Late drama as Cooksey wins it for Ambers
An 89th minute winner saw off Hall Road Rangers after The Ambers let a two goal lead slip ....
There was just one Ambers change from the Thackley starting eleven with Brad Nicholson returning after injury, allowing Jamie Green to push further forward, with Ollie Fearon dropping to the bench. The two combined well down the left flank in the opening stages, setting up Waide Fairhurst whose shot was blocked, before keeper Hill plucked a Fairhurst cross straight off the head of Ryan Carroll. The busy Fairhurst then had another effort saved before the visitors showed their first bit of attacking prowess, Ricky Paylor blocking a dangerous cross from Walker before Jan Budtz got down comfortably to smother a daisy cutter from Waud.
A run and cross from Green found Alex Rippon at the back post but his header was cleared from the danger area, and Rangers were struggling to contain The Ambers who were attacking well down both flanks. Rippon flicked on a Paylor pass into the path of Carroll whose cross was again well cleared before the deserved breakthrough finally came after 32 minutes. Some excellent wing play from Rippon saw him race past his marker and pull the ball back into the path of the onrushing Carroll to clip home from close range.
With Jed Phillips and Josh Davies controlling the centre of the park, The Ambers continued to push forward but without creating any more clear cut opportunities, and it was the visitors who had the next chance when a clever reverse ball from skipper Vasquez released Bruce into the area but his strike flashed wide. On the stroke of half time, Carroll raced away down the left but his rasping drive was well saved by Hill.
The Ambers came flying out of the traps in the second half and totally dominated the game with Fairhurst generally at the centre of things. His close range shot from Green’s pull back struck Hill before the keeper excelled in tipping over a great hit from the mercurial striker, who then had the ball in the net three times in three minutes. Unfortunately, his first effort was ruled out for offside and the second for deliberate handball which earned him a yellow card, but the third stood. After initially losing the ball, Fairhurst won it back, took a touch and thumped it home from the edge of the box.
Rippon then curled an excellent long range drive just wide and Phillips volleyed a difficult chance over before Rangers found a bit more self-belief and took the game to The Ambers in the closing stages, with Vasquez and Norburn firing in long range efforts. Handsworth were being pinned back but were defending doggedly until Waud poked in at the far post after a corner, and just two minutes later, a free kick wasn’t dealt with and Bruce was on hand to level things up.
As the grey skies threatened to envelop Sandy Lane, Budtz tipped a long distance strike from Waud wide of the post and The Ambers had to stand firm as Rangers scented a surprise victory, but with two minutes remaining, Carroll chased down a long ball and was taken down by the onrushing Hill just outside the area, the keeper perhaps being fortunate to just see yellow rather than red.
The ultimate punishment was duly extracted though as Davies’s pinpoint delivery was headed down to the feet of skipper Lee Cooksey who smashed the ball in from close range to seal the victory, which on the balance of play was fully deserved, albeit Hall Road certainly deserved praise for their late rally which came close to stealing the points.