Cinders made up

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The Independent Online
Cinderford Town 2

Price 32, Hill 50

Bromsgrove Rovers 1

Skelding 80 (pen)


SO, CINDERFORD may yet go to the ball. In their case the ball in question is the FA Cup third round, an occasion of unprecedented status and glamour. Like their near namesake, this Cinders could well require serious intervention from a fairy godmother to achieve their ambition but early and impressive appearance yesterday augurs well.

There were times when it would have been possible to drive a coach and horses through their defence but just as it looked as if that was happening with another Bromsgrove attack, somebody waved a wand to turn it into something more innocuous like a pumpkin and mice.

This is not to deny the pride and fighting spirit of the Gloucestershire side, which is immense, but if the corner count of 19-3 against does not tell the whole story it says enough about which team got the ball into the areas which should count more often.

The pitch was heavy, the day was bleak and grew bleaker. It was exactly as FA Cup ties at this stage of the season are supposed to be. Bromsgrove, eighth in the Vauxhall Conference, were obviously favourites against a club which until six years ago was in the relegation zone of the Gloucestershire County League. Since then Cinderford have managed three swift promotions but are still two rungs below Bromsgrove in the footballing pyramid.

The conference side laid siege to the Cinders' goal but as early as the 12th minute, when three chances went begging, there were worrying signs of wastefulness. Cinderford absorbed and broke. It was primitive but it was also swift and effective and 12 minutes from half-time it brought an expected reward. A cross from the left skidded across the six-yard box and almost gliding in around the back of the defence came Chris Price to tap the ball in.

This is not a manoeuvre which many will recall from Price's 565 Football League matches as a full-back, and may indeed explain his ecstatic reaction. From the way he cajoled his colleagues both while on the pitch and off it, after a viral infection forced him to leave early in the second half, it was clear the occasion meant much to him.

By the time he departed Cinderford were two up, the burly and deceptively skilful centre-forward Danny Hill having drilled the ball home when it fell to him 12 yards out. Cinders resisted tenuously but grittily thereafter and despite conceding a justifiable penalty, converted by Jimmy Skelding, with nine minutes left they just managed to hold on.

Price, a man who has played at the San Siro Stadium for Aston Villa and four years ago sat next to Alan Shearer in the Blackburn Rovers team photograph, said it was one of his greatest footballing days. Neither he nor Cinders were aiming to get home before midnight.