Boro set for Stratford encore after Osborne takes centre stage

Boro celebrate their last-gasp leveller.
Pictures by Morgan Exley
Boro celebrate their last-gasp leveller. Pictures by Morgan Exley

Leon Osborne presented Scarborough Athletic with a get out of jail card on Saturday, earning a last-gasp FA Cup replay at Stratford Town.

The sub certainly didn't fluff his lines deep into injury-time after Boro had looked dead and buried, Osborne crashing Steve Kittrick's side level at 2-2 off the underside of the bar.

Boro fans show their joy after the late goal.
Pictures by Morgan Exley

Boro fans show their joy after the late goal. Pictures by Morgan Exley

A winter of discontent and an FA Cup exit had looked a certainty, with a workmanlike Stratford side seeming to have done a job on Boro, but the late roll of the dice leaves both sets of supporters awaiting an encore in the Cotswolds on Tuesday night.

Boro went into the game without commanding defender Matty Turnbull and striker Billy Logan, who were ill and away respectively, both proved to be big misses.

The hosts lacked Turnbull's ability to put head and foot on ball at the back, while Logan's striking instincts were absent further forward.

Boro looked shaky from the word go, with the lively Jazz Luckie having a solid penalty shout turned down in the opening five minutes.

Stratford took the lead soon after when Ben Stephens forced the ball home from close range, due mainly to some woeful defending from a corner.

The opportunities soon began to gather at the other end, and Emile Sinclair should have levelled when he found his way onto a Ross Daly cross. Frustratingly the ball struck the side of his head and bounced wide.

It took a moment of absolute brilliance to restore parity. Top scorer Michael Coulson looked to be heading down a blind alley out wide, but some smart footwork and a sweet looping drive resulted in the ball sailing into the top corner of the Stratford net.

Boro were then undone by more concerning defensive play. Dan Thirkell needlessly shoved Luckie in the penalty area, leaving referee Paul Brown with no choice but to point at the spot.

Tommy Taylor saved Stephens' penalty and then Luckie's rebound, but it was third time lucky for Daniel Summerfield, as he poked Stratford back in front.

Boro finished the half well, as Coulson twice went close with well-struck drives that sandwiched a good shout for a penalty, when Daly went down under challenge in the box.

There was a rather unsavory finish to the opening period as Boro skipper Dave Merris and Stratford's Justin Marsden came together in the middle of the park. Merris came off worse and after coming to, he was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Sinclair's final contribution of the game came 10 minutes into the second half, when he angled a header just wide. He was then replaced in attack by Osborne, who had a big part to play in the plot line.

The game went flat as the half went on and Stratford looked to be heading straight for the fourth qualifying round.

Will Grocutt smacked a superb shot against the Boro bar from distance. The ball fell to Luckie, but he was denied by another fine Taylor save.

Boro finally began to launch a late rally for a place in the hat, but it seemed too little too late as Coulson's far-post header was saved and then Luke Dean's drive was cleared off the line.

Taylor had to be at his best as the game crept towards the final whistle, the former Brighouse man making a superb point-blank save from sub Stratford Michael Taylor.

Then, with the game deep into injury-time, Boro had one last curtain call.

Keeper Louis Connor saved well from Max Wright's header, but he could do nothing as Osborne stole in to smash the ball home, book a replay and start the celebrations.