Three days after arguably their worst display of the season, The Lockmen produced their very best as they outplayed runaway champions Haughmond for almost all of the game, only to fall victim to two late goals, one directly from a questionable decision by the officials.
HT HAUGHMOND FC 1-2 WILLENHALL TOWN
The visitors kept up their fine performance at the start of the second-half as Pinnock, almost straight from the restart, then Cooper on fifty minutes, swung dangerous crosses into the box where the home defence had to work overtime to prevent a further goal being conceded. The visitors were then awarded a free-kick on 57 minutes with Pinnock the victim of a late challenge from an overworked defence. Again they were almost made to pay as Cooper took it short to Chadd Birch and his clever, curling effort was heading into the corner of the net until Sam Jones saved well. Any neutrals watching would have been convinced by now that the team in Blue were heading for promotion as some brilliant incisive passing from Liam Wilkinson, Cooper and Chadd Birch again cut The Whites’ rearguard to ribbons, the latter saw his header half cleared from an inviting cross before skipper Ben Perks saw his follow-up effort well blocked. Chadd Birch then took the defence apart on 62 minutes, again his cross was dangerous but a defender did brilliantly to head clear. Barrett then won a free-kick on 68 minutes as he went past a couple of players before being chopped down. Curtis Ellis swung in yet another super cross, again, a defensive head managed to reach the ball first to avert any more danger. The home side managed to get out of their own half literally for the first time after the break a minute later, only to see Clayton peddie produce a fine tackle to deny the hosts. They were then awarded a free-kick on the 70 minute mark, only for Carl Rogers to blaze high over. The visitors finally attempted to make a fist of it and four minutes later a fine sliding tackle by keeper Radford prevented a strike at goal. Peddie then produced another neat block to again snuff out a home advance on goal. With twelve minutes remaining Town were awarded a free-kick wide on the left. Cooper fizzed in an effort which was just over. As the first serious pressure of the second-half from the home side bought a change for the visitors, Perks being replaced by Reece Chambers, The Lockmen suddenly burst forward again, Cooper forcing another save. However, a clearly tiring Willenhall side were now being forced into some desperate defending as a string of long balls to both wings, prompted mainly by Rogers, began to force chances for Haughmond and The Lockmen finally cracked again seconds later when a long ball forward saw Matt Owen played clean through and he fired unerringly into the keeper’s bottom left hand corner. With two minutes to play Chadd Birch chased a long ball and brilliantly dispossessed a defender, only to see a second marker clear for a throw-in. Somehow the referee spotted an infringement and when the ball was again lumped forward, this time to Owen, he did superbly to play Rogers through on goal and the lumbering midfielder finished delightfully into the corner. However, there was one final sting in the tale and some Willenhall interplay saw a fine ball into the box pick out Wilkinson, unfortunately, with four minutes stoppage-time already played, he blazed a great chance inches over and Haughmond were still on course for a league and cup double. However, they can feel mightily relieved that they somehow found that little bit of luck at the end to see them through after a real battling performance from The Lockmen which deserved so much more.