The Lockmen produced a wonderful battling display and comfortably won in the end against a Smethwick side who appeared more interested in arguing with the officials than winning a football game.
The Reds started on the offensive and an early attack brought a free-kick slightly to the left of the goal two yards outside the box. Mark Habbershaw struck his shot well into the bottom corner but the ball was well covered by home keeper Terry Shaw. The home side then won a corner which was cleared to the edge of the box as far as Craig Frost only for the veteran defender to fire at Harry Radford. On seven minutes The Lockmen threatened again through Isaac Cooper, however, his shot from 25 yards was just off target. Three minutes later Liam Wilkinson produced a clever ball to the right of the box where Corey Pearce latched onto the ball quickly but his effort was also wide of the mark. Josh Cooke then produced a clever shot which Radford had to save well. Radford was then booked for an accidental handball as a through ball bobbled up and against his hand as he came to the edge of the box to clear on 15 minutes. Somehow, with no home player close the home bench were screaming for a red-card even though their player eventually picked up the lose ball before firing well wide of an open target. Shaw then produced a fine save to deny the visitors with Wilkinson unable to reach the loose ball. The Reds then forced two corners, from the second of which they broke the deadlock. Skipper Ben Perks was claiming he had been held back as he attempted to shoot and was complaining to the referee when the ball bounced back to his feet, allowing him to lash an effort into the top right hand corner on 27 minutes and giving the Smethwick keeper no chance. Harrison Barrett then saw a strong effort blocked before Habbershaw saw another free-kick from the edge of the box denied by the wall. Perks then produced a strong defensive challenge with three minutes of the half remaining to ease Bruno Semedo off the ball in the Willenhall penalty area, Smethwick again screaming at the officials for a penalty. However, from Radford’s goal-kick a flick on followed by a well-timed pass freed Habbershaw and the player-boss made it twenty goals for the season by sliding a shot through the keeper on 43 minutes.
HT SMETHWICK RANGERS 0-2 WILLENHALL TOWN
The Lockmen continued to dominate, winning tackles, clearing crosses and breaking quickly when in possession, and it was from such a period that they produced two corners, both taken short before recycling the ball and allowing Habbershaw to break clear and fire goalwards, only to be denied for an apparent foul. Smethwick won a corner on 63 minutes but yet again the visitors turned defence into attack quickly, this time losing possession on the edge of the area. More good passing culminated with Harrison Barrett firing just over on 67 minutes for The Reds. Remie Birch, who had an outstanding game, then produced a lovely piece of skill before delivering a dangerous cross that flashed across goal before being forced behind for a corner. Another corner ten minutes later was the result of more hard work from Habbershaw who again looked like adding to the scoreline from close range before a defender slid in to deny him. The Lockmen comfortably saw the game out with little trouble as they eased to a win brought about by hard work, determination and a fine team performance.