Express & Star

FA Trophy: Stafford Rangers 0 Brackley Town 0 (Brackley win 4-2 on penalties)

Stafford Rangers took Brackley Town to the end but were beaten 4-2 on penalties after a goalless draw in the FA Trophy second round.


After Matt Hill’s departure on Thursday, Dale Belford took charge of the cup occasion for the Rangers as they looked to progress into the third round for the first time since the 2006/07 season.

But, after hard graft against Brackley of the National League North it wasn’t to be, with Ethan Stewart missing the target and Joe Willis’ penalty effort saved before Alex Gudger fired in the winning spot-kick for the Saints.

Heavy rainfall at the beginning of play brought about a scrappy affair on a heavy and wet surface as Alex Bates created the first opportunity but it was held by Cameron Belford.

Kaiman Anderson fired off-target as the Rangers set up with a new identity, and a 3-4-1-2 formation, with defender Andy Burns making his 100th appearance.

Layton Love went down under challenge in the box, but referee Lewis Dawson waved away the Brackley man's appeal before Sam Bird was denied and Willis blasted an effort over the bar. The Rangers rallied but were unable to test Danny Lewis in goal again as Dale Belford spectacularly saved Alex Gudger’s header onto the post just before the break.

Brackley resumed looking sharp in the second-half as Dan Turner turned in the box and fired just wide seven-minutes in. Turner was maybe fortunate to be still on the pitch after an aggressive challenge on Burns before half-time.

Love and Shepherd Murombedzi’s free-kicks were blocked as the Rangers defence stood strong. Stewart and Burns battled hard at the back as Belford became Stafford’s saviour. Ben Woods came closest for the home side in the 74th-minute but saw his effort denied which was the Rangers’ only opening of the second-half.

Belford held Turner’s driven shot into the tricky surface, parried away Murombedzi’s long-range effort and denied Armson’s shot as Brackley piled on the pressure. Looking to cause late heartbreak Morgan Roberts’ header was kept out by Belford before the Rangers keeper denied Dominic McHale three times late-on.

Grateful to the shot-stopper, the game headed to penalties, but Stafford were unable to progress. Despite the shed end roaring the home side on, Brackley’s conversion-rate was better, and the Rangers lose out on a spot in the third round.