Stourbridge 3, Cambridge City 2
A LUKE Benbow hat-trick helped Stourbridge take a big step towards securing a Southern League Premier play-off place.
The Glassboys gave their fight for a top five finish a massive boost by beating fellow play-off contenders Cambridge City at the Memorial Ground today.
The well-deserved victory, made possible by the clinical finishing of Benbow, is Stourbridge's third in succession as they look to hit form at just the right time.
Resurgent Stourbridge dominated the game right from the start and came out worthy winners, even if the final scoreline failed to reflect their dominance.
Manager Gary Hackett set his side up to play a 3-5-2 formation after it worked so well in the second half of their previous game.
The extra men in midfield proved decisive and, in the opening exchanged, it was The Glassboys who found more time and space on the ball, most notably captain Sean Geddes. He kept finding pockets of space in the middle of the park and was able to dictate the play as his side piled on the early pressure.
Wide men Netan Sanasara and Kyle Haynes were also finding space on the flanks and forward Kayelden Brown was holding the ball up well and linking encouragingly with strike partner Benbow.
It was Benbow who had Stourbridge's first real chance after 10 minutes, firing his shot straight at the visiting keeper after good work to beat his man at the edge of the box.
On 26 minutes, it was Brown who was then denied. He met an inswinging corner with his chest as he tried to bundle the ball home, only to see his effort cleared off the line.
However, the warning signs were there for Cambridge and the deadlock was broken on the half hour mark when Benbow bagged his first.
It was his initial good work on the left that saw play switched to Haynes on the right. His cross was then met by Benbow as he made a run in the box. His powerful finish gave Cambridge keeper Barrett no chance.
Stourbridge were mostly untroubled during the first period but failed to add to their only goal before the break.
The second half started where the first had finished, with Stourbridge dominating possession and looking the more dangerous of the two sides.
It took just ten minutes of the second period for The Glassboys to go 2-0 ahead.
This time the route was more direct. Brown climbed well to flick a long ball on to Benbow. He raced on to the ball and lashed it across the keeper and into the top corner.
City tried to fight back and created a few openings without really troubling keeper Coleman, the best came on 74 minutes when Louis Lee headed wide witht the goal at his mercy.
The miss was made even worse for City by what followed. The resulting goalkick made it over the top of the visiting defence for hat-trick-seeking Benbow to race onto. He made no mistake with a hard-driven low shot under Cambridge keeper Barrett.
It was all Stoubridge deserved for what had been an impressive performance, highlighted by a few moments of neat interplay on the edge of the Cambridge box.
However, with just two minutes left on the clock Cambridge hit back. Marriott, who had worked Coleman with a good long-range effort just a few moments before, got in behind the Stourbridge defence and slotted the ball under the advancing Coleman.
Then, two minutes later, as the game entered added on time, a long ball again found its way through the Glassboys defence. As City broke into the box, substitute Jordan Fitzpatrick brought down his man to give Cambridge a penalty.
Merriott slotted in the spot kick to pull the scores closer, but it was too little too late for City and the ref called time on the contest soon after the game restarted.
Though they made hard work of the closing stages, it was Stourbridge who dominated the game and came away with a deserved and important victory. They could be finding form at just the right time.
Stourbridge: Coleman, Benbow (Washbourne 89), Knight, Ramsey-Dickson, Geddes (c), Harris, Haynes, Broadhurst (Fitzpatrick 80), Brown, Billingham, Sansara (Canavan 68).
Unused subs: Francis, Tye.
Cambridge City: Barrett, Pepper, Brighton, Beasant Phillips 78), Chaffey (c), Beech, Lewis, Lee, Bossman, Marriott, Kelly (Dawkin 72).
Unused subs: Ramm, Burns, Lawton.
Ref: Mr Grant Taylor - Weston-on-Avon, Warwickshire.