Saturday, October 22, 2005

COURAGEOUS Worcester City are more than capable of dumping Accrington Stanley out of the FA Cup tonight -- and chairman Dave Boddy wants supporters to fuel a memorable shock.

Depleted City were magnificent in securing a fourth qualifying round replay, out-thinking, out-battling and out-manoeuvring Stanley at the Interlink Express Stadium.

The famous Lancashire club sit 39 non-league places above Worcester, but Andy Preece's foot soldiers, roared on by a boisterous following and without captain Graham Hyde, were in no way poorer to their Conference hosts.

In fact, on grounds of desire and steadfastness to preserve their FA Cup existence, valiant Worcester were masters.

Stanley looked on course when winger Gary Roberts swirled home a superb 30-yard free-kick, but Leon Kelly levelled the tie with his fourth cup strike of the season.

Chippenham Town are next in wait if City prevail at the second attempt and chairman Boddy has called on the town's supporters to roar his side to victory at St George's Lane.

"I thought the lads were fantastic," beamed Boddy. "They absolutely worked their socks off.

"We've got a lot of problems with injuries. We had seven players out with Hydey being out as well and they ran themselves silly.

"The City support was fantastic, possibly not in terms of numbers, but the 100 and more that did make the trip have been absolutely phenomenal.

"The reward is now there. If we can get past Accrington tonight, which should be another great occasion, then we've got a winnable tie at Chippenham.

"I'd like to think we can draw a crowd of 1,500 to 2,000. I hope the Worcester people come out and get behind us, because it was an attractive tie on Saturday and I don't see the replay being any different.

"Our gates have been down on what we budgeted for this season. I think they've been down £1,000 a game so far, so this helps recover that situation. It may give us the opportunity to invest in the team if we can get through this round."

City's game-plan -- to diligently contain the Reds and attack in responsible numbers on the break -- worked fruitfully.

The home side held the cards in possession terms, but penetrating two tireless banks of Worcester defending proved, at times, an insurmountable challenge.

Without six injured players and midfield general Hyde -- whose wife gave birth on Saturday morning -- City worked industriously in their duties.

Everyone stood up to be counted. Danny McDonnell, tremendous in goal, induced Worcester fans to sing 'England's Number One' with a spectacular stop from Romuald Boco to keep the visitors alive.

Justin Thompson, Des Lyttle and Chris Smith performed to Football League standard in defence, Rob Warner and Liam McDonald negated the threat of Stanley's dangerous Roberts and Stephen Jagielka.

In the absence of Hyde, Worcester's young midfield trio of Danny Hodnett, Tom Warmer and Sam Wedgbury stood tall as men.

Strikers Kelly and Adam Webster both bust a gut. Kelly's powerful runs frightened Stanley's defence and his efforts deserved its reward.

The pressure was on Worcester when Roberts slammed a 16th-minute opener. Captain Ian Crainey was hauled down 30 yards out and Roberts fizzed the free-kick over the wall and past McDonnell into the top corner.

Roberts almost delivered Stanley's second, but from his accurate cross, Leam Richardson's close-range scissor-kick flashed over.

With Kelly providing an outlet, City always had a weapon on the break. The former Ilkeston Town striker first tested veteran Andy Dibble after skinning young Danny Ventre.

But Kelly made his mark on 41 minutes. Stanley's defence failed to clear Warner's long throw-in and Kelly slotted past Dibble from close range.

Reds substitute Boco was denied twice in seconds after the break. From Richardson's cross, Boco's thumping header was magnificently stopped by McDonnell and Lyttle toe-poked another effort off the line.

McDonnell later saved at the feet of Paul Mullin and two dangerous free-kicks were hacked to safety.

Worcester could have stolen it in stoppage time when Preece, seemingly winding the clock down, slotted Warmer into the box but the midfielder hooked his rash shot wide.

CITY: McDonnell, Warner, Hodnett, Smith, Thompson, Lyttle, Wedgbury (Clegg 73), Warmer, Kelly, Webster, McDonald (Preece 85). Subs not used: Watkins, Jones, Skyers.