Bilston Town 6 Wyrley Juniors 4

Wednesday 14th November 2012
Bilston Town 6 Wyrley Juniors 4
West Midlands (Regional) League Division One
At: Queen Street
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £3; Programme: £1-50 (20 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 80 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:36; second-half: 49:00

Quite a few things crossed my mind as I headed down the M6 into the Black Country. Bilston Town FC were the away side in my ‘match no. 3’ some 40 years ago; Queen Street deserves a place on all bucket lists of grounds that have to be visited; my Dad worked with a former Bilston Manager Alan Wakeman who played in goal for Aston Villa; the last of my two or three visits to the ground came during the 1999/2000 season; and would there be a programme tonight?

I didn’t know while driving to the game that something else I recalled would have some relevance during tonight’s game. Back on Boxing Day 1997, I saw one of the remarkable comebacks in Stafford Rangers’ history.

Facing Bilston in the Southern League Midland Division at Marston Road, Rangers looked totally down and out trailing 3-0 at half-time yet managed six unanswered second-half goals to win 6-3. Tonight, Bilston staged a fantastic comeback to overcome a 2-4 deficit and turn it into a 6-4 win which kept their unbeaten league record intact.

And, yes, a 20-page programme was issued, on sale both at the gate and tea bar. No need to have worried about that!

For first-time visitors, I personally think Queen Street is one of those grounds best seen in daylight to fully appreciate the place. I love the quirky tangerine-coloured stand. Saying that, at night, it does have a feeling of non-league football from a bygone age. According to Kerry Miller’s The History of Non-league Football Grounds, it was opened over 90 years ago in 1919 with the stand almost as old. Queen Street is a survivor from the good old days of non-league football, right down to being able to park inside the ground.

Focusing tonight’s game and a quick glance at the league table shows that Bilston (28 points from 10 games) were in third position, five points behind leaders Wem Town with five games in hand. A quick bit of maths gives a league record of nine wins and one draw (1-1 against Mahal back in August). Visitors Wyrley Juniors (19 points from 12 games) occupied a mid-table eight position out of 18 teams.

One thing of many I noticed before kick-off was the number of fans wearing club colours – tangerine and white scarves and the odd bobble hat as well. Teams were announced over the tannoy, though the PA man had already lent me his programme so I could copy down the line-ups.

Wyrley Juniors (in black and white) got the game underway attacking from left to right in relation to my seat in the stand.

Encouraged by decent vocal support, Bilston had the ball in the back of the Wyrley net in the 8th minute. However, Sean Pugh was flagged offside when he received a pass from Matt Curley.

Three minutes later, Bilston were stunned when Wyrley took the lead. Chris Geldart, on the right, beat two defenders inside the area before drilling a low right-foot shot into the far corner of the net.

Despite their possession, it was clear that Bilston weren’t firing and were told to “play football” and “not just kick and hope” when a speculative punt forward ended up harmlessly in the arms of Wyrley goalkeeper Jordan Hughes.

The fans got involved and started louder chants of “C’mon Bilston” when a shot by Dan Kalinski flashed past the home goal.

The Steelmen responded and a header from Curley rebounded off the bar from Danny Mason’s corner.

It got even better for the home fans when Bilston netted a 23rd-minute equaliser. Nick Turton raced cleared from a pass by Lee Onions and fired low past Hughes to trigger one of the loudest (if not the loudest) goal celebration cheers at a West Midlands League ground.

The home fans were celebrating again a minute later when Turton struck his second goal. Again he was put clear by a defence-splitting pass and clinically fired past Hughes into the left side of the net.

When Leon Pugh headed over the bar, it looked like Bilston would go on and record a substantial victory.

I was wrong with that assessment as Wyrley got back on level terms in the 33rd minute when Dan Martin fired home at close range following poor defending. If that wasn’t bad enough, Queen Street was stunned seven minutes later when the visitors regained the lead. Geldart, on the left, managed to squeeze a shot past goalkeeper Ben Astley from an acute angle.

I’d bought a raffle ticket during the first half – 876–880 on the pink – and almost scooped the prize as the winner was 901–905.

Bilston had the ball in the back of the net within 20 seconds of the restart but one again Sean Pugh strayed offside before firing home.

Having survived that let off, Wyrley doubled their lead in the 55th minute to move 4-2 ahead. Aaron Wight delivered a free-kick into the area from the left and Nathaniel Hare headed past Astley into the top-left corner of the net.

Again stunned into action, Bilston went close from a Curley header which was cleared off the line before giving their fans some hope just before the hour mark. Sean Pugh rifled an indirect free-kick into the back of the net past the helpless Hughes. The Steelmen now trailed by just one goal with half-an-hour still to play.

Not finished, Wyrley quickly got forward and Astley pushed a curling right-foot shot to safety.

Amid loud cheers, Bilston got back on level terms in this amazing game in the 63rd minute. Mason delivered a right-wing corner into the area where Leon Pugh ghosted in at the near post to glance a header into the far side of the net. 4-4!

Full of confidence, Bilston pressed forward and Sean Pugh forced a save out of Hughes while Turton got between two defenders before shooting inches wide.

Yet, mistakes at the back almost let Wyrley back into the game. Geldart shot wide and also headed straight at Astley.

“We want five,” chanted the Bilston faithful from the stand. As the tangerines continued to press, I wondered if he Wyrley defence would remain intact until full-time.

Hughes stood firm on his line to hold a 29-yard free-kick from Mason which took a deflection off the five-man wall.

Amazingly, Wyrley should have taken the lead in the 85th minute. Hare found unmarked Lee Myatt inside the Bilston area but saw his shot kept out by Astley’s boot.

With time running out, Bilston won a corner in the 88th minute, delivered by Mason, from which Curley headed home at the far left-hand post. 5-4 to Bilston and the cheer nearly lifted the roof off the stand!

There was still time for more drama. Wyrley threw men forward and Stefan Gordon headed wide from Hare’s cross.

But Bilston had the last word with a sixth goal scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Daniel Westwood cut in from the left and hit a low shot into the far corner of the net.

Had I seen a 6-4 before? I couldn’t remember [I had… Nuneaton Griff 6 Southan United 4, 7th May 2007].

This was an amazing game at an amazing ground, which in due course needs another visit in daylight.

Bilston Town (tangerine/white/tangerine): 1. Ben Astley, 2. Neil Eccleston, 3. Leon Pugh (capt), 4. John Griffiths, 5. Matt Curley, 6. Danny Mason, 7. Matty Rutter, 8. Lee Onions, 9. Nick Turton, 10. Sean Pugh, 11. Jamall Pinnock. Subs: 12. Daniel Westwood (for Sean Pugh, 83), 14. Mitchell Fellows (for Pinnock, 78), 15. Stuart Skitt (for Rutter, 58), 16. Rhys Hall (not used), 17. Chad McCormack (not used), 19gk. Karl Frankham (not used).

Wyrley Juniors (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Jordan Hughes, 2. Dan Martin, 3. Leigh Bevan, 4. Adam Brough (capt), 5. Neil Hudson, 6. Arron Wright, 7. Nathaniel Hare, 8. Tom Essex, 9. Chris Geldart, 10. Mark McMahon, 11. Dan Kalinski. Subs: 12. Stefan Gordon (for McMahon, 83), 14. Steve McMahon (not used), 15. Lee Myatt (for Kalinski, 81), 16. Mark Brindley (not used), 17. Chris Fowler (not used).

Referee: G. Barrow.
Assistants: R. Massey and S. Rushbury.

0-1 Chris Geldart (10)
1-1 Nick Turton (23)
2-1 Nick Turton (24)
2-2 Dan Martin (33)
2-3 Chris Geldart (40)
2-4 Nathaniel Hare (55)
3-4 Sean Pugh (59)
4-4 Leon Pugh (63)
5-4 Matt Curley (88)
6-4 Dan Westwood (90+4)

Bilston: Neil Eccleston (YC, 55)
Wyrley: none