Tenants overcame landlords in this first Boxing Day Keyway derby in 25 years.
It was the visiting Lockmen who finally won an absorbing game that was high on endeavour but low on quality at times and the winner couldn’t have been better timed, arriving in the fourth and final minute of injury-time.
Adam Hill had the first effort at goal for the home side on three minutes as The Steelmen attacked first. The Reds replied through the returning Leon Weller, back after four seasons away. He did well to get his cross in from the right where Ben Djoumessi sliced clear for the home side. On five minutes Alex Carlin‘s cross flew to keeper James Gettings after the winger had robbed the covering full-back and headed goalwards. Five minutes later and Carlin got onto the end of a free-kick into the box from deep, however he could only guide an effort wide. Leon Weller saw his free-kick drift wide on 19 minutes before The Steelmen won successive corners on 23 minutes, again there was no threat on goal.
The breakthrough that Willenhall had been threatening finally arrived on the half-hour mark. Leon Weller, who was having a fantastic battle with former Reds favourite Jamal Pinnock, managed to outmuscle the full-back before crossing into the danger zone where Matt Dorgan was on hand to hammer a twelve yard shot into the roof of the net. However, two minutes later the home side were level thanks to a moment to forget for keeper Ben Holden. There had been no work for the keeper to do until a long ball was hoofed forwards towards the penalty area. Rather than set off to smother the danger, he delayed his movement, allowing former Willenhall captain Paul Holden to chase down, stick out a foot and trickle an effort past the stranded keeper and gently into the corner of the goal. Hill hit an effort hopelessly high and wide for the hosts shortly after before Tom Piggott, son of Willenhall legend Garry, put a free header well wide on 35 minutes as the game meandered towards the break.
The second half began with Bilston skipper Gettings fumbling and then grabbing at the second attempt from Carlin’s speculative effort on 47 minutes as The Lockmen continued to be the better side. The Steelmen then won a corner which was cleared beyond the penalty area where a weak effort was fired back wide of goal on 52 minutes. The home side then won a free-kick on the hour but nothing was created. Jon Ashfall was having a fine game, proving a real handful for the Bilston defence and he went close after 61 minutes, his clever run across the box was eventually snuffed out as he shot goalwards. Ben Holden was off his line smartly in the home side’s next attack, saving well at the feet of an onrushing striker for his first actual save of the game on 65 minutes. Lyndon Weller produced a fine headed clearance from a dangerous cross from Bilston sub Sam Brown midway through the second-half. The Steelmen had their visitors on the rack with a succession of quick breaks down both wings but the end crosses were sadly lacking and a tiring Willenhall side continued to escape conceding. Adam Holliday then cleared a Bilston corner on 75 minutes as the Willenhall defence creaked but wouldn’t break. Two minutes later Ben Holden did well to smother Paul Holden’s shot after he was played clean through on goal. Hill then fired a horrendous effort that almost cleared the flats well wide of the top goal on 79 minutes. The Lockmen then appeared to get a second wind from somewhere as seconds later Red’s substitutes Kieran Robinson and Danny Hemmings combined well to set up a shot for the latter after an initial break clear by Ashfall set up the move. Gettings saved his side on 81 minutes with a stunning double save to prevent The Lockmen taking the lead. Three minutes later Ashfall harried a defender to force a corner from the mistake, Robinson taking the kick for the visitors and he watched on as Pinnock sliced the ball behind to give him another attempt. The second attempt was curled into the six yard box where the ball was somehow cleared off the line for yet another corner. This time the ball was worked across the box before a shot was cleared from the danger area. Robinson then produced another great cross with two minutes left but Ashfall couldn’t quite get the ball under control and the chance was cleared.
Finally, The Lockmen got a lucky break in the fourth and final minute of stoppage-time. They took a quick throw-in just inside the Bilston half on the left which freed Ashfall to beat two men as he burst forward before his ball forward was flicked on for Robinson and he hit a superb effort that swerved away from the desperate attempts of the home keeper and flew into the very far corner of the net for a stunning winner.