The Lockmen produced a fine attacking display, but were still indebted to some fine goal-keeping as the game was closer than the final 5-2 scoreline might suggest.
The first action saw Sports in action with Adam Skeldon forcing a fine save from Jake Smith in the second minute, Clayton Peddie cleaned up the loose ball. Willenhall won a third minute corner from their attack first foray forward, which was taken short, however, Sports cleared comfortably. The Lockmen broke the deadlock with their next attack on four minutes. Cavan Ellis brought the ball forward before finding Liam Wilkinson with a pass. When his cross picked out mark Habbershaw, the player-manager was able to turn on the ball before firing into the roof of the net from six yards. Jamal Pinnock broke a minute later and his cross forced another corner before The Lockmen saw a seventh minute free-kick half cleared to Wilkinson. His return strike found Greens keeper Joe Sidaway well positioned. The visitors attacked on nine minutes only to see Stuart Hillman sky his effort before Chadd Birch went close to scoring with efforts narrowly wide on ten and eleven minutes. Curtis Ellis then broke well for Town with 14 minutes played, his run and shot again found the Sports keeper. Seconds later Ben Perks’ clever ball forward set up Chadd Birch, who saw his effort blocked by the onrushing Sidaway. Chadd Birch and Curtis Ellis then combined neatly to set up Habbershaw but his effort flew wide. With 18 minutes played, Tony Russon and Peddie combined well together to snuff out a dangerous Sports break before Chadd Birch fired goalwards to force a goal-line clearance. However, a minute later and Chadd birch doubled the lead when he was played through on goal and he easily slotted the ball past Sidaway. However, as often proves, you are most vulnerable when you have just scored and sixty seconds later the visitors halved the deficit when former Red Dean Williams fired home a quality free-kick with the aid of the far post. With 25 minutes played Curtis Ellis saw another effort deflect for a wasted corner before Habbershaw fired wide in the next Lockmen break on 27 minutes. The Lockmen restored their two-goal cushion on 29 minutes when Habbershaw played a ball through which again found Chadd Birch through on goal to race on and fire home goal number 18 for the season. Sports won a corner on 36 minutes which was completely dealt with before Chadd Birch fired a first time drive inches over seven minutes to the break. That proved to be his last action as he was withdrawn shortly after with what looked like a slight hamstring niggle. A minute from half-time the visitors netted out of the blue when Stuart Hillman latched onto a loose ball in the box and saw his effort sneak in at the post as keeper Jake Smith seemed to move late for the effort.
HT WILLENHALL TOWN 3-2 DUDLEY SPORTS
The Lockmen saw a 47th minute corner cleared before Sports saw their free-kick six minutes later suffer a similar fate. Smith redeemed himself with two fine saves to deny Aaron Weston. First he touched over a fierce drive on 55 minutes before racing out to save two minutes later. Habbershaw then saw his flick on almost drop in before a couple of dangerous crosses were scrambled out of the Sports’ area. A Willenhall corner on the hour was then flicked just over Wilkinson saw his header from a 65th minute habbershaw corner cleared off the line on 65 minutes. Micel Barrett was then just off target with his overhead kick as Habbershaw missed a far post cross from the right wing. The pressure which had been building since the half started finally broke the Dudley dam on 68 minutes. Curtis and Cavan Ellis combined before the former played a lovely pass into the feet of Habbershaw. He had plenty of work to do but, with his back to goal, he turned on the ball, dragged it left and right to work enough space to convert a lovely strike into the bottom corner. Smith may have been mostly a spectator in The Reds’ goal but on 76 minutes he produced another splendid save to touch an effort over before bravely coming off his line to punch the ball clear through a ruck of players. With nine minutes left Curtis Ellis produced a lovely curling effort which found the side-netting before he again played a clever passing move with his brother to set up sub Corey Pearce, returning from injury, who fired inches wide on 85 minutes. Sports tried to threaten but saw two headers fly off target in successive attacks. The Lockmen saw a couple of corners dealt with around the 90 minute mark but with two minutes stoppage-time already played Perks and Cavan Ellis worked an opportunity for Pearce who cleverly turned inside and out before placing a low shot into the corner for a final score of 5-2.