Pershore's AIM Community Stadium is located on the Eastern edge of the town, wedged between the town's retail market and the River Avon. There is ample parking available either at the ground or at the retail market car park and surrounding streets. The entrance to the ground is through the double gates leading to the car park where a group of club officials will take your money and sell you a programme (I had the last one this evening). Anyone getting there early enough to park behind the goal could, if they chose to, watch the game from the comfort of their vehicle. All of the facilities are on the town side of the ground, to the right of the car park and entrance. The clubhouse, toilets and snack bar are all within the same building. The snack bar hatch is just to the right of the entrance and, on busy night's such as this evening, it can get quite congested. However, they do a very decent cup of tea.
As I said, this was the 2nd leg of the Wiseman Lighting Floodlit Cup Final. The first leg a week previously had finished 0-0 and saw a late red card for Pershore captain Kirk Layton, who would be missing this evening. Both sides, Pershore and Mangotsfield, are new to the Hellenic League structure. For Pershore this is their second season in Division 1. For Mangotsfield it is their first season in the Premier League after relegation from the Southern League One South-West last season. Consequently, neither team has appeared in the Floodlit Cup Final before, meaning we will see a new name on the trophy.
The road to the Final for Pershore has not been easy. After a First Round 4-1 defeat of Moreton Rangers they went on to draw Premier League teams in the next two rounds. First they saw of Roman Glass St George by a goal to nil and the followed that up with a 4-1 win at Longlevens in the semi-final. Mangotsfield also had two Premier League sides in their cup run. They won 1-0 at FC Stratford and then beat fellow Premier League outfit Royal Wootton Bassett Town 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw. The semi-final saw them travel to Premier League leaders Malvern Town, returning with a superb 2-1 victory
Both sides looked to start the game on the front foot but it was the visitors who looked the most lively in the opening encounters. Three minutes in Kerem Karakus burst past a couple of players and drove into the home penalty area before unleashing a low strike that beat Cox but smashed against the foot of the post before going to safety. Two minutes later Oli Jenkins was inches from getting on the end of a dangerous ball into the box from a free-kick out on the right, as the Mangos ramped up the pressure. However, a minute later Pershore responded with a break down their left. The ball was delivered into the six-yard box where striker Danny Murphy and visitor's keeper Jakob Glover contested the cross. The keeper coming out on top this time at the expense of a corner. The immediate response to the Mangotsfield threat seemed to invigorate The Plums as they began to push Mangotsfield back. Some good inter-passing on 17 minutes saw a low cross fizz across Glover's six-yard box but Murphy couldn't get enough on his effort to beat the keeper. On 25 minutes Petar Tonchev put in a cross from the right that was just that little bit too high for Murphy to get his head onto. Then just past the half-hour Pershore produced possibly the best move of the game so far ending with the ball being laid into the path of Tonchev who couldn't quite keep his strike below Glover's bar. A minute later, another flowing Plums move saw Steve Webb get set up in a good shooting position but his low effort just rolled wide of Glover's far post.
On 35 minutes Pershore were made to really regret not taking any of their chances when Mangotsfield went ahead. The ball was played into space on the Mangos left flank. Jaydn Crosbie used his pace to get there ahead of the defender then checked back inside before drilling a shot at goal that had too much on it for Eddie Cox to keep out. 0-1.
Undeterred, Pershore responded well and Glover had to be at his best, diving low to his left to keep out a Murphy header. However, the more they pushed forward, the more they opened themselves up to the break. This was highlighted on 41 minutes when the Mangos broke quickly again with the ball being fed into the path of overlapping full-back Will Ashton who drove just wide of the far post.
HT Pershore Town 0 Mangotsfield United 1. Pershore on top for much of the half but didn't manage to take any chances. Mangotsfield took the lead against the run of play, and look dangerous on the break.
Once again, Mangotsfield punished Pershore for their profligacy. With just over 20 minutes remaining Crosbie, who had not given the home defence a minute's peace all game, sprung the offside trap before firing high past the onrushing Eddie Cox and into the far corner. 0-2 and a very accomplished finish from the striker.
Pershore were not giving up on the game though. Two minutes after going two down Murphy flew in at the far post and just got a little too much on a cross, deflecting it up and over the bar and The Plums tried to get themselves back in the game.
As with the first half, they were vulnerable at the back the more they pushed forward and they almost gifted Crosbie his hat-trick on 75 minutes. A loose defensive header was latched onto by the speedy striker, he rounded Cox but pushed the ball just a little too far wide of the goal in doing so, forcing him to screw his finish into the side netting.
As much as the home side continued to huff and puff, they couldn't find a way past a very well organised United defence.
FT Pershore Town 0 Mangotsfield United 2. The Plums put up a good fight but, in the end, the big difference between the sides was the speed and trickery of Mangotsfield striker Jaydn Crosbie. Pershore created plenty of chances but failed to take them. Mangotsfield created fewer but, in Crosbie, had a striker in-form. The Plums will console themselves with the prospect of the chance to avenge their defeat in the league next season. They are in prime position to attain promotion back to Step 5 for the first time this century. However, before getting back to league action they have another big cup game on Saturday as they take on another Premier League side, Fairford Town, in the Quarter-Final of the Challenge Cup. Mangotsfield, meanwhile, are back at home in the league, taking on high-flying Corsham Town who are still very much in the mix for the league title.
Pershore Town: Cox, Stoddart(c), Beach, Webb, Nutt, Adams, Tochev, Jones, Murphy, Burns, Baldwin. Subs: Cooke, Hammond, Willis, Clarke, Magee
Mangotsfield United: Glover, Tovey, Ashton, Jenkins, Bence, Binding, Purnell(c), Ridler, Crosbie, Minzamba, Karakus.Subs: Goodwin-Worrell, Flynn, Baker, Trott, Morrison
Ground Number: Re-Visit