Chelmsford City found themselves 2-0 down by half-time after Ryan Auger smashed home from close-range and Christian Smith was unlucky to see the ball bounce over the line via his ankle, before Sheldon Sellears sent a curled effort past Bradley Watkins.
Ryan Auger then made it four with a controlled finish before Michael Cheek and Jason Williams set-up a nervy final ten minutes as both netted before the 80th minute mark. Yado Mambo then scored a third for the Clarets as they sensed blood and looked to find that all-important fourth, but their FA Trophy campaign came to an abrupt end however as Stortford managed to just hold on.
The Clarets made three changes to the side that beat Bath City 2-1 last Saturday with Marvin Ekpiteta replacing Yado Mambo in the heart of City’s defence while Michael Cheek - who came off the substitutes’ bench to net the winner against Bath – was rewarded as Jason Williams had to settle for a place among the subs. Rohdell Gordon also made the line-up in place of John Sands, who was cup-tied after appearing for Canvey Island in an earlier round.
And Mark Hawkes’s men were faced with a Stortford side who sit 18th in the Conference South having not recorded a win in five games. Rod Stringer, Stortford’s manager who also guided Braintree Town to the Conference Premier in 2010-11, blasted his side’s poor run of form in his programme notes. He claimed: “Maybe I’m going to have to bully them [the players], some of them will be able to handle it, and some maybe won’t – but we need to start getting results.
“If they don’t come back in the dressing room having given everything to get a result it might be the last game at Bishop’s Stortford for some of them.”
Clear words indeed from Stringer who was evidently looking for a reaction; however, within the opening five minutes, his side could have been behind as Rohdell Gordon headed narrowly wide from a well-placed Christian Smith set-piece.
Stortford regained their composure after that early escape and appeared well organised at the back with Ryan Auger and Sheldon Sellears both causing considerable trouble down their respective flanks. City were given a warning sign after Donovan Simmonds, who will be remembered well for his brace for Chelmsford against Colchester United in City’s 3-1 win two years ago, when he beat the defence twice, although was denied by the offside flag on both occasions.
But control the opening twenty-minutes or so they did, with Mikel Suarez, an imposing figure just off the frontman, looking dangerous and skilful, clearly taking on board his manager’s demands.
And it was Suarez who caused the City defence problems as the home side opened the scoring just shy of twenty minutes. Spencer McCall’s set-piece into the box was met by Mikel Suarez who rose highest and looped a header onto the bar. The ball then dropped to Ryan Auger who made no mistake in smashing in the rebound on the half-volley as the deadlock was broken.
Suarez then again demonstrated his immense strength when he muscled free of a challenge from City’s Marvin Ekpiteta. The Blues striker the found himself one-on-one with ‘keeper Bradley Watkins, on loan from Barclays Premier League side Aston Villa, and the shot stopper smothered the shot well as the bell deflected behind for a corner.
The striker was at the heart of the action once again when he ran onto Spencer McCall’s free-kick from the left, although was unable to direct it on goal as it flashed wide of an upright. The Clarets just simply failed to contain the former Tonbridge Angels and Dartford target man.
As half-time approached the visitors struggled to create anything in the way of chances as Bishop’s Stortford continued their domination and doubled their lead five minutes before the break.
City switched off at the back, letting the ball drop inside the six-yard box following a throw-in as the ball bounced off the ankle of City’s Christian Smith as Stortford entered half-time two goals to the good.
Mark Hawkes made two changes as Rohdell Gordon and Christian Smith made way for Leon Redwood and Jason Williams in an attempt to get back into the match. The switch to 4-4-2, with Williams supporting Michael Cheek up front, had an aim of giving more support to the latter who struggled against the impressive centre-back pairing of Adam Bailey-Dennis, Stortford’s captain, and Phil Anderson.
But Stortford almost made it three-nil when he sent a low shot which had Bradley Watkins scrambling at his near post.
City skipper Mark Hughes then had a chance to initiate a comeback when he rose highest in the area, only to nod a free header over the crossbar from Nicky Nicolau’s corner routine.
City’s attacking intent was put on hold once again when Sheldon Sellears increased Stortford’s lead. The wingman cut inside before curling an outstanding shot which nestled just inside the post, leaving Bradley Watkins with no chance of saving it.
Game over for the Clarets, and with over thirty minutes remaining, too. You would have thought.
Stortford looked to have been out of sight after Ryan Auger steered in his second of the game after latching onto a cross from Donovan Simmonds.
Michael Cheek reduced the deficit with a close-range consolation goal as the Clarets initiated a comeback before Jason Williams reduced the deficit further when he neatly controlled the ball with his chest before rolling the ball past David Gregory.
Substitute Yado Mambo set-up a nervy final few minutes when he made the scoring 4-3 but it was still all a little too late as the Clarets were forced to settle for the defeat.
It’s the sort of result that Rod Stringer was asking for in his programme notes, although the defending in the second-half will no doubt be of concern.
1. David Gregory
2. Cheye Alexander
3. Johnny Herd
4. Frankie Merrifield
5. Adam Bailey-Dennis (C)
6. Phil Anderson
7. Sheldon Sellears
8. Spencer McCall
9. Mikel Suarez
10. Donovan Simmonds
11. Ryan Auger
12. George Sykes (On for Mikel Suarez, 72)
14. Ryan Melaugh (Sheldon Sellears, 86)
15. Rod Young (On for Donovan Simmonds, 69)
16. Ashley Miller
17. Anthony Church
1. Bradley Watkins
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Nicky Nicolau
4. Mark Hughes (C)
5. Mark Haines
6. Marvin Ekpiteta
7. Lee Sawyer
8. Joe Ward
9. Rohdell Gordon
10. Michael Cheek
11. Christian Smith
12. Jason Williams (On for Rohdell Gordon, 46)
14. James Love
15. Leon Redwood (On for Christian Smith, 46)
16. Yado Mambo (On for Marvin Ekpiteta, 80)
19. Niklas Freund (GK)
Referee: Mr. Christopher Pollard
Assistant Referees: Mr. Hallam Cutmore and Mr. Paul Quick.
Bookings: Bishop’s Stortford: None
Chelmsford City: Lee Sawyer (27, foul)
Scorers: Bishop’s Stortford: Ryan Auger (19), Christian Smith (OG, 39), Sheldon Sellears (56)
Chelmsford City: Michael Cheek (70), Jason Williams (80), Yado Mambo (89)
HT Score: 0-2
City Man of the Match: Lee Sawyer