BFB Challenge Cup
Cirencester Town 1
Larkhall Athletic 2

CIRENCESTER TOWN crossed swords with Larkhall Athletic for the second time in four days at the Corinium, this time in the BFB Challenge Cup and, much to the disappointment of a sparse crowd, it was the visitors who came out on top again by the same score with an even later winner than in Saturday’s encounter.

Larks forward Joe Tumelty, who was lively throughout the game, struck twice to leave Ciren bedraggled and disconsolate.

The home side deserved at least to take the game to penalties. It was the fifth time this season that the luckless Centurions had lost by the odd goal in three.

Ciren manager Charlie Griffin rested skipper Adam Connolly along with Ben Whitehead and Mike Pook (who were both on the bench), and included development players Danny Gudger and Sam Walsh in the starting XI.

The visitors made just one change from the previous encounter – Geraint Bater replacing Matt Guy in the centre of midfield.

The game started brightly with Larkhall showing their intent as early as the first minute, George King blazing over from 10 yards.

Ciren’s first telling move was on five minutes when Jack Horrell scuffed his shot wide of the left upright after finding space.

Next, Aidan Bennett slipped past former Centurion Neil Arndale to deliver a delicious cross that was somehow cleared from under his own crossbar by Larks skipper Jay Adams.

Another neat move by the home side found Gudger on the edge of the box, but unluckily, his first time snap shot grazed a post.

Then, on 21 minutes, Tumelty scored a goal that would have graced any game in the Premiership, a superb dipping effort from all of 20 yards.

Ten minutes later Ciren were level, Bennett jinking past Arndale to find Henry Spalding out wide. The young Centurion cut the ball back onto his favoured left foot and Gudger gleefully headed home the chance from two yards.

Honours were even at half-time in a game that was played at a higher tempo than Saturday, with some attractive flowing football from both sides.

The home team returned to the pitch in the second half with all guns blazing, Bennett timing his run perfectly only to fire into the legs of Larkhall ‘keeper Shaun Semmens.

Ciren right back Will Christopher, who was having a solid game, was replaced by Pook on 51 minutes after taking a knock. Soon after, Whitehead replaced Walsh as the home side looked to take advantage.

It was then the turn of Larks wide man Cory Simpson to get into the action, his electric pace and rasping drive producing a fine save from Ciren custodian Matt Wieczorek.

Then the Centurions ‘keeper made the save of the night with a superb strong-handed block to deny Tumelty in a one-on-one.

At this point Cirencester were dominating possession but Larkhall always looked dangerous on the break, and, if anything, created the clearer chances.

Finally, in the dying minutes of the game, Tumelty was on hand to cap a fine display with a cool finish and send Larkhall into the second round.

Although the result was another sickener for the Centurions, they must take heart from their performance and take some belief and spirit into the FA Trophy game at Evesham on Sunday afternoon.

Once again, Mason Lewis looked composed at the back, Jack Horrell ran his legs off for the full 90 minutes, and James Mortimer-Jones proved he still has plenty in the tank – he rarely gives the ball away.

Meanwhile, Matt Wieczorek, not for the first time, proved he is one of the best goalkeepers around at this level.

Cirencester Town: Wieczorek, Christopher (Pook, 51), Jones, Mortimer-Jones, Lewis, Coupe (capt), Spalding, Horrell, Walsh (Whitehead, 55), Gudger, Bennett.