29th December 2015
The poor weather continues to affect Midland League fixtures with 9 holiday fixtures falling by the wayside. With further bad weather forecast for the rest of the week and next weekend, it does appear that this is something we will have to put up with for a few more weeks to come. In the Premier Division, both Highgate United and Shepshed Dynamo have not played a league fixture since November – hopefully, their luck will change in 2016!
Travels of the Press Officer
Saturday, December 26th
Sporting Khalsa 2 AFC Wulfrunians 3
There is nothing like a Boxing Day derby to blow away the Christmas Day and has these sides had met in the FA Cup earlier in the season and played out a 5 goal thriller, a lot was expected at the Aspray Arena. With the pitch a little sticky following days of rain, it was no surprise that both sides struggled to play any flowing football early on. Wulfs’ forwards were a constant threat to the Khalsa back line and James Pemberton had to react quickly, racing off his line to thwart Ricky Anslow. The home side should have taken the lead in the 20th minute. A free-kick from Craig Bannister was punched into the air by Danny Tipton who proceeded to palm the ball into the path of Mensah Kinch but this time, Tipton made a comfortable save. Matthew Martin was next to test Tipton but again the Wulfs keeper was up to the task. Kinch went closest to breaking the deadlock but his shot rattled the crossbar. Craig Gregg wasted a great chance for Wulfs just after the break, shooting wide when clean through. Wulfs opened the scoring in the 52nd minute. Jamie King latched on to an excellent through ball from Ravinder Aulak and fired into the corner past Pemberton. The lead lasted a minute, a mistake at the back letting in Marvin Nisbett who beat Tipton and then tapped home. A minute later, Nisbett hit the post and saw the follow-up saved by Tipton. Bannister then wasted an opportunity for Khalsa as they pressed for a second goal. At the other end, Kyle Brady volleyed wide when well placed but in the 69th minute, Brady made no mistake tapping in a cross from Anslow.Gregg forced a fine save from Pemberton as Wulfs looked to extend their lead. Substitute Michael Nelson hit the post again for Khalsa who could not force home the rebound. Wulfs made it three in the 82nd minute. A poor back pass by Tim Jackson played in Brady and although he was forced wide, the ball found its way to Anslow who made no mistake. Khalsa were back in it two minutes from time when Nisbett beat Tipton top the ball and tapped the ball home. In stoppage time, the visitors went the closest when Mark Ganderton’s shot was well saved. Wulfs saw out the clock to put a dent in Sporting Khalsa’s promotion hopes. A great second half and a game that could have gone either way. Over the 90 minutes, Wulfs were good value for their win and it sets them up for their home game against Hereford next week.
Monday, December 28th
Lichfield City 3 Stafford Town 1
A Bank Holiday Monday opportunity to watch one of the leading sides in Division 1 at home in a Staffordshire derby. My previous visit to the Cathedral City of Lichfield had been in pre-season when I saw them beat Evo Stik South leaders Stafford Rangers in a friendly. This time, it was Rangers neighbours, Stafford Town who were the visitors. Town put in a much-improved performance in the recent home defeat at the hands of Hinckley AFC and they need points to close the gap at the bottom of the table. It was the lowly visitors that started the brightest, Spencer Gunnell shooting over the bar inside the first minute. Town were appealing for a free-kick when Dan Jones appeared to be clipped as he ran through but the referee saw nothing wrong. Town should have opened the scoring in the 11th minute – an excellent cross from Gunnell was knocked back into the middle by Jones but somehow Craig Hulme missed his kick in front of goal. Gunnell created a chance for Jason Cunningham who failed to connect. Against the run of play. City took the lead when Dave Yonwin picked his spot after an excellent through ball. Lichfield should have had a penalty a couple of minutes later when Joe Haines was felled in the box but nothing was given. Town deservedly levelled proceedings through skipper Gunnell who finished well after a crisp passing moving involving Dan Nowell and Jones. Gunnell almost turned provider with another excellent ball across the face of the goal but there was no support from his teammates. Incredibly, Lichfield took the lead just before the break with a quality piece of control and finish from Tony Clarke. Two minutes into the second half, Lichfield increased their lead. A shot from Mike Taylor was well saved by Richard Stone but that man Clarke finished from a tight angle. Haines almost made it 4 in the 49th minute but Stone pulled off an excellent save. Hulme went close to reducing the deficit when his shot hit the crossbar. Clarke continued to strive for his hat-trick but a mixture of poor finishing and good defending kept the score down to three. A good three points for Lichfield City even though they weren’t at their best. On another day, Town could have taken something from the game but poor finishing cost them.
Four games survived the weather on Boxing Day and Hereford hosted Westfields in front of a league record crowd of 4,381. The majority of supporters cheered the Bulls on to yet another victory with John Mills scoring all three in a 3-0 success. Sporting Khalsa missed the chance to close the gap on the top three going down 3-2 at home to AFC Wulfrunians. Coleshill Town bounced back to form with a 4-2 win at home to Stourport Swifts, the goals shared around. Resurgent Brocton won on the road again, 4-2 at Long Eaton United, veteran striker Paul McMahon with a brace. On Bank Holiday Monday, Hereford increased their lead at the top to 12 points in front of another bumper Edgar Street crowd. 2,910 turned out to see them beat Coventry Sphinx 6-1, John Mills and Pablo Haysham both scoring twice. Heanor Town moved level on points with Alvechurch following a 3-1 home win over Loughborough University. Boldmere St Michaels continued their recent good form with a 2-1 win at Lye Town. At the bottom, Dunkirk and Rocester shared 6 goals in a thriller at the Ron Steel Sports Ground, Kamran Frost scoring twice for Dunkirk.
Bromsgrove Sporting closed the gap on leaders Coventry United to 4 points with a 3-1 home win over Studley in front of a fantastic crowd of 562. Leicester Road are third after an Amarvir Sandhu inspired win over Heather St Johns. Sandhu scored 4 as the home side ran out 5-1 winners. Lichfield City are 4th after a 3-1 win over bottom club Stafford Town, Tony Clarke with a brace. Nuneaton Griff are down to 5th following a 1-1 draw at Hinckley AFC. Pilkington XXX are just a point behind Nuneaton following a 2-0 win over Cadbury Athletic.
Leamington Hibernian maintained their 4 point lead at the top with a 4-2 home win over Shipston Excelsior. Smithswood Firs lie in 2nd place following their 3-1 win over Burntwood Town at Mackadown Stadium. Barton United edged a close encounter with Boldmere Sports & Social Falcons to stay 3rd. Big winners of the weekend were FC Stratford as they beat Badsey Rangers 6-3 with Ashley Wilkes scoring a hat-trick. Northfield Town are up to 5th after a 3-2 away win at struggling Enville Athletic. Those results and a 2-0 defeat at Inkberrow saw Redditch Borough slip 3 places to 6th. Alcester Town continue to be the side to watch as they beat Coventrians 4-1 with Matt Layton getting two more.
One game on New Year’s Day sees Heanor Town entertain Shepshed Dynamo. With both sides at the top end of the table, this could be a tight encounter. On Saturday. Leaders Hereford take their long winning run to Wolverhampton to face AFC Wulfrunians, fresh from victory over Sporting Khalsa. This should be an excellent game of football on a wonderful playing surface. Match of the day is undoubtedly at Lye Meadow as Alvechurch and Sporting Khalsa lock horns. With Khalsa losing their last two league games, they will be looking to get back to winning ways while Alvechurch are beginning to look like the only side that could challenge Hereford for the title. The battle at the bottom of the table has been hotting up in recent weeks. Basement boys Continental Star are in serious danger of being cast adrift and they travel to in-form Boldmere St Michaels. Dunkirk have picked up points lately and their trip to Quorn pits them against the side two places and 5 points ahead of them. Coventry Sphinx are 3rd bottom and they welcome inconsistent and free-scoring Coleshill Town to Sphinx Drive. Highgate United have played 7 games less than leaders Hereford and they could challenge for the top three if they can get some of these games played. They travel to Westfields who are looking for points at the other end of the table. Bardon Hill have been unfortunate with the weather too and they now find themselves in the bottom 6 as they travel to Long Eaton United. Brocton have picked up 10 points from their last 12 including three consecutive away wins and they take this upturn in form to Hillsfield to face Rocester who have picked up 7 points from their last three games. Two games firmly in the middle of the table sees Stourport Swifts entertain Lye Town and Walsall Wood entertain Loughborough University.
On New Year’s Day, Bromsgrove Sporting can close the gap at the top to 1 point for just a day when they welcome Pilkington XXX to the Victoria Ground, in a top 6 battle. Leaders Coventry United travel to Cadbury Athletic on Saturday with the Chocolatemen losing their last four. Two teams in decent scoring form go head to head as Coventry Copsewood welcome 3rd place Leicester Road to The Pavilion. Lichfield City are very much in the promotion mix and they travel to Tamworth to face 2nd bottom Bolehall Swifts. Nuneaton Griff have slipped down the table after a tough run of fixtures and they face a tough derby game at Atherstone Town. Bottom club Stafford Town have performed better in recent weeks without picking up any points and they will be hoping to correct this when they welcome Pelsall Villa to Evans Park. Heather St Johns have moved away from the bottom and can improve things further if they can beat Studley at St Johns Park. Southam United have lost their last 8 league games and it doesn't get any easier as they travel to Littleton. Two sides locked together on 32 points meet at the Coppice as Heath Hayes welcome Hinckley AFC. Pershore Town find themselves only 3 points above the drop zone as they travel to mid-table Racing Club Warwick.
League leaders Leamington Hibernian travel to 12th placed Coventrians looking to consolidate their position at the top. Smithswood Firs are 4 points behind and they travel to 10th placed Inkberrow. Barton United are 3rd but they face a tricky fixture at bottom club AFC Solihull who have started picking up points. FC Stratford are within touching distance of the top and a win at Shipston Excelsior keeps the pressure on the sides above them. The league’s form side are Alcester Town who can leap into the top 6 providing they win at Badsey Rangers. Enville Athletic have lost their last 5 but could jump two places if they can win at Boldmere Sports & Social Falcons.
Romulus vs Coleshill Town (TROPHY)