Keele FC 0 Stafford Rangers Youth 1
(at Stone Dominoes FC )
STAFFORD Rangers secured their second cup final of the season, winning with a goal from Mat Smith with ten minutes to go against Keele FC.
The young Marston Road outfit booked their place in the final of the Sentinel cup on Thursday May 8, at the Britannia Stadium.
Three days later Rangers will attempt to retain the County Minor Youth league cup again at Stone Dominoes ground.
Rangers know that Nantwich Town await them in the League Cup final but their opponents for the Sentinel Cup have yet to be decided with the second semi final between Audley and Meir KA due to be played next week.
Rangers latest victory came against a determined and stubborn Keele FC who defended stoutly throughout the game. The Boro held territorial advantage for long periods but Keele held out for 80 minutes.
On Stafford's left flank Alex Curtis fed Tom Vaughan who lifted a cross into the back post for Smith to head powerfully into the roof of the net from six yards out.
Keele threw players forward but could not muster a clear cut opportunity with Rangers keeper Wes Hopwood called upon to field just a right wing cross from the dangerous Sami Meir.
Jack Edwards burst clear early on for Rangers but with Smith completely unmarked on the back post he could not lift his cross successfully to provide him with a second goal.
Much of Rangers second half play was influenced by Billy Thorley returning from a broken arm at Nantwich Town just seven weeks previously and he nearly put Rangers ahead after half time with a volley which flew inches over the Keele cross bar.
Rangers also looked likely to score when Smith beat his marker to get to the bye line and crossed to the front post where Jake NIcholls was denied with a last ditch tackle.
Curtis rounded two defenders on the right but his cross just eluded the dangerous Smith while Harry Wightman and Sean Phillips had goal bound efforts at corners blocked on the line.
Keele went close to a goal in the 68th minute but a shot from Sam Golden went wide of the post.
Rangers had been held in a tight first half but again Curtis crossed to the back post twice and with the ball rolling across the six yard box no one could apply the finish.
Wightman headed a Curtis corner wide when well placed and Alex Hannan brought the save of the game out of Keele's keeper who blocked a rasping volley to his right hand side.
Hopwood was not called upon to make a save during the match but kicked well when coming out of his area to deny Sami Meir in a dangerous moment for Keele.
Rangers deserved their victory for the quality of their clean sheet and the extra threat they carried going forward but this was a typically tense semi final where high quality football was at a premium.