I have been to the War Memorial Ground more times than I care to remember, but I was quite shocked to find that this was my first visit since Stourbridge's 0-0 draw with Witton Albion in the 2017-18 season. After a quick visit to the club shop to get a club mask for my Dad (and one for me), I followed the new one-way system around the back of the clubhouse into the ground. Not that much has changed since my last visit. The ground has been spruced up, as you would expect, but my main thought, as I made my way towards the Shed End, was just how much I like the ground and how much I had missed being there. Maybe a bit of nostalgia, given the current world circumstances, but it's close to half a century since I first watched Stourbridge play there and I certainly hope I'll be back there many more times yet.
This game was a match-up between two clubs boating a 100% record this season. Crusaders, who play in the West Midlands Regional Women's Premier League one division above Stourbridge, had played two league games, beating Redditch United 3-0 at home and following up with a 3-2 defeat of City of Stoke in the Potteries. In the FA Cup they saw off Kidderminster Harriers 1-0 in the Preliminary Round, then defeated Stourbridge's league-mates Cookley Sports 4-0 before beating Oadby & Wigston 3-2 in Leicestershire.
Stourbridge, three for three in the league with a goal difference of 25-0, started in the FA Cup with an 8-0 defeat of Port Vale, they then conceded the only goal of this season so far in defeating Wryley 8-1 at home. Following that they won 6-0 at Knowle and 5-0 at Worcester City.
The game was well-contested from the first minute with both sides probing to find gaps in what looked to be two tight defensive units. Both right flanks seemed to be the focus with Carly Aldred for Stourbridge and Jessica Tsapparelli for Crusaders looking very lively. Despite this neither team managed to test the opposing goalkeepers early on.
That was until the 21st minute when Glassgirls captain Courtney Murphy decided to try her luck from outside the box. She struck her shot well but Crusaders keeper Justine Lewis was equal to it, tipping the ball over the bar. The respite was sort-lived however. From the resultant corner, taken by Amber Lawrence, Ruby Meeson was on hand to force the ball over the line. 1-0
Despite a mini rally from the away side after going behind, it was Stourbridge who continued to look the more menacing of the two sides. Lil-Beth Bown's willingness to make runs almost saw her set free and Carly Aldred's pace prompted by Amber Lawrence's passing was a constant threat. Not that the Glassgirls' defence could relax though. Crusaders continued to look a very capable side, with Tsapparelli and Kisty Spencer both testing Amie Summers in the home goal.
Five minutes before half-time Stourbridge once again broke down their right-flank through Aldred. She beat her defender and drove into the box before appearing to be felled by a clumsy looking challenge. From my vantage point it was as clear a penalty as you could wish to see. However, neither the assistant or referee, who both appeared to have good views, indicated a spot kick much to the amazement of Stourbridge players and supporters.
HT Stourbridge 1 Crusaders 0. The Glassgirls edged the half in terms of possession and chances, but were made to work very hard by a competitive and industrious Crusaders team who continued to look a threat throughout.
Then, with Crusaders still battling to get back into the game, Courtney Murphy lined up another long-range effort, giving Lewis no hope with a perfectly placed shot into the top corner. 3-0
FT Stourbridge 3 Crusaders 0. A superb result for The Glassgirls who progress into the First Round for the first time in their history. However, the final score line is harsh on Crusaders who were well in the game until the final few minutes. Two very good footballing teams who served up one of the most entertaining games I have seen this season. Stourbridge will now face an away trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers in Rouinds One.
Stourbridge: Preston, Thacker, Bate, Heaselgrave, Turvey, Lawrence, Moran, Bown, Murphy(c), Meeson, Aldred. Subs: Allen, Plimmer, Coleman, Nicklin, Somers
Ground Number: Re-Visit