The Hammers make progress in the League Cup.
Cradley begin the new year with a win as they come from behind to edge a narrow 3-2 win over local rivals Dudley Sports in Round 1 of the League Cup.
In a New Year period of cold and hard frosts we were fortunate the temperature rose just enough on this Tuesday to allow us to get this game on. Despite the still cold and dark weather we had a good turn-out of 63 to see us open the new year with a win. It’s the third year in succession we’ve made progress in the League Cup and we now look forward to a trip to Willenhall Town in Round Two later this month.
The game was tough, close and niggly as local derbies often are. Second bottom Sports have been doing better recently but Cradley attacked from the off. New signing Aaron Weston (see photo left) made his debut for us against his former club and he got in two shots in the first five minutes which were saved.
On 9 minutes though it was Sports who sprang a shock by going 1-0 ahead. The Hammers defence headed a ball away but it fell amongst a ruck of Dudley players and Jake Fairhurst put in an unstoppable lofted shot from 25 yards. We didn’t get a photo of it because it’s one of those which catch you by surprise!
Cradley hit back to equalise on 15 minutes. Our corner kick went across and beyond the Sports goal where Danny Crudgington battled for it like his life depended on it. It looked like the ball was going out of play but it rebounded off the far corner flag and the watchful Danny seized control of it again. He battled back along the by-line, beating off defenders on his way, before slotting the ball into the mix in front of goal.
Danny’s good work paid off because in the melee the ball fell to Darren Whitley who made no mistake hammering the ball into the net, with three defenders lying at his feet, to equalise at 1-1. Darren was delighted with this, his second goal of the season so far. Last season he scored 1 goal from 44 appearances so he has surpassed that this time.
On 15 minutes Darren Whitley (3) shoots the ball into the Dudley Sports net equalising for Cradley at 1-1.
A few minutes later things got even better for the Hammers when Geoff Hill was brought down in the box by Josh Taylor and the referee (Dave Sallis from Hereford) pointed to the spot.
Geoff Hill (9) is brought down in the box on 18 minutes by a lunge from Josh Taylor which earned Cradley a penalty kick.
On 19 minutes Geoff Hill successfully took the penalty kick himself putting the Hammers 2-1 up in this cup-tie.
On 19 minutes Cradley go 2-1 up with this Geoff Hill penalty beating the Sports
keeper Joe Sidaway.
Instead of forging ahead Cradley got a little lackadaisical at this point but of course we did have the disadvantage of having three players (Joseph Drake-Cervantes, R’mar Murray and Lewis Clarke) suspended. In addition Ross Love is still injured and Dreniz Bala was on the bench but feeling very ill as many of us are at the moment. We were giving the ball away cheaply and Sports were far the more incisive team at this stage.
We were passing a lot but not getting anywhere while they were directing excellent passes to their front-runners. Their top scorer Stuart Hillman went close a couple of times, but as our manager Andy Wyton shouted across the field, we didn’t heed the warnings because Hillman equalised for Sports on 34 minutes. A ball was knocked forward from the half-way line and, on the run, Hillman bustled aside our defender Grant Esp before placing an excellent shot just inside the near post levelling the score at 2-2.
On 34 minutes the beefy Stuart Hillman hi-jacks Grant Esp whilst moving on to a defence-splitting pass….
…prepares to strike…
…and his pin-point shot goes past Richard Kennedy…
…and into the net levelling the scores at 2-2.
Hillman was boosted by this goal and his tail was up. Two minutes later he had time to bring the ball down before shooting over, and two minutes after that we inadvertently headed the ball to him and it took a great save by Richard Kennedy to push away a dangerous dipping shot.
In the five minutes leading up to half-time Cradley got back into the game. From a corner we had one or two efforts saved and Tajani Munthali looked certain to score just as his co-defender Daz Whitley had scored early on but TJ’s close-range shot hit a defender on the line and was cleared.
Cradley went on the attack from the whistle and Luke Williams (captain for the evening) chipped the keeper delightfully but he was off-side.
Dudley Sports should have gone ahead on 51 minutes when another great pass found Hillman on the run and free in front of our goal but this time he shot badly wide. That was a big let off for us.
Cradley made the all-important match winning strike on 65 minutes when Luke Williams lofted a super ball to Geoff Hill and our top-scorer scored from an angle to make the final score 3-2 to the Hammers. Geoff now has 19 goals this season.
We knocked the camera off its proper setting at half-time and never noticed until later but this, we assure you, is Geoff Hill (left) on 65 minutes firing goal-wards….
…and the ball’s in the net giving Cradley a 3-2 win.
We had one or two worries later on but really we should have won more emphatically but our substitutes Grant Joshua and Liam Morris failed to take their gilt-edged chances. Liam has been so close so often in various games for us he deserves his first Cradley goal soon.
The avaricious amongst the Cradley committee men present (including those of us who will walk a mile rather than pay to park at Russells Hall hospital!) did not enjoy the last ten minutes of the game because we had four men booked as we seemed to go crackers. Richard Kennedy and Anthony Cox blatantly kicked the ball away to waste time and TJ Munthali charged into the back of Stuart Hillman. More unlucky was Liam Morris who should not have been yellow carded. Luke Williams had been booked earlier so that’s another £50 going to Birmingham County FA. We are currently sixth in the WMRL yellow card table and could top it the way we are going!