FULL MATCH REPORT
The Lockmen threw away a three goal lead this time on their second visit to Cradley in four days, but they deserved more for an absolutely outstanding performance which saw them run themselves into the ground in a game on a very heavy pitch and played mostly in a blizzard. The visitors were first to show against a Rangers side struggling for players when Scott Harris almost managed to latch onto a clever ball between two defenders. Three minutes later and the hosts threatened through the lethal Liam Hughes, but as he shaped to fire goal wards he was pulled back for an offside. Seconds later his next effort was straight at keeper Ben Holden, who saved comfortably. As the snow fell heavily Mikey Clark did well to evade a couple of markers to set up Eddie Wilson on seven minutes but his effort was comfortably gathered by ex-Lockmen keeper Luke Tilt. On nine minutes it was the visitors who broke the deadlock when Jamel Fuller found Clark who in turn picked out Harris cutting in from the right and he picked him out perfectly to allow the striker to fire home unchallenged. Rangers won a free-kick on 11 minutes and when the ball was fired in quickly Ben Holden was almost caught out, but he managed to scramble the ball behind for a corner. From the corner the ball was fired high over. Wilson then forced a smart save from Tilt before, on 16 minutes, Matt Dorgan’s low cross-shot almost squirmed away from the home keeper’s grasp. The Lockmen were within inches of a second goal on 19 minutes when a fine cross from Fuller was inches beyond the desperate lunge of skipper Paul Holden. Namesake Ben was then forced into a good save minutes later before a Wilson free-kick on 25 minutes caused more trouble for Rangers when the ball bounced off Holden and was hacked clear. The home side then threatened after 27 minutes when Jack Goodier fired wide. Five minutes on and Clark did likewise at the other end for Town. Town did stretch the lead with a second goal on 33 minutes. Wilson was played in beyond a static home defence and he coolly slotted the ball into the corner of the net past the onrushing Tilt. With seven minutes to go to half-time the home side somehow avoided conceding a third goal in a mad goalmouth scramble which saw no less than three shots blocked on the line from a corner. Town then won a corner from a free-kick, Tilt clearing the danger with a good punch. There was still time for Clark to curl a good effort towards goal only for the overworked home keeper to save.
HT BLACK COUNTRY RANGERS 0-2 WILLENHALL TOWN
The Lockmen continued to force the pace after the interval and with the blizzard now more of a flurry it was first Dorgan and then Clark who saw efforts blocked on 50 minutes. Holden earned his colours sixty seconds later when he made a super save to prevent Goodier from pulling a goal back, the follow up from the same player was blocked before a third attempt saw the keeper this time push a fierce low drive around a post. The Lockmen stretched their lead to three when a quick break forward saw the ball switched from left to right for Clark to race through on goal, jink around Tilt and then fire high into the roof of the net. The home side tried to up the tempo winning four corners in five minutes, one which saw Holden produce a reflex save to knock the ball behind while Graham Ashton produced a superb clearing header from another. Rangers forced another corner on 74 minutes, but all this produced was a quick counter-attack through Dorgan and sub Daniel Jarratt, whose curling effort was straight to Tilt. The Lockmen had played superbly all night and the home side couldn’t find a way through and leading scorer Hughes merely a bystander in a game that was comfortable for the visitor’s right up until the last twelve minutes. With Willenhall visibly tiring on a strength sapping mud bath, they were suddenly caught short on 78 and then 81 minutes. The first Rangers goal came when another former Lockmen Ross Miller fired home after a scramble from a quick counter attack, The Lockmen getting back in numbers originally, but then being unable to stop a close range shot from entering the net. Three minutes later and Nathan John finished after another scramble in the area from another quick break forward. The home side sniffed the chance of an unlikely point and it was that man Hughes, who popped up on the end of a loose ball deep into stoppage time to fire home for an undeserved leveller. Unbelievably, the home side almost won it when Holden was forced into a superb save five minutes into stoppage-time, pushing a goalbound effort around the post to preserve one point which really should have been three.
FT BLACK COUNTRY RANGERS 3-3 WILLENHALL TOWN
By Chris Burton – Match Secretary
Reproduction by prior-consent of The Lockmen Limited t/a Willenhall Town FC only