The Lockmen slipped to a heavy defeat after a lack-lustre performance against a recently rejuvenated Cradley side.
With several recent big signings behind them, The Ammers started the better of the two sides. However, the first real attempt at goal arrived on five minutes when Jamal Pinnock did well with a right wing run and cross which picked out The Lockmen’s leading scorer Chadd Birch in the area. Unfortunately, his effort was just off target. A couple of minutes later Geoff Hill, one of the recent arrivals at Beeches View Avenue, produced a fine save from Chris Bourne, the keeper doing well to turn his drive over the crossbar for an unproductive corner. The Lockmen had a corner of their own on 15 minutes but nothing came from it. The closest either side had come to a goal arrived three minutes later, when ex-Lockman Liam Morris hit the bar from a free-kick on the edge of the box. Hill then saw his effort blocked after 18 minutes as the home side began to get into their stride. The first serious attempt from Willenhall arrived on 26 minutes when a clever ball into space saw Chadd Birch take possession. His shot, however, was literally inches wide with home keeper Rich Kennerdy struggling. Two minutes later a strong challenge from skipper Ben perks saw him set off on a goalwards run. He played a quick one-two which gave him the space he needed to shoot, the ball being deflected for another corner. However, from the flag-kick, the keeper easily caught the ball unchallenged. Hill forced another save on the half-hour from Bourne and then his next attempt on 32 minutes saw a good defensive block by Curtis Ellis. The Ammers had been threatening a goal throughout, and it duly arrived five minutes from half-time. A deep cross was headed back across goal from the far post and another recent signing, Dreniz Bala, fired home a fierce effort via the underside of the crossbar. A minute later a great Willenhall move saw Pinnock, Kyle Thompson and Mark Habbershaw combine to set up another chance for Chadd Birch, however, his shot could only pick out Kennerdy. Sam Brook won a 43rd minute corner which was taken by Habbershaw but cleared partially. As The Lockmen looked to recycle the ball, Habbershaw gave the ball away and a lightning quick break from the home side found Hill and he executed his lob perfectly to clear an onrushing Bourne on 44 minutes. There was still time for Will Tibbetts to fire over as the home side almost grabbed a third.
The visitors had to do something, and they did start brightly after the resumption. Chadd Birch saw an effort blocked on 48 minutes and Brook fired over from a corner shortly after. However, this all counted for nothing as Hill netted his second and Cradley’s third with an absolute screamer on 50 minutes. He picked up a loose ball more than thirty yards from goal took a couple of paces and absolutely smashed home an effort which appeared to swerve several times in mid-air before flying inside the post with Bourne’s valiant effort in vain. On 56 minutes Bourne then produced a superb save, his one-handed effort pushing the ball onto a post at full stretch. On 59 minutes another promising move from The Lockmen saw Chadd Birch’s effort blocked before on 62 minutes The Lockmen saw shots from Thompson, Habbershaw and Chadd Birch. Tony Russon then strode forward on 65 minutes but his attempt was wide of the mark. Morris then fired over on 72 and 74 minutes for the home side. Willenhall sub Marlon Taylor then won a challenge midway in the Cradley half with ten minutes left and he broke forward only to fire wide. The Lockmen finally got a goal on 81 minutes when a ball forward found another sub, Josh Annakin, and he rifled home a fierce shot via the inside of the far post. The home side then won a corner on 84 minutes before great defending from Remie Birch managed to keep Hill out as he searched for his hat-trick two minutes later. Bourne then produced another brilliant one handed save before the visitors broke upfield. Kennerdy then did superbly to produce a goal-saving save from Curtis Ellis’ strike from distance at the expense of a corner. However, as the game entered stoppage-time, another former Willenhall favourite, Scott Stevenson, broke down the Cradley right and when he beat his man and fired a low cross to the far post Hill was waiting to thump home for his hat-trick. There was still time for Danny Hemmings to see his shot deflected to the keeper before Bourne kept the score to 4-1 with a fine effort to tip over a goal-bound effort four minutes into added time.