Town lacking any real presence up front.

Also coming in is midfielder Ricky Ravenhill on loan from Bradford City. The battling midfielder has struggled to break into the Bantams’ side this season but has plenty of experience in the lower leagues. We certainly need more people to grab hold of a game and scrap it out with the best of them and Ravenhill fits the bill, for the short term at least. Ravenhill played for the final three minutes from the bench in last season’s playoff final against the Cobblers.

Both Blyth and Ravenhill have been cleared to play at Bishop’s Stortford.

Elsewhere, loanee Stuart Dallas has extended his deal up to January with the winger still waiting to hear whether he and fellow Brentford man Luke Norris will be cleared to play on Sunday by their parent club. Kane Ferdinand has already received the green light from Peterborough United to take part on Sunday and if Dallas and Norris are also able to play that could mean we start with FIVE loan players at Woodside Park!

Bishop’s Stortford fans have been snapping up tickets at a strong pace over the last couple of days with 1,500 sold at close of play on Tuesday. As an indicator, Saturday’s home game with Tonbridge Angels attracted 573.

The Blues have also been bringing in new signings this week – Tommy Fletcher has signed on loan from Wycombe Wanderers and Manny Sackay has resigned with the club.

FA Cup Week…Part Two: Meet the Manager

Stringer...the man in charge

Stringer…the man in charge

Part Two of this FA Cup week special takes a look at the man in the opposition dug out on Sunday afternoon. The man charged with taking Bishop’s Stortford into the Second Round and with continuing a superb start to the season is Rod Stringer, a man who not only has past experience in promotion from the Conference South but is also now in high demand in the non-league pyramid. Chelmsford City are the latest to reportedly show interest in prizing him away from the Prokit UK Stadium.

Stringer was named Stortford manager in December 2011, replacing former Spurs keeper Ian Walker as the man at the top. On taking the job, the Bishops were third from bottom of Conference North but Stringer completely turned around their fortunes and led them to a tenth place finish by the end of that season.

A seventeenth place finish a year later was followed by a switch back to the Conference South for the current campaign and the club have shot out of the blocks with eight wins from twelve and five out of six at home.

Stringer is looking to continue a personal record that is making more and more teams stand up and take notes in the non-league circles. He was a success at Aveley and took them to the Ryman League Division One North championship in 2009 having learned his trade at Barking and Barkingside, both from the Essex Senior League.

He moved on to take charge of Braintree Town in May 2010 and in his only season in charge led them to the Conference South championship. Just two weeks after the end of the season, though, he was looking for a new job again when financial negotiations with Chairman Lee Harding completely broke down.

The Brains’ loss was Bishop’s Stortford’s gain though and it looks as though Stringer is on course for another crack at promotion. Victory against the Cobblers on Sunday afternoon would add a notable bonus feature to an ever growing C.V.