Stretford Paddock FC’s Rhodes Cup journey came to an unfortunate end on Saturday after Mellor Firsts defeated Paddock in their quarter-final clash. The scoreline finished 3-0 to the home side, meaning that Paddock’s cup dream was over as well as their first season in amateur football.

Going into this fixture, it was obvious that Paddock were the clear underdogs in this tie. Before the original league season was null & voided, Mellor sat top of the Premier Division with a flawless record of 6 games, 6 wins and a 20+ goal difference. They also qualified top of their Rhodes Cup group after winning their last group stage game 8-0.

Additionally, manager Stephen Howson was facing his touchline suspension for this game after he was sent off against Manchester Polonia a few weeks ago. As a result, assistant manager Pete Burns and First Team Coach Josh Reed took the reigns for Paddock’s quarter-final clash.

As the rain poured down in Marple, Mellor started the game on the front foot with some early shots from the edge of Paddock’s box which goalkeeper Kian Pearce had to parry away.

15 minutes on the clock, Mellor came inches away from opening the scoring. Mellor’s number 6 had a venomous strike from the edge of the area that crashed against the underside of the crossbar. Luckily, the ball bounced on the goal line before Denzel Kuzakwawo finally cleared the ball away.

Mellor’s early pressure soon paid off, as on the 23rd minute Mellor’s low cross to the back post saw their number 7 bundle the ball across the line after a deflection from Luke Zakian aided the ball into Paddock’s net.

To add to Paddock’s woes, top goalscorer Jay Phillips was forced off with a groin injury with Momen Yousif coming on as his replacement.

1-0 down, Paddock came close to equalising 10 minutes later when Ronaldo Brown’s low driven cross from the right-wing found Okera Simmonds but his tame effort didn’t trouble the Mellor keeper.

The referee blew for half time and Paddock had it all to do in the second half if they wanted any chance of getting to the semi-finals.

But it was Mellor that continued to show their class. Only 60 seconds after the restart, Paddock’s half clearance from a free-kick fell to Mellor’s number 15 on the edge of the area who’s half volley found the bottom corner to make it 2-0.

A few minutes later, Okera Simmonds tried to revive Paddock once more when his shot from the edge of Mellor’s box was easily saved from the goalkeeper.

An hour gone, Paddock continued to fight to get back into the game. But Mellor’s defence stood strong when their left back made a last-ditch challenge to stop Nosa Iyamu converting from Zakian’s cross.

Mellor put the final nail in Paddock’s coffin on the 77th minute when a mazy run from one of their midfielders saw them drive into Paddock’s box, his low cross beat everyone and found Mellor’s number 9 who was able to touch it home.

3-0 down and down to 10 men, Paddock looked like they still had the legs on Mellor. 10 minutes left on the clock, Hamza Aabuzour, Rivaldo Brown and Isaac Buckley-Ricketts came close to getting a consolation goal but it wasn’t meant to be.

The full time whistle went for this game and for Paddock’s season as this 3-0 loss meant that Mellor continued onto the semi-finals of the Rhodes Cup.

Manager Stephen Howson said “We’re extremely gutted at losing to the best team in the entire league system because we set exceptionally high expectations.”

“I am proud of what we have achieved so far. And I want to push on and finish next season with silverware, big scalps and many more adventures.”

“We’ve worked hard to achieve what we’ve done so far during the pandemic. Now we know the standard of what the Premier Division is like, we have a target.”

Will Hobson

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