A typical game of two halves as the Hammers go down to the league leaders.
Cradley looked to continue their five game unbeaten run with a stunning goal and a fine penalty save but Haughmond prevailed late on as the Hammers faded.
It was a cold day at The Beeches but very sunny for the visit of the league leaders Haughmond. Cradley had to sign a new keeper on the day of the game because Richard Kennedy had damaged ligaments while playing 5-a-side for his works team. It’s a scene of woe in the Kennedy household at the moment with both grandmas and his mother laid up with various injuries due to falls etc.
Craig McGuinness bravely stepped up to the plate to take Richard’s place despite having played just Sunday football (for Belbroughton FC) hitherto. Craig was set to have a busy afternoon.
Just as we did at Bewdley the previous Saturday the Hammers began the game at a blistering pace very much on the front foot and Luke Williams shot just wide after just 4 minutes. We got our reward after just 15 minutes when Luke Williams again fired in a tremendous (and unexpected) shot from 25 yards which flew into the net off the inside of the post. Their keeper Sam Jones was standing adjacent to the post but couldn’t stop it but then he tried to scoop the bouncing ball out of his net. The officials deemed the ball had definitely crossed the line so Cradley were 1-0 up.
We can’t see the ball but on 15 minutes a shot from Luke Williams (out of picture)
is in the net behind the keeper having gone in off the post.
The Haughmond keeper Sam Jones tries to scoop away the bouncing ball but
it’s a goal and the Hammers are 1-0 up.
Cradley continued to put balls through to the ever-willing Geoff Hill and Dreniz Bala but the Haughmond keeper timed his interceptions well and would constantly just nick the ball away before our men could get to it.
A regular sight in this game as the Haughmond keeper races out to nick the ball off Geoff Hill despite Geoff looking the favourite on this occasion.
The Hammers had so much possession in the first half it was hard to believe we were playing the league leaders but sadly we didn’t manage to add to our score and just before half-time our visitors gave us a taste of things to come as they began to step up their attacking play.
Haughmond continued to make their presence felt after half-time following their below-par first-half, especially after replacing the injured defender Sean Jones early on with the forward Adam Davies, but for the first ten minutes the Hammers were still on fire too. A Geoff Hill shot went narrowly wide of the far post, Lewis Clarke volleyed just over from a corner (see below), and Scott Stevenson either hit the post or had his shot saved at the near post (we couldn’t quite see which).
Lewis Clarke (left) volleys over from Scott Stevenson’s corner on 55 minutes.
After so nearly going further ahead in the first ten minutes of the second period it’s sad to say the Hammers then simply drifted out of the game. Unlike the previous week when a rampant Bewdley fight-back took the win away from us, this time it seemed more a case of inertia as we allowed Haughmond to dominate territory and possession and we rarely ventured forward at all.
When one plays at pace for a long period it’s obvious tiredness will set in and unfortunately we have just two strikers in the squad at present. We had hoped Jovan Blake-Walker would push on this season after scoring an excellent 22 goals last season but a late start to the campaign plus injuries, walk-outs, non-appearances and a seeming reluctance to fight for his place back in the starting eleven has seen him fade from the scene which is a darn shame.
When Haughmond equalised on 59 minutes it was a strange looking goal to concede. Their joint top scorer Steve Hole headed a corner ball quite weakly downwards. We had men on the line who should have been able to head away the ball as it bounced upwards but it was a case of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ as TJ Munthali and Ross Love got in each other’s way agonizingly allowing the ball to drop gently into our net making the score 1-1.
On 59 minutes Haughmond’s Steve Hole (10 on the right) heads a corner kick downwards….
….and the ball agonizingly bounces past TJ Munthali and Ross Love who got in each other’s way making the score 1-1.
Things appeared to go further downhill for Cradley on 66 minutes when Joseph Drake-Cervantes was alleged to have brought down Dave Howarth on the far edge of the box and a penalty was awarded. Joseph was not cautioned.
Our tall and strong keeper Craig McGuinness on his debut had been naturally a little nervous and some punches and catches had not gone entirely to plan but he guessed which way Steve Hole’s spot-kick was going and pulled off a great stop to loud cheers from a relieved crowd.
On 66 minutes the Cradley keeper Craig McGuinness dives to save a penalty kick
from Haughmond’s Steve Hole and the scores remained level.
We hoped against hope to profit from this let-off but in the remainder of the game we had just one Lewis Clarke shot over the bar to boast of whereas at the other end it was like the Alamo with Craig and his defence having to save, block and clear countless Haughmond attacks.
Finally we cracked and gave Haughmond their winning goal on 81 minutes. Luke Williams was adjudged to have obstructed an away player but there was a hand-ball from Luke half a second later and a direct free-kick was awarded.
The extremely tall, bearded long-throw expert Carl Rogers stepped up to score his second goal of the season direct from the free-kick giving Haughmond their 2-1 win. It may be unkind to say this but there’s a good chance our normal keeper Richard Kennedy would have saved this free-kick but that’s mere speculation now. All in all our stand-in keeper Craig McGuinness put in a whole-hearted display and we thank him for stepping in at the last minute to help us out.
On 81 minutes a Carl Rogers (out of the picture) free-kick flies over the
…and heads towards our goal…..
….and continues towards our goal….
…and squeezes in at the far post giving Haughmond a 2-1 win.
Haughmond continued to dominate right up until the final whistle. A tale of two halves indeed.
So a disappointing result in the end for Cradley as our unbeaten run of five games came to an end and we are still as low as sixteenth in the table. A small consolation is that we restricted our high-flying visitors to just two goals which doesn’t happen very often.