After last Wednesday’s defeat to Hullbridge Sports, it looked like Stow’s title charge was over, but a dogged win over Stansted gives Ryan Maxwell’s side renewed hope.
The game started evenly enough, but it was Stow who carved out the first real chance of the game, Samrai Gebrai cutting the ball back to Leon McKenzie who poked over from fix yards.
At the other end Stansted were looking threatening too, and James Bransgrove had to be on his toes to save well down to his right.
Then came the moment which threatened to change the game. After being called offside, McKenzie said something towards the direction of the assistant referee, and was shown a red card. It looked again like Stow’s indiscipline would be their downfall.
Not long after, Stansted had a goal chalked out for offside and had a penalty appeal for handball turned down, but the first half was a pretty drab one which passed without further incident.
With Dwade James doing the running for two men up front, it still looked like 11v11 for most of the game. And it was James who had Stow’s first chance of the second half, racing through on goal, but trying to stay on his feet when pulled back, his cross was eventually cleared.
At the other end, former Stag James Pegram had two excellent chances, air kicking at the back post and then narrowly missing the target after Bransgrove forced him wide.
Then it was Stow’s turn to take control. Jack Folan cut the ball back to Gebrai but the winter was denied a certain goal by a last minute interception by Billy Coyne.
Two balls over the top could have put Stow ahead. Both chances falling to James, the first being well saved and after rounding the keeper with his second chance, the ball was nicked from his feet by a defender, denying James a certain goal.
But with just seven minutes to go, came the only goal of the game. A soft free-kick was given away in midfield, and Marcus Bowers was able to get the slightest of touches onto Vinny Murphy’s floating cross, helping it into the back of the net and sending the Stow faithful into rapturous celebrations.
There was still plenty of time left, and it was almost one-way traffic for the remainder, the closest Stow coming was a long-range effort from substitute Lee Flynn with his first touch.
On the occasions Stow did break, they headed for the corner, where Stansted defender Jack West took his frustrations out on Dwade James’ ankles, earning himself a second yellow card.
With 52 minutes already played, many expected the referee to call an end to proceedings, but still Stansted attacked, and in the 100th minute of the game they swung in one last free kick, to the 20 men in the Stow penalty area.
The free kick was headed back across goal, finding none other than Peagram, but the league’s 5th highest scorer could only head straight at Bransgrove who did brilliantly to hold onto the ball under pressure.
With Bransgrove falling to protect the ball, the referee finally blew his whistle, giving Stow a vital and well-earned three points.
As if this game wasn’t enough, the two sides will meet again this Saturday in the semi final of the Gordon Brasted Trophy, and once more this season in the Errington Cup.