Today was a hard fought win against a strong Halesowen Zion team who pushed us all the way. We traveled to Stourbridge without goalkeeper Lutwyche and the suspended Green as well having the injured Wiedeman and Beeson on the bench and a few niggles throughout the team to be ‘tested in the warm up’ – probably similar to a lot of teams at this stage of the season.
We started the game sloppily and Halesowen pressed high looking to get in behind, nearly being successful on a couple of occasions with Plant (deputising in goal) coming off his line well and getting an accidental boot to the head for his troubles on one occasion. We were struggling to get the ball down on what was (for Swinford Common) a surprisingly flat pitch. However Sheward was getting some joy on the left and managed a couple of good balls into the box which we could not capitalise on. Jones was also making good runs in behind and was close to bringing the ball down on a number of occasions. Halesowen had a number of half chances and set pieces, with neither team being able to capitalise and Halesowen slightly on top.
Second half we were down the slope and with the wind to our advantage, and we made this count putting more pressure on the Halesowen defence and keeping possession more successfully. Halesowen were certainly not out of the game and continued to press forward looking especially dangerous on the break, but again neither team could fashion the good chance needed for a goal. We therefore brought on top scorer Wiedeman after 60 minutes complete with huge knee strap and this gave us the lift we needed. Locke found a bit more space and slalomed down the left riding 2 or 3 challenges (with brilliant advantage played by the referee) before picking out Jones with a drilled cross to tap in at the back post. We then changed formation to protect the lead and brought Wolverson on in defence. We continued to create half chances and nearly broke clear a number of times, whilst keeping Zion largely at arms length and with 5 minutes left Wiedeman did get clear and guided the ball past the advancing keeper to make it 0 v 2 and game over. We never seem to leave Halesowen with a clean sheet and as last year they scored with virtually the last kick of the game. Where as last year it was a very dodgy bounce form a pot shot, this time it was a lofted ball into the box which led to a mix up between defender and keeper leaving Doran to tap in (these things happen when you aren’t used to playing together). It was an unfortunate way to bring to an end our run of 6 clean sheets, conceding our first goal since 15th November vs Clarendon.
Overall an excellent win to take into the cup semi-final next weekend!