One of the performances of this season so far saw Worcester City confidently beat local rivals Stourport Swifts on Saturday afternoon 5-1 in the FA Vase Last 16, watched by 1900 supporters at a sold out Walshes Meadow.
Despite the terrible weather of the last week and much to the credit of Stourport’s ground staff, Saturday’s much-anticipated all-Worcestershire tie was able to go ahead and there was a real buzz in the air, with an estimated 1500 fans inside the ground supporting Chris Cornes’ men. Chris Knight was handed his City debut after signing from AFC Wulfrunians this week, starting at centre back alongside Kirk Layton, with Elliott Keightley unavailable. Cam Monteith, fresh from being awarded City’s Goal of the Month for January, also started in the middle of midfield in place of the absent Connor Gater, next to Jordan Lymn.
Jamie Insall led City’s forward line supported by Liam Lockett and Elliott Hartley, with Kyle Belmonte in his usual number 10 role.
Both sides had chances early on. Swifts’ Adam Hanson cut inside onto his left foot and curled an effort goalwards, which took a deflection and momentarily had Whitcombe scrambling to get across before watching the ball out for a corner. Liam Lockett then drew a good save out of Jamie Emery in the Swifts goal after good work from Hartley and Belmonte to find him in space out on the left.
Chris Knight also charged down and blocked a driven effort on goal from Jamie Meddows, whilst City had a goal ruled out for offside from an Adam Mace free kick that was flicked on and into the back of the net, a close call.
Set pieces were beginning to look increasingly dangerous for City and Kirk Layton nodded just wide from a Lockett free kick to the back post, taking a deflection off the defender on the way out for a corner. From the resulting corner came City’s breakthrough. Adam Mace whipped the ball in left footed and Layton, after seeing his previous effort drop just wide, flicked a looping header on towards the back post and into the back of the net. A fantastic finish from the former Swifts man and reward for City’s bright start.
City were beginning to purr and it was soon 2-0. Hartley did brilliantly to win another corner at the Swifts byline, and in almost a carbon copy of the first goal, Mace’s in-swinging corner met Jamie Insall at the near post, and his header was too hot to handle for Emery who couldn’t keep the effort out.
And it looked as if City had already confirmed their place in the Quarter Final when they got their third before the referee’s half time whistle. A header forward dropped kindly for Insall, whose flick was stopped dead by Belmonte. Twenty yards out and spotting the keeper off his line, Belmonte nonchalantly lofted the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net. An outrageous finish and City were in dreamland.
Into the second half and there was no let-up from the visitors who immediately set about increasing their advantage. Belmonte burst into the box after good work from Hartley coming in from the right, and after playing the ball to Insall looked a set to receive the one-two for a tap-in, but a Stourport touch diverted the ball away from him. Not giving up on the loose ball though, Belmonte pounced and smashed the ball past Emery for his second of the afternoon, and if it wasn’t already, City’s fast start to the second half had booked their place in the next round.
City saved the best goal for last with an exceptional team goal. After good work between Layton and Monteith, Kirk’s ball into the feet of Insall was met by an audacious flick from the City number 9 to the onrushing Lymn on the right flank. His ball to the back post was met on the slide by Liam Lockett to round off a fantastic team move and complete City’s scoring for the afternoon.
Stourport did pull one goal back later on through former City man Ben Tilbury, his eleventh of the season. A long ball forward could only be headed upwards by Stoddart and not to safety, and the ball back into the box found Tilbury unmarked, and he drove the ball into the back of the net.
The full time whistle was met with jubilant scenes with City players celebrating with their friends, families and supporters after moving another step closer to a dream Wembley date. The Faithul will be eagerly anticipating the draw for the next round on Monday afternoon.
Next up for City is a trip to Thornbury Town on Tuesday evening, a 7.45pm kick off.