The Lockmen produced a vastly improved performance, but would have been unhappy with the goals they conceded, not least a 91st minute winner for their oldest rivals Bilston in part one of the Keyway Derby.
The game started tentatively with no real action until the visitors won a corner on nine minues. Chris Bourne, on his Lockmen debut in goal made two fine blocks, but the third ball dropped to Kieran Clarke and he lashed home off the underside of the bar for the opener. Bilston won another corner on 13 minutes and Clarke forced a fine save from Bourne again. Two minutes later and the home side finally threatened when a free-kick was headed wide by Lacquan Birch, the third brother to make their debut this season. Another Birch, Remie then finished the next Bilston attack by heading clear from a dangerous move on 18 minutes, the reulting corner was also dealt with efficiently to snuf out the danger. With 26 minutes played The Lockmen levelled when a great break from Mark Habbershaw, against his former club, saw him play Chadd Birch into the clear and he stroked the ball home. A clever ball into the box two minutes later saw Habbershaw lift his effort just over. However, on 28 minutes, The Steel-men levelled when a quick break by Clarke resulted in Bourner half coming for the bakl, allowing the striker to lob home via the underside of the bar. Clarke then hit the outside of the post in their next attack on 36 minutes. The Lockmen broke again and a moe broke down when Curtis Ellis unselfishly squared a ball when he would have been beter to shoot but it didn’t matter seconds later when e brilliant ball split the centre-halves perfectly and Chadd Birch timed his run to perfection to latch on, round the keeper and finish. Karl Frankham in the visitor’s gola then made two superb point blank saves to deny The Reds the lead on 44 minutes before great play by Lacquan Bitch set up brother Chadd for a hat-trick chance which was blocked. There was time still for the home team to threaten from a corner four minutes into stoppage-time.
HT WILLENHALL TOWN 2-2 BILSTON TOWN
The Lockmen were first to threaten after the break when Curtis Ellis escaped from his marker to hammer in a dangerous low cross which was well dealt with by The BSteel-men defence. Chadd Birch threatened on the hour when hr flicked his header inches too high from a corner. Chadd Birch again threatened three minutes later, this time he left his man for dead with a turn of speed before his effort cleared the bar by a yard. Chadd Birch was involved in the next Willenhall corner on 71 minutes, receiving the ball short and swinging in a cross which was cleared. The visitors finally threatened a minute later but a shot was miscued horribly wide. Another Chadd Birch break on 78 minutes finished with a fierce effort into the side-netting with the defence again struggling to keep up with him. With seven minutes left to play Frankham did well to punch clear from a free-kick to start a quick counter-attack, but it fizzled out to nothing before they could threaten. A minute into stoppage-time and The lockmen fell to a sucker punch. A long punt forward slid backwards off the head of the otherwise immaculate Tony Russon and Dan Elwell latched onto the ball to lob home from outside the box. At the other end Frankham fumbled a through ball but the effort was cleared as it bounced wide of the goal. With four minutes of added time played, The Reds had their final attempt, Chadd Birch seeing his low cross-shot pouched by the keeper and even the one point dissappeared with the final whistle seconds later.