REPORT | Barwell 1-1 Stourbridge
A debut goal from Massiah McDonald was cancelled out by a stoppage time Stourbridge penalty in the opening game of the 2018-19 season.
Barwell and Stourbridge played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in the season opener at the UK Flooring Direct Stadium.
The hosts nearly took the lead inside two minutes, when 17-year-old full back Jai Rowe cut inside, onto his left foot, and curled his shot narrowly wide of the far post. Just a couple of minutes later, Rowe produced a fantastic cross from the right, which narrowly missed the outstretched foot of Massiah McDonald on the edge of the six yard box.
Stourbridge threatened little in the opening fifteen minutes, with their best chance coming from a cross that looped over two Stour heads in the penalty area and rolled out for a goal kick.
The Barwell players - wearing yellow shirts for this game due to a late kit delivery - will have felt aggrieved not to have taken the lead within half an hour, with McDonald forcing a smart stop from Wren at his near post before the Stour goalkeeper produced another good save, his fingertips denying Alex Tomkinson this time.
When a ball was played over the top for Luke Benbow it looked as though the visitors would break the deadlock, only for some brave goalkeeping from Liam Castle denying the striker a fine opportunity to score.
Five minutes before the break, the hosts finally broke the deadlock at the UKFD Stadium as Massiah McDonald got on the end of a beautiful cross from Brady Hickey to fire home the club's first goal of the season.
Shortly after the restart, it was disaster for Barwell as Jai Rowe pulled his man down in the penalty area, leaving the referee with no other option than to point to the spot.
Leon Broadhurst stepped up to take the penalty, only to be denied by a stunning stop from Barwell goalkeeper, Liam Castle - who was on top form all afternoon and was unlucky not to be crowned Man of the Match.
Castle, who is entering his thirteenth season with the club, made two more smart saves to keep the scores down as Barwell looked to grind out their victory for the remainder of the second half.
Controversy struck in the 88th minute as Dominic Brown-Hill won the ball in the penalty area, but it was only the referee who appeared to disagree with the decision as he surprisingly pointed to the spot. There was a delay of almost three minutes before the penalty was taken, during which the referee showed a second yellow card to Massiah McDonald for his protests. Liam Castle was also booked, although the referee's reasoning was unclear.
In the 91st minute of the game, Benbow stepped up and converted the penalty, drilling it low to Castle's right, as the visitors left the UKFD Stadium with a share of the points.