SHROVE Tuesday brought about Fairford Town’s first taste of defeat of 2017, as Premier Division challengers Flackwell Heath edged a competitive encounter at Cinder Lane.
Both sides made changes to their line-ups for the game, with the home team missing six players from Saturday’s 5-1 win over Tytherington Rocks – with league success very much at the top of manager Gareth Davies’s priorities.
That’s not to say the cup was taken lightly – far from it – and the Reds battled all the way against a Flackwell outfit who showed their higher division nous at crucial times.
Dan Rapley opened the scoring for the visitors with a well-taken ninth minute, having cut in from the right and firing past home stopper Ben Mitchell.
The flow of the game was broken on 29th minute with a straight red card for Fairford midfielder Steve Hall, whose mistimed challenge deemed worthy of dismissal and the Reds faced an uphill struggle.
Fairford adjusted well though and with Mitchell found in good form for the home side, the 1-0 scoreline going into the interval.
Jason Milhench, wearing the captain’s armband for the night, delivered the goods ten minutes into the second period with a rasping drive from just outside the box to level the game up and it was no more than the home side deserved after a rousing start to the new half.
Mitchell, Fairford’s man of the match, then made several outstanding saves soon after the hour to deny the visitors the lead. This was an entertaining encounter that was giving the healthy crowd – several of whom who had diverted to GL7 with games called off elsewhere – value for money.
The visitors regained the upper hand 11 minutes from time with a low finish from Matt Stockhill finding its way into the back of the net.
The third and final away goal came in stoppage time with a well-taken penalty from visiting skipper Ben Sturgess sealing a last four place for his side.
It proved to be a lively cup tie that will perhaps have given the Reds a taste of what’s to come should the goal of promotion back to the Premier Division be reached.
F/T: Fairford Town 1 Flackwell Heath 3