Wellington Amateurs 1 Bilston Town (2007) 0

Saturday 28th March 2009
Wellington Amateurs 1 Bilston Town (2007) 0
West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1
At: School Grove
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Weather: cold wind, showers, sunny spells
Duration: first half: 47:29; second half: 48:08

I’ve finally seen a Wellington Amateurs home game some three years after my first attempt failed miserably.

Back in May 2006, when Wellington were members of the Shropshire County League, I set off one Saturday afternoon to watch their home game with Clee Hill. I headed for the ground at Grainger Road in the Leegomery district, only to find a pitch with no sign of goalnets, corner flags, spectators, fans, etc. So I returned home only to establish later that Wellington had in fact moved from there to School Grove some 18 months before in October 2005!

This time round there were no problems with finding the correct venue, which I approached from M54 junction 5. At roundabout I was first left onto Rampart Way and onto A442. Then I left the A442 at next junction and took the second exit (into Holyhead Road, signed Ketley without a road number). After passing the red brick church on the right, I turned turned right into Vicar Street, then first left by the bus shelter into School Grove. The ground was at the end of the road into the car park.

The entrance to the ground was at the end of School Grove and the pitch ran widthways to the right (orientated north-south). On the near touchline, on halfway was the changing rooms building with covered standing in front and it also incorporated Dan’s Diner which offered hot and cold refreshments and programmes (£1). The other three sides were open with hard standing all round the pitch perimeter; dugouts with on halfway on the far touchline. A factory was located behind the fence behind the near goal.

The Diner presumably was named after Dan Braddock, the popular matchday Secretary, with whom I’d received messages for the Football Traveller website in the past. It was good to meet him and he epitomised the friendly nature of the club.

With Wellington looking to move up to the Premier Division at the end of the season, School Grove will be undergoing a transformation over the next few months with a 100 seats purchased from Lancashire CCC’s Old Trafford (to go under the roof in front of the changing rooms) and floodlights.

Promotion would continue a great period of success for Wellington and they would move up a division for the third consecutive season if things go to plan over the next six or so weeks. In 2006/07 the finished second in the Shropshire County League to move into West Midlands League Division 2 which they duly won last season at the first attempt.

The Ams, as they are nicknamed, went into the game on top of the Division 1 table, 10 points clear of second-placed Bridgnorth Town Reserves with seven games to go including this one. However, they had suffered a bit of a hiccup in the recent weeks, having lost last week at Bilbrook and drawn the game before that. Visitors Bilston were in fourth position and still hopeful of gaining promotion to the Premier Division as well but really needed the three points today.

Wellington (red shirts, black shorts and black socks) got the game underway defending the factory end in the first half. Rain fell during the opening 20 or so minutes and Bilston attacked with the aid of a strong wind. Sensibly I opted to watch the game from under the shelter in front of the changing rooms.

There were few clear-cut chances during the first half and the visitors (wearing the familiar Bilston colours of orange shirts, black shorts and orange socks) could have taken the lead in the 40th-minute. Jamall Pinnock forced Ams keeper Steven Bray into mistake on the edge of his own area but Ryan Bradshaw’s follow-up shot hit a defender with the goal unguarded.

Before the interval, there were a couple of further chances, one for each side with Bilston’s Lee Hughes heading straight at the keeper from Brett Haywood’s free-kick. At the other end in stoppage time, Bruce Harper delivered a free-kick into the area which was headed out to Mark Admaczyk who volleyed straight at visiting keeper Ben Astley.

The half-time whistle signalled a return trip to Dan’s Diner for another cuppa. During the interval, round came the raffle tickets with some decent prizes – once again I was out of luck.

The home side were denied what looked like a certain goal a minute after the restart. Astley produced a superb reaction save to keep out Gavin Davies’ volley. Danny Hickling also fired just over the Bilston bar before Wellington made all three substitutions within nine minutes around the hour mark. I was pleased the ‘number 14’ came on as he was no other than former Stafford Rangers striker Steve Clifford.

A mistake by Harper allowed Ward Morgan to run down the left and fire a low shot which Bray got down to hold. The visitors went even closer in the 77th minute when Pinnock saw a close-range shot cleared off the line.

Eventually, Wellingtom made the breakthrough in the 80th minute. Lewis Welch got down the right into the area and pulled the ball back for substitute Chris Brownlow to fire into the bottom left corner of the net.

Perhaps the game’s main taking point came three minute later. The referee appeared to award Bilston a penalty for a foul on Morgan, only to change his decision to a free-kick on the edge of the area on the advice of his assistant. Unfortunately for Bilston the resulting free-kick hit the wall.

Things were tense in the closing stages and during three minutes of stoppage time. Near the end Astley produced another save to deny Brownlow a nerve-calming second goal.

A great roar from the Wellington players greeted the final whistle, thankful for the three points. With Bridgnorth held to a 2-2 draw at home to Riverway, Wellington extended their lead at the top to 11 points with Bilbrook going second thanks to a 3-0 home win over Dudley United. However, Bilbrook do have three games in hand on the Ams.