This should have been a comfortable win. Somehow Red Star managed to keep their finger perilously close to the self-destruct button for an uncomfortably long time in this game.
The opening couple of minutes promised a relatively easy passage through to the next round, with Red Star setting their stall out early with four attacks in the opening three minutes against a team that has only won one game, drawn another and lost seven so far this season.
For the opening quarter of an hour they were the better team, just guilty of some sloppy play. They took the lead in the 16th minute when Dan Wilson knocked down a long ball for Michael Chilton who took a touch, turned and curled it round a couple of defenders and in between the right post and Steeton keeper Danny Thorpe, diving to his left.
Three minutes later Steeton No. 10 Andy Briggs put a weak header straight at Red Star keeper Chris Bannon. He made amends a minute later when Red Star failed to clear the ball from their box. He picked up the loose ball and scored, despite Bannon getting a hand to it.
Briggs’ opposite number – David Robinson – re-established Red Star’s lead in the 28th minute when he moved the ball across the edge of the box and hit the target, with Thorpe rooted to the spot. In the 30th minute Thorpe was able get a hand to another Robinson shot, this time from outside the box, to push the ball out for a corner.
The visitors extended their lead seconds later when Chilton made it 1-3 with a well timed run and header past Thorpe inside the right hand post. They should have made it 1-4 on the stroke of half time, but Liam Gillhesphey hit a first time shot into the ground, bouncing the ball over the bar.
There wasn’t much to report for the opening 15 minutes of the second half, with both teams struggling to play much football of any quality. Then Red Star started to look for the self-destruct button.
Anthony Myers was guilty of a dreadful back pass, letting Steeton left winger Jez Milambo in. He dribbled round a couple of Red Star players, kept his composure and scored from the edge of the six yard box. It was a reward for the No. 11 who was Steeton’s best player on the day.
Things then got even worse for the visitors in the 21st minute of the half when Robinson was sent off for a foul on Scott Stein, a foul that sparked a mass confrontation between the teams. The incident fuelled bad feeling between the players for the rest of the game.
The sending off gave Steeton every encouragement to have a go and press for an equaliser. Milambo sent over a corner that Bannon did well to tip over the bar. The No. 11 had another chance in the 78th minute when one-on-one with Bannon, but he hit a shot tamely at the keeper. I got the sense that a feeling of ‘We’re in trouble here’ was sweeping through the Red Star team.
The momentum had swung Steeton’s way and they continued to attack, with Red Star resorting to booting the ball clear, giving possession straight back to the hosts. Relief for Red Star only came in the 90th minute when Briggs was sent off – knocking the wind out of the Steeton team for the several minutes of added time.
Red Star had scraped through 3-2