Carl Stewart Hat-Trick Sees Taddy Reach Last Four
By Jay Taylor
Tadcaster Albion advanced into the NCEL League Semi-Final after a Carl Stewart hat-trick saw off nearby neighbours Knaresborough Town.
With games coming thick and fast to say the least over the next fortnight, TAFC boss Billy Miller made no fewer than eight changes to the side that beat Handsworth Parramore. The Brewers boasted four ex-Premier League stars with Seb Carole and Richard Cresswell making their debuts along with Matt Heath and Jonathan Greening also back in from the start.
From the experienced to the inexperienced as U21 players Ryan Woodhead and 17-year old Casey Stewart, who only knew about starting ten minutes before kick-off due to Nick Black pulling up in the warm-up, were both given game time at Manse Lane.
The cup tie started off in a cagey manner with both sides finding their feet without creating any chances.
Carole, Cresswell and Greening were all heavily involved in Tadcaster’s early play and with ten minutes gone the former Leeds United and Stoke City forward came within a few inches of finding the back of the net.
Jonathan Greening to Richard Cresswell is not a sentence I thought I would be saying at the start of the season but it was the aforementioned two who combined. Greening’s corner was met by the towering figure of Cresswell who powered a header narrowly over the crossbar.
The home side were massively up for the contest as you’d expect and it was never going to be a walkover with Town looking up towards the play-offs in Division One.
20 goal striker Brad Walker got his first sight of goal after quarter of an hour played. A long goal kick was flicked into Walker’s path but the talisman was yet to find his range as he pulled his half-volley way wide.
Knaresborough were dealt a blow to their chances shortly after Walker’s effort as the highly rated Will Lenehan was forced off with a shoulder injury after a collision with Cresswell.
Apart from Cresswell’s header in the early stages, both sides were struggling to create any noteworthy chances but were finding themselves in decent wide positions. Seb Carole was seeing plenty of the ball on the right-hand side and the 33-year-old Frenchman was showing glimpses of what he’s all about. He was looking comfortable on the ball as you would expect and he created himself a shooting opportunity from 25 yards out after turning Calum Rodgers inside and out before firing high into the night sky.
Taddy did however strike blood first in the Quarter-Final with less than half an hour played. Seb Carole drove beyond Rodgers in a central position before guiding a perfectly weighted through ball to Carl Stewart who impressively fired low into the near corner past Jack Rushworth.
The goal certainly didn’t faze Knaresborough’s game plan as they bounced back positively from going behind.
Jack Atkinson tried his luck from 30 yards but his strike was straight at Stevens in the Taddy goal and then Fatlum Ibrihimi pulled out a bicycle kick to set up Brad Walker who also went for the acrobatics but fizzed just over.
Knaresborough were giving a thoroughly account of themselves but their hard work was undone by some quality play by The Brewers. Richard Cresswell got up highest to flick beyond the Town defence to set up Carl Stewart who coolly flicked the ball over the falling Rushworth.
Carl Stewart, who has had a frustrating season hampered by injury was looking ravenous for goals at Manse Lane and the forward almost completed a first-half hat-trick but struck over the target from inside the penalty area.
The second half started with the home side putting The Brewers under pressure but the centre half pairing of Matt Heath and Andy Milne were looking compact and as solid as ever.
Knaresborough were pumping balls into the box but when called upon, Gary Stevens was out to clear with punch after punch.
With the quality that Tad have, they are always a threat going forward and Richard Cresswell rolled back the years in the 65th minute after driving at the heart of the Knaresborough defence before a mixture of Pascal of Rodgers brought the target man down. The referee had a decision to make as it looked incredibly close to being inside the penalty area, after reviewing the video replay immediately it is still difficult to tell but it looks as though Cresswell is just inside.
However with that being said, referee Craig Hansworth pointed to a free-kick and not a penalty. Carl Stewart stepped up as he looked for his all-important third goal. The striker nonchalantly chipped the ball towards the top right-hand corner to which Jack Rushworth impressively clawed out.
The two youngsters featuring for Taddy were showing how bright the future is for the club with the immense U21 squad which holds many up and coming stars. Ryan Woodhead has already made a couple of appearances for the first-team but this was Casey Stewart’s first involvement for the Tadcaster Albion first-team and he was playing with no fear showcasing his outstanding ability with Woodhead down the left-hand side.
It’s a fantastic experience for Woodhead and Stewart to get to play alongside the likes of Cresswell, Heath, Carole and Greening whose experience is invaluable.
The home side kept plugging away though and really should have been back in the cup tie but the usually deadly Brad Walker somehow slid wide from four yards with the goal gaping.
Walker must have been kicking himself about his missed opportunity but would have felt even worse when Taddy put the game to bed with seven minutes to go.
Hansworth awarded The Brewers a penalty kick after Toby Lees was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball.
There were no surprises who picked up the ball to take the spot-kick, yep it was of course Carl Stewart who emphatically stroked past the hapless Rushworth to complete his hat-trick.
It was pleasing to see Stewart back among the goals, he looked enthusiastic and hungry throughout the contest fighting for every single ball.
Football is a simple game sometimes, find the back of the net a couple times and the confidence oozes back.
The home side did however pull a consolation goal back in the dying embers. Gary Stevens produced a magnificent save to keep out the hard-working Walker but unfortunately for Taddy’s back line and Stevens, Toby Lees swiftly hooked into the back of the net to get Knaresborough on the score board.
Knaresborough did come close on a couple of occasions to pulling a second goal back to set up a possible grandstand finale but in the end Tadcaster held on to the 3-1 victory to book their place in the Semi-Final of the League Cup.
Team: Stevens, Armstrong, Woodhead, Milne ©, Heath, Mycoe, Carole (Barrett 80), Jonathan Greening, Carl Stewart, Cresswell, Casey Stewart
Subs Unused: Corner, Anderson, Baker, Clayton