Cheadle SMU 3 v 4 Uttoxeter Town
UTTOXETER Town booked their place in the last eight of the Staffordshire Senior League President’s Cup — but managers Mark Grimley and Andy O’Connor were far from happy with the manner in which they beat Cheadle SMU.
Town were again shorn of their two prolific strikers, Lee Bagley and Tommy Smith, due to holidays but welcomed back Jack Holley and Chris Richards at the expense of Tom Harvey and Steve Caswell.
The only other change from the side which had drawn with MMU the week prior saw Rob Collins restored to the starting line-up in place of Nev Jenkins, with Luke Ede moving back to full-back.
Not for the first time this season, Town tested a new formation and Cheadle caught the visitors cold in only the fourth minute when their centre-back exchanged passes twice before rolling into the bottom corner unopposed.
It was a wake up call for Town, who have only managed one clean sheet all season and fortunately for Uttoxeter they were soon gifted an equaliser.
Collins chased hard down the left and when Cheadle goalkeeper Mikey Allen miscued his clearance, striker Jon Lamburn was on hand to clip home brilliantly from 25 yards.
Lamburn, chosen as the central striker flanked by Holley and Collins, had a fine opportunity to put Town in front on 15 minutes after Martin Gadsby and Kyle Esplin had combined but the forward saw his rising drive swerve wide.
Town were not to be denied for long though as they finally began to find their feet in the match.
When Holley was brought down on the right of midfield, Collins’ wicked ball in evaded everyone before ricocheting off the far post kindly to defender Richards who slammed home his first of the season.
Town were in the ascendancy with Jason Beardsley, in his more accustomed right-back role, orchestrating proceedings and it was only a matter of time before the third arrived.
Again Collins provided the assist, receiving the ball off Gadsby before curling a fine cross into the path of Holley, who made no mistake from 10 yards, cushioning his volley past Allen.
Despite the scoreline, Town were still opened up far too easily at times and had Alex Langridge not been alert on a few occasions SMU could have found themselves back in the game.
However, it was Uttoxeter who grabbed the next goal that should have effectively sealed their place in the next round and it was Holley who notched his third of the campaign.
Town won the ball on the left of midfield and Collins and Lamburn combined to slip the ball through for Holley, who took two touches before clinically curling home from 18 yards.
Minutes before half-time Collins nearly grabbed a deserved goal himself when he took Gadsby’s through ball in his stride before crashing his effort against the bar.
Two set pieces in the opening 15 minutes of the second half exploited some slack Town defending and brought Cheadle right back into the tie.
On both occasions the ball found its way to the far post unchallenged, leaving the tie on a knife edge.
In truth, Town never looked like losing their grip on the quarter-final and Langridge was rarely threatened in the last half hour, but the way they are conceding goals is a cause for concern.
A vastly improved performance will be needed next week as Town travel to Leek Town reserves in the Staffordshire Challenge Cup.
And with Smith, Bagley, Mark Thompson and Tom Harvey all available, Grimley will be hoping his side can produce the display both he and O’Connor demand.
Kick off is 2pm on Saturday at Ball Haye Green, Leek.
GOALS: Lamburn 10, Richards 16, Holley 27, 36.
TOWN: Langridge, Beardsley, Ede, Richards, Ward, Metcalfe (Caswell 75), Gadsby, Esplin, Holley (Crutchley 50), Lamburn, Collins. Subs not used: Jenkins, Farrelly, Middleton.
INFINITY IT MAN OF THE MATCH: Jason Beardsley — an excellent performance at right-back.