Hanwood United 2 Wellington Amateurs 1

Saturday 15th October 2011
Hanwood United 2 Wellington Amateurs 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1
At: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: none; Programme: £1 (32 pages)
Attendance: 65 (headcount)
Weather: sunny
Duration: first-half: 47:58; second-half: 49:42

I remember thinking with around 10 minutes left that this game was the best 0-0 draw I’d seem for a long while. It was, until the most dramatic of dramatic conclusions which made the decision worthwhile to head again into Shropshire countryside and not continue my ‘Road to Wembley.

Visitors Wellington Amateurs went into the game with nine wins out of nine but looked to be running out of team to preserve their 100% record until Gavin Davies headed them in front in the 88th minute.

However, in stoppage time, Ollie Williams claimed a scrambled equaliser and amazingly Ben Houlston coolly netted the winner for Hanwood to stun the previously unbeaten league leaders.

FA Cup Third Qualifying Round day and my 2011/12 ‘Road to Wembley’ had visited Ascot United, Bloxwich United, Holbrook Sports, Thurnby Nirvana, Romulus (at Chasetown) and Thame United. Amongst the 40 ties today were just five at grounds I’d not previously visited though only one within two hours drive of home. Pondering where to head, I decided to forgo an FA Cup tie in preference for a top-of-the table league game with the added spice of being a local derby.

Wellington Amateurs (27 points from 9 games) headed along the A5 at the top of the West Midlands (Regional) League Division 1 table with a 100% record. Last Saturday they hammered Leominster Town 10-0. Home side Hanwood United (3rd position with 18 points from 9 games) had also made a decent start to the season but lost their unbeaten record last Saturday with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Stone Old Alleynians.

I found the ground without a hitch – on the A488 heading away from Shrewsbury at the western end of the village on the right-hand side just after the low railway bridge. The pitch ran widthways with the village hall behind the right-hand goal that had a two separate small stands in front – one with seats (Wheaty Stand) and the other covered standing (Frudgie Stand). Programmes were on sale inside the hall at the refreshments table and also for a seller walking around the pitch perimeter.

Hanwood (wearing all white) got the game underway in sunshine defending the Village Hall end in the first half. It quickly became clear this derby was going to be a feisty contest and the referee quickly asserted his authority with stiff words with several players as tackles went in and decisions were contested.

Amateurs (red shirts, black shorts and socks) created the early chances and Hanwood keeper Ashley Spittlehouse made a vital block to thwart Jamie Price who had a clear shot on goal. The keeper then produced a fine diving save to keep out a deflected free-kick in the 13th minute (see photo). Dan Beddows later fired straight at Spittlehouse and Danny Walne send a long-range put forward bouncing inside the area and over the bar.

As the interval approached, referee Tim Gregory needed to calm things down and told two offending players in no uncertain terms that “more shenanigans’ would result in cards. He pointed out it was a local derby and he was “trying to keep players on the field”. Certainly sound advice from a match official who, in my opinion, had a superb afternoon in the middle.

Hanwood returned to the changing rooms at half-time while Wellington decamped to the far end for their half-time team talk.

The visitors almost took the lead three minutes after the restart. Steve Faux delivered a deep corner who Gavin Davies fired towards goal and Chris Brownlow headed just wide.

Just after the hour mark, Mr Gregory again needed to remind the players that he wanted “to keep 22 men on the field”.

Hanwood, who had rarely threatened, enjoyed a spell of pressure midway through the second half, winning three corners in quick succession which put the Amateurs defence under pressure. Keeper Chris Worrall hurt his shoulder dealing with one of these corners and was forced out of the game after lengthy treatment. Outfield player Walne took over in goal and quickly produced a decent near post save under pressure to keep out Stewart Owen’s low shot.

With time running out for Wellington to find a goal, Spittlehouse parried a well-struck shot from Jamie Price and the ball was scrambled clear.

Eventually the deadlock was broken in the 88th minute when Wellington thought they’d scored the winner. The ball was played forward into the area from the right for Davies to glance a header into the bottom left corner out of the reach of the diving Spittlehouse.

That wasn’t the end of the drama, far from it.

In stoppage time, Hanwood won a free-kick on the right which was delivered into the area and forced over the line by ??? (see photo right). Was it an own goal or did a Hanwood player get the final touch? After the game I asked a club official who told me that “Ollie Williams recons it was him [who scored]”.

With over three minutes of injury time played, Ben Houlston stayed onside to break into the area and coolly slot home the winner past the helpless Walne. Amazing!

A word about the referee Tim Gregory – top marks from me for sensibly controlling a very competitive contest and for achieving his aim of keeping 22 men on the pitch.

One purpose of our hobby is to watch football on as many different grounds as possible. That was why I made a first visit to Hanwood this afternoon. In recent times I have enjoyed returning to previously visited ground and I’m sure I’ll made another trip to Hanwood during the next couple of years. Wellington Amateurs could do with a revisit as well to see the changes to the ground the retired trainer told me about.

0-1 Gavin Davies (88)
1-1 Ollie Williams (90+2)
1-2 Ben Houlston (90+4)