Stratford Town 0-2 Solihull Moors
Birmingham Senior Cup, Semi-final
Match report by Colin Stoner
FOR once, Darren Byfield was not the oldest player on the pitch for Solihull Moors but age has not dimmed his match-winning ability.
Goalkeeper Darren Acton – back in goal at the age of 42 – took the ‘golden oldie’ tag, but the former Villa and Walsall forward Byfield rolled back the years with two goals to fire Solihull Moors into the Birmingham Senior Cup final.
The first was predatory finish from the 39-year-old inside the six-yard box to break the deadlock just past the hour at the DCS Stadium. The second was simply a blast from the past, Byfield controlling a free-kick with one touch and twisting to fire home a strike of the utmost quality with his second.
Moors’ defensive strength again provided the platform, despite being forced into two changes before the second half kicked off.
And while Stratford, who had KO’d both Coventry and Walsall in the county cup, certainly provided a stern test, Moors had the extra quality when it mattered.
Acton had to don his gloves to deputise for the injured Danny Lewis, but the evergreen keeper was ever-reliable with his handling and Moors’ defence never allowed Town too much clear sight of goal.
The hosts did have the moments, though, especially in a purple patch just before half-time.
Centre-forward Tyrone Fagan came closest to breaking the first-half deadlock eight minutes before the break.
The striker’s instinctive close-range effort from a Jamie Sheldon corner beat Acton but a Moors boot whacked the ball clear just in front of the line.
Moments later, Simeon Tulloch sent a rasping 25-yarder over and then Sheldon dispossessed Theo Streete just inside the Moors half, hared goalwards, stepped to his right and smashed over.
Town had faced few scares in the first period, with Moors’ only notable efforts bringing headers over the target from Liam Daly and Jimmy Armson.
Fagan again threatened for the hosts early in the second period when he just failed to get enough contact on his header from Sheldon’s free-kick but Moors gradually took control.
The first goal in such a tight game was going to firmly tip the balance and on 61 minutes it fell to the visitors. Daly’s aerial prowess allowed him to nod Steve Leslie’s corner into the six-yard box and the alert Byfield bundled home at the second attempt.
Byfield was denied a quickfire second by keeper Andy Kemp’s block but the former Villa and Walsall striker showed just why he has played at the top level with a sumptuous finish on 69 minutes. Controlling Armson’s right-wing free-kick with a precise touch, he turned to his left and rammed a low shot past the helpless Kemp.
Apart from an Aaron Moses-Garvey shot which flashed over, Moors’ defence held Stratford at arm’s length for the final 20 minutes as they booked their end-of-season date with Birmingham City in the final.
The venue has yet to be decided but for Moors – with a squad with several Bluenoses including boss Marcus Bignot – a trip to St Andrew’s would be a fitting way to end a history-making season.