Bloxwich United AFC 2 AFC Wulfrunians 2

Saturday 20th August 2011
Bloxwich United AFC 2 AFC Wulfrunians 2
FA Cup with Budweiser Extra Preliminary Round
At: Red Lion Ground, Walsall Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (16 pages)
Attendance: 95 (headcount)
Weather: mild, dry, sunny spells
Duration: first-half: 46:53; second-half: 48:38

A touch of nostalgia this afternoon with more FA Cup action and a game closer to home between two teams who were league rivals last season and are no longer.

First the nostalgia bit and my first visit to a favourite ground since 2000. The Red Lion Ground has been used for football for over 100 years, first as the home of Bloxwich Strollers, then more synonymously with Blakenall, and now Bloxwich United AFC since the start of the 2007/08 season. A couple of my memories of the place are seeing Blakenall lift the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division shield in 1989 and Stafford Rangers winning 4-1 eleven years later on the way to becoming Dr Martens League Western Division Champions.

Today, I found the Red Lion Ground as it was, with a sloping pitch and seated stand behind the goal at the top of the slope. Clubhouse and changing rooms were down the touchline closest to the main road with dugouts opposite. A large tall net dominated behind the goal at the bottom of the slope.

Bloxwich United were formed in 2006 and quickly progressed via the Wolverhampton Combination and West Midland (Regional) League Division One to earn a place in the Premier Division. During the summer after finishing 7th last season, Bloxwich United transferred from the West Midlands League to the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division.

Today’s tie was only Bloxwich’s second competitive game of the season and they won their opening league game last Saturday 4-2 away to Pilkington XXX.

More games had been played in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division, AFC Wulfrunians (6th position with 7 points from 4 games) made a good start to the season. They were unbeaten at home with wins over Pegasus Juniors and Cradley Town as well as a draw against Wolverhampton Casuals but lost at Gornal Athletic.

Teams were read out over the tannoy after the lady announcer bid every a “welcome to the Red Lion Ground, for our first FC Cup game”. Bloxwich do indeed appear in bold type on the list of entrants indicating they did not participate last season (and as far as I know not in previous seasons either).

I presume the AFC Wulfrunians captain opted to attack up the slope in the first half, as Bloxwich United (in all red) got the game underway and they almost took an early lead. Wayne Howard found Alan Wilkes on the left and he saw a shot blocked at the near post by defender Tony Collins.

The home side were soon awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the area – the referee pointed to the ground shouting “outside” after Collins fouled Wilkes. Wilkes went for goal only to see Danny Tipton produce a fine diving save to push the ball to safety.

The lively AFC Wulfrunians midfielder Ian Boswell tried his luck from the halfway and caught United keeper Tony Simkiss off his line. Unluckily for Boswell the ball bounced his and hit the bar. Simkiss excelled in the 39th minute with a superb save to keep out Nathan Rose-Laing’s close-range follow-up shot after Ricky Anslow’s initial effort had rebounded off the left-hand post (see right).

Bloxwich quickly got forward after surviving that scare to take the lead a minute later. Wayne Price crossed low from the left for Ashley Bellingham to fire home at close range. “Goalscorer for Bloxwich United, number 6 Ashley Bellingham,” proudly announced by the lady over the tannoy.

However, AFC Wulfrunians (wearing a change kit of yellow and black halves, black shorts and yellow socks) got back on level terms in the 45th minute. Anslow pulled the ball back for Rose-Laing to fire home from a couple of yards out.

An impressive run by Wilkes led to Bloxwich’s second goal scored five minutes after the restart. The striker surged into the area down the right and drilled a low angled shot into the opposite bottom corner of the net. They could have added a third goal had a goalbound shot from Ashley Southall not hit a teammate.

The visitors drew level again in the 67th minute as Anslow latched onto a diagonal ball hit forward by Boswell to the right. The flag stayed down, Anslow got clear, beat the advancing Simkiss and slotted into an empty net (see right).

Both sides could have won the tie during the last ten minutes. Danny Tipton did well to keep out a shot from Wilkes while Boswell sent a 20-yard free-kick over the Bloxwich bar.

Replay at Castlecroft Stadium on Tuesday for the right to visit Castle Vale in the Preliminary Round.

1-0 Ashley Bellingham (40)
1-1 Nathan Rose-Laing (45)
2-1 Alan Wilkes (50)
2-2 Ricky Anslow (67)