The difference between these two sides was punishing mistakes, but otherwise it was impossible to tell who was fifth top and who was fifth from bottom.
The first two attempts on goal both came from The Lockmen, and in particular Chris Milliard. He shot wide in the first minute and did likewise from a free-kick on nine minutes. The visitor’s Mark Habbashaw, a constant thorn in Willenhall’s side over the years, made a good turn on 17 minutes to create a chance to shoot but Ben Holden pushed the effort wide for a corner. Former Reds player Ian Boswell then headed just over from another corner. The Lockmen then prised open the Casual’s defence on 23 minutes when a break by Alex Carlin played Danny Hemming’s clear on goal but a superb saving tackle prevented a shot and Hemmings had to leave the field after damaging a rib when landing on the defender’s foot in the ensuing tangle. Carlin then got free and swung over a cross which was well caught by the visiting keeper Harry Radford. Three minutes later and Mikey Robertson swung in a dangerous cross which was eventually cleared behind for a corner after Kieron Robinson had fired at goal.
The corner was taken on the half-hour mark and it provided the opening goal when a blocked shot found its way to Matt Dorgan and he was able to guide home a low shot into the corner of the goal. Six minutes from the break and Matt Dove set up Robinson, his effort curled inches wide of the frame. Ashley Evans produced a dangerous cross on 41 minutes but the effort was wild. Robinson then forced another corner for The Lockmen on 43 minutes but this was quickly cleared upfield where Giles Harvey produced an effort that bobbled dangerously in front of Holden who held cleanly and the danger was ended.
Boswell saw an effort blocked on 44 minutes before he was involved in Casuals’ equalising goal a minute into stoppage-time. His ball to the left picked out Habbashaw and when he crossed hard and low from the wing Jay Holdcroft was well positioned to sweep home.
Sub Jason Hewitt was the first to show after the break as his curling effort almost restored Willenhall’s advantage on 48 minutes. He then curled a cross to the keeper as The Reds tried to step up a gear. On 52 minutes, Robinson engineered a half chance but his attempt was straight at the keeper. Boswell then produced an excellent block as Robinson shaped to shoot after being played into the penalty area by Hewitt. Adrian Dove was wide of the mark on 54 minutes before the visitors pounced on a bad defensive header two minutes later. Instead of putting the ball into row z, Graham Ashton waited for the ball to come to him to then send a header back to the keeper but the header had no purchase and Habbashaw gleefully latched onto the mistake to lob home easily as Holden had raced off his line to get the header. Casuals wasted a corner and Boswell missed the target shortly after. Habbashaw then fired wide as he latched onto another short back-pass before he then tried a clever flick in an attempt to score but only sent the ball astray with the unmarked Boswell screaming for the ball.
The Lockmen won a corner on 72 minutes after a misplaced back-pass, only to see the corner land in the keeper’s hands before on 80 minutes Habbashaw raced through again. However his shot was shanked wide.
Casuals made the game safe with eight minutes remaining. This time a cross from the left ran to Holdcroft to net his second and his side’s third. Back came Willenhall and on 86 minutes Hewitt scored with a delightful curled effort after a clever build up. However on 88 minutes the two goal cushion was restored when Holdcroft netted his hat-trick, scrambling home a loose ball after Holden had produced a goal saving block.