The Lockmen put in a fine performance to ultimately dispose of a Cradley Town side that ran out of ideas against a solid Reds defence.
The first action of the night came on seven minutes when Kyle Thompson got in a low shot but he was wide of the mark. The homesters then won a free-kick on ten minutes which player boss Mark Habbershaw took, however, his effort was cleared only as far as Chadd Birch who saw his effort pick out Ammer’s keeper Rich Kennedy. The returning Harry Radford in goal ten blocked the visitor’s first effort sixty seconds later as he did well to deny Luke Williams. Chadd Birch threatened again on fourteen minutes when he fired just wide before Radford did brilliantly to make himself big to deny Williams again as he was played through on goal, pushing his fierce effort upwards and over the bar. The resulting corner on seventeen minutes was then cleared from the line as Cradley probed for a way through The Lockmen’s defence. On twenty minutes Thompson saw another effort fly wide before a thirty yard fizzer from Habbershaw almost embarrassed Kennedy, he got down late and managed to divert the shot fractionally beyond his far post. Williams was proving by far Cradley’s shining light when not caching himself off-side and on 22 minutes he saw another attempt dribble to Radford. Likewise Chadd Birch looked the most likely source for a goal for The Reds and on 28 minutes his weaving run from left to right and back again left several defenders trailing before his effort was blazed high and wide. The Ammers almost saw their back-line unlocked three minutes later when a corner was cleared only to Liam Wilkinson thirty yards out. He then picked out Chadd Birch and continued his run to collect the return pass before curling his attempt wide. With 34 minutes played Chadd Birch then latched on to a quick forwards ball only to roll it wide. Dominic Smith then produced a fine tackle a minute later a the other end to deny Dreniz Bala a clear effort on goal. From the corner Cradley skipper Lewis Clarke shot wide. Willenhall had another corner on 37 minutes which was played into the area before being cleared wide of the box where the lurking Wilkinson produced a fine driven cross to the far post where Habbershaw had the simple task of tucking home with seven minutes to the break. Chadd Birch could have doubled the lead when he was played in down the left but this time he hammered into the side netting. Habbershaw then threatened on half-time but his effort too found the side of rather than the back of the net. There was still time for Habbershaw to set up Thompson but he was just wide deep into added time.
HT WILLENHALL TOWN 1-0 CRADLEY TOWN
The first action of the second half saw Williams threaten but not deliver on 49 minutes, he fired a yard past the far post. Two minutes later and Thompson’s clever ball found Habbershaw but he curled his attempt just over. With 58 minutes played Chadd Birch was played clear through but he hit his attempt at Kennedy rather than squaring for a possible goal before Thompson blazed wide. Thompson then fired wide on 59 minutes before Lockmen substitute Corey Pearce almost scored with his first touch after replacing Chadd Birch, his first effort was blocked before he found his second attempt smothered by Cradley defenders. However, the ball out of the box traveled only as far as Willenhall skipper Ben perks who met the ball sweetly and it flew into the bottom left of Kennedy’s goal on 63 minutes. The visitors seemed to have run out of ideas after failing to get onto long balls forward with their two speedy wingers, the majority being mopped up by Smith with plenty of help from Clayton Peddie and indeed Smith produced another superb tackle to rob Bala as he went for goal on 71 minutes. Likewise Tajani Munthali did likewise to rob Pearce of a goal on 76 minutes. A minute later and The Reds really should have had a third when sub Josh Annakin missed a simple chance with a poor connection only to see the ball reach Pearce who saw saw his poked effort go inches wide. The Lockmen won two successive late corners but easily saw the game out as the visitors seemed unwilling or unable to try and chase down the game.