Shifnal Town 4 Gornal Athletic 5

Wednesday 7th December 2011
Shifnal Town 4 Gornal Athletic 5
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Phoenix Park, Coppice Green Lane
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £5 including 28 page programme and raffle ticket
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:45; second-half: 48:00

Shifnal Town and Gornal Town served up a nine-goal thriller on a not-that-cold an evening Phoenix Park to better the six goals I saw on my only previous visit to the ground in 1993. Tonight, both sides scored twice during the first half and both added a third goal before the hour mark. Shifnal edged ahead 4-3 just after the hour mark when Chris Henry completed his hat-trick only for Gornal to equalise again. However, Gornal striker Seb Craven took full advantage of a bad mistake by Shifnal’s keeper in the 79th minute to coolly score what proved to be the winner.

Despite being only 25 miles from home, I’d only been to Phoenix Park once before – one of the pleasures I’m getting this season is returning to long-since visited grounds like Heath Hayes last Tuesday and Shifnal tonight. My previous visit to Phoenix Park was 18 years and 3 days ago on Saturday 4th December 1993 in the era before lights were installed at the ground. Then Shifnal recorded an emphatic 6-0 win over Kings Heath in the Skol Midland Combination Premier Division.

Without looking at my old photos, I remembered a substantial stand and parking in the adjacent school car park before walking up to the pitch. The stand, holding around 200 seats, is still in situ with banking around all but the south end of the ground. On the Coppice Green Lane side was a Refreshments kiosk.

Visitors Gornal Athletic (47 points from 19 games) may have been 14 points behind seemingly runaway leaders Black Country Rangers in second position but have enough games in hand to take over top spot provided they keep on winning. Mixed form has, to me, hampered the progress of Shifnal (26 points from 20 games) who went into this game in 13th position in the 22-team division.

Teams were announced over the tannoy and Gornal (wearing blue shirts with white pinstripe hoops, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the North End (right to left in relation to my seat in the stand).

Shifnal (in red and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) took a 10th-minute lead with the game’s first attempt on goal. Chris Henry latched onto a ball down the middle and lifted a shot into the net past James Pemberton as defender Chris Waterhouse challenged. Waterhouse, hurt trying to prevent the shot, required lengthy treatment and was entually replaced in the 21st minute.

Despite losing their captain, Gornal equalised a minute after Waterhouse departed. Lee Wherton, now wearing the armband, ran into the area down the middle and stabbed the ball into the bottom left corner as home keeper David Maguire challenged. Wherton required treatment through was able to continue.

Wherton put Gornal ahead just before the half-hour with a spectacular left-foot shot from some 30 yards out which flew past Maguire into the left side of the net.

Maguire produced a diving save to keep out a shot on the break from Marvin Nisbett before Shifnal equalised in the 42nd minute. Henry got in a shot 15 yards out which Pemberton could only help into the bottom right corner.

“Shifnal, good half” said one home players encouragingly towards his teammates. I felt more goals were on the way in the second half – and I wasn’t wrong.

“Winning raffle ticket tonight is 845. Take it to the pay gate entrance gate”. Alas, with ‘830’, it wasn’t me!

Just before the start of the second half, one spectator relayed the news to anyone interested that “Man City winning, Man United losing”. Of course he was on about the Champions League action.

Even though Shifnal got the second half underway, Gornal almost went ahead within 35 seconds of the restart. Unmarked Kristian Green hit a well struck right-foot shot inside the area which Maguire scrambled round the post at the expense of a corner.

Gornal regained the lead in the 48th minute from a free-kick. Matt Martin delivered it from the left to the far post where Mark Swann knocked the ball down for Seb Craven to stab home at close range.

Goals continued to flow and Shifnal levelled things up at 3-3 just before the hour mark. Glynn Coney crossed from the left and Liam Bood looped at near post header over Pemberton into the far side of the net.

It got even better for the home side five minutes later when they made it 4-3.Henry robbed the dawdling Swann, ran towards goal unchallenged and lashed an angled shot past Pemberton to complete a hat-trick.

Matt Weyman replaced Martin and his introduction proved to be an inspired substitution. A minute after coming on Weyman got on the end of Craven’s right-wing cross and sent a looping header into the top left-corner of the net.

Gornal, who had won their last four league games, showed why they are challenging for the title by scoring what proved to be the winner in the 79th minute. Maguire raced to his line to clear a long ball into the area, kicked thin air under pressure and presented Craven with a simple task of slotting into an empty net.

I have never seen a 5-5 draw and Shifnal had a couple of late chances to snatch a point. Bood fired the wrong side of the right-hand post from ten yards out and deep into stoppage time, Pemberton dropped a free-kick inside a packed area only to quickly claim the loose ball.

Shifnal Town (red and white stripes / black /black): 1, David Maguire, 2. Adam Smith, 3. Tom Griffin, 4. David Howells, 5. Pat Ellis, 6. George Williams (capt), 7. Liam Bood, 8. Dan Martin, 9. Chris Henry, 10. Andy Thompson, 11. Glynn Coney. Subs: 12. Mark Adamczyk (for Andy Thompson, 59), 14. Danny Hill (not used), 15. David Robinson (nit used), 16. Matt Kent (not used), 17. Joshua Thompson (not used).

Gornal Athletic (blue with white pinstripe hoops / blue / blue): 1. James Pemberton, 2. Richard Young, 3. Robin Keates, 4. Conor Gater, 5. Chris Waterhouse (capt), 6. Kristian Green, 7. Michael Perks, 8. Lee Wherton, 9. Seb Craven, 10. Marvin Nisbett, 11. Matt Martin. Subs: 12. Matt Weyman (for Martin, 70), 14. Gurdeep Wilkhoo (for Nisbett, 80), 15. Ravi Sangha (not used), 16. Mark Swann (for Whitehouse, 21), 17. Ricky Nicholls (not used).

Referee: Tom Keady.
Assistants: M. Swinscoe and C. Griffiths.

1-0 Chris Henry (10)
1-1 Lee Wherton (22)
1-2 Lee Wherton (29)
2-2 Chris Henry (42)
2-3 Seb Craven (48)
3-3 Liam Bood (58)
4-3 Chris Henry (63)
4-4 Matt Weyman (72)
4-5 Seb Craven (79)