FA Cup: Blues beat 10-man Lowestoft to secure place in second qualifying round
Bishop's Stortford recorded their first win of the season with a convincing 3-0 home victory against 10-man Lowestoft Town in the Emirates FA Cup first qualifying round on Saturday afternoon, writes Hamish Arnold.
Jake Cass scored a hat trick – all assisted by his strike partner Frankie Merrifield – as the Blues put their Isthmian League Premier Division form behind them. They sit third from bottom with two points from their first four matches.
Saturday's visitors to the R&D Advisors UK Stadium from Suffolk are similarly three places off the bottom of the Southern League Premier Division Central, with one win and four defeats from their five matches, in which they have conceded 17 goals.
Steve Smith made four changes to the Blues XI that started the bank holiday Monday 2-2 draw at home to Bowers & Pitsea, with Archie Edwards, Ryan Henshaw, Archie Jones and Ryan Charles coming in for Jimmy Wallace, the long-term injured Aaron Greene, Jack Thomas and Reiss Chandler.
In the first meaningful action, Jonny Giles took a free kick in a wide position. It was cleared as far as the edge of the box where Anthony Church's low effort was saved by the Trawler Boys' keeper Luis Tibbles.
Giles had a shot blocked before being fouled in the next attack. From the free kick, in a central position, he curled it round the wall but Tibbles parried it away from danger.
At the other end, Ryan Hawkins fired goalwards from 18 yards but was denied by Edwards, who conceded a corner from which a goalmouth scramble threatened the Blues goal before Church cleared the danger.
Calls for a penalty after a tackle by Tommy Smith on Merrifield were rejected by referee Murray Grant before Hawkins tried to chip Jack Giddens from the edge of the box but his shot was too high.
Cass turned and shot from a tight angle but his effort was blocked. From the corner, Henshaw got his head to the ball but could not find the target.
Soon after, Giles changed his corner strategy, passing it short to Edwards who played an early cross to Cass in the middle. His header was denied only by Tibbles’ full-length diving stop.
That brilliant save proved to be in vain as, in the next attack, Cass found the back of the net in the 24th minute. Merrifield made a great run down the left and cut it back to the striker in the middle, who tapped the ball in from 10 yards.
With the Blues looking comfortable and pushing for more goals before the break, Cole was dismissed in the 38th minute for a second bookable offence after a foul on Cass. Giles had a low shot saved by Tibbles on the stroke of half time.
Within three minutes of the restart Cass doubled the lead with a close-range finish, Merrifield the provider again with a volleyed pass across goal after Edwards’ cross from the left.
Ryan Charles nearly got a goal to show for a good performance as he twisted and turned on the edge of the box but fired wide.
On the hour mark Stortford made it 3-0 as the Lowestoft defence failed to clear a cross from Merrifield and Cass volleyed home for his hat trick.
Giddens was required to make a double save, denying Hawkins with a dive to his right before tipping Tai Fleming’s shot over the bar.
Substitute Bobby Unwin played an entertaining cameo late on once again, playing with energy against the tired and dejected Lowestoft side. He cut the ball back to Merrifield who could only fire wide from a tight angle, before Tibbles denied Giles’ low and powerful effort from the left side of the box.
A misplaced clearance by Giddens gave Hawkins the chance to score a long-range consolation with the keeper out of his goal, but he could not keep his shot on target.
Sub Charlie Allum – who captained the Blues Academy to a win in the FA Youth Cup in midweek and scored the winning goal – tried his luck with a long-range effort that went just high of the goal.
The Blues exacted revenge for the only previous meeting between the sides, which Lowestoft won 2-0 on 5 November 1977 in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round. It was the fifth successive season that the Trawler Boys have gone out of the competition to Isthmian sides.
The Blues next play Hornchurch at home on Saturday (Sept 11) in a return to league action.
Blues: 1 Giddens, 3 Edwards, 4 Church (12 Thomas), 5 Robbins, 6 Henshaw, 7 Giles, 9 Cass, 10 Merrifield, 14 Jones (16 Allum), 15 Charles (11 Unwin), 17 Haines. Unused subs: 8 Nazor, 18 Chandler, 19 Gardner, 20 Wallace. Attendance: 380.