By Liam Moakes 15/03 Updated: 15/03 12:57
STUDLEY face an uphill battle to reach the Polymac Services League Cup final after suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to Tipton Town in Tuesday's first leg at the Beehive.
In truth, the Bees could have few complaints about the outcome and indeed can count themselves rather fortunate to still be in with a chance in the tie when they travel to Tipton Sports Academy for the second leg on Wednesday, April 4.
The visitors were dominant throughout the first leg but to their credit some resilient defending and assured goalkeeping from Perry Cox kept the hosts in the contest and it looked as though they were going to hold out for an unlikely draw until substitute Leigh Downing finally broke their resistance in the 83rd minute.
Tipton were soon into their stride, prompted by the flowing football of Andrew Westwood and David Bate in central midfield as the pair looked to get the ball to right winger Tyrone Clarke-O'Connell, on his full debut for Town.
His searing pace was a constant menace to the Bees and in the fifth minute Danny Hicks produced a last-ditch challenge to prevent his excellent right wing cross from being converted, before seven minutes later Clarke-O'Connell thumped a powerful drive wide.
Clarke-O'Connell again got behind the home defence in the 19th minute but this time Cox came to the rescue with an excellent stop at his near post.
The Bees finally got a foothold in the game and a right wing cross had just too much pace on it to enable Lei Brown to make a proper connection at the back post, whilst a lapse in concentration in the visiting rearguard almost allowed Scott Turner in on goal on the half hour.
However, the closest either side came to a goal before the break was in the 27th minute when Bate's superb 30-yard drive cannoned back off the inside of Studley's right hand post with Cox a mere spectator.
Just before the break Lewis Haycock produced a neat flick on inside the area which Nathan Waite latched on to before firing powerfully at goal from point blank range, only for Cox to raise a strong left arm and brilliantly parry the ball over the bar.
Tipton remained in the ascendancy but were not as dominant after the break as Studley and Matt Collins and Brown in particular raised their game.
Brown was unable to get enough power on a shot on the turn in the box and then a back post header at an awkward angle was unable to trouble Town keeper Neil Page.
The star of the show was still Clarke-O'Connell though and he again burst clear on goal but Cox was once again equal to him to produce a fine save to thwart a stinging near post drive.
The Studley goal contined to lead a charmed life until Tipton finally struck when substitutes Downing and Warren Brooks combined to devastating effect.
Brooks passed to Downing and then received the ball back before driving past Dale Edwards and sliding the ball back into Downing who slotted the ball between two defenders and Cox to give the visitors a slender lead heading into the second leg.
In Tuesday's other semi-final first leg Loughborough University defeated visitors Boldmere St Michaels 4-1. The final will be played at Walsall's Banks's Stadium.
TOMORROW the Bees visit title-chasing Coventry Sphinx having slipped into the bottom three on goal difference as a result of Alvechurch's 6-4 victory at Willenhall Town on Tuesday.
However, the Bees, who then host Rocester on Tuesday, will head into the weekend encounter having picked up seven points from the past four matches after clinching a crucial 2-1 home win over Coleshill Town on Saturday.
It was a deserved win and means Coleshill are now just two points above Studley having played a game more, despite being three places higher.
Brown opened the scoring with a ninth minute penalty after being brought down in the box himself and the lead was doubled six minutes later by Paul Dowsett who scored on the rebound from Dan Carter's strike.
Coleshill rallied but Allando Davis' 85th minute effort proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
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