Walsall Wood 4 Wigan Robin Park 1

Sunday 6th January 2013
Walsall Wood 4 Wigan Robin Park 1
FA Carlsberg Vase Third Round
At: Coles Lane (Sutton Coldfield FC)
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: mild/cold, cloudy, dry
Attendance: 176
Duration (45): first-half: 46:10; second-half: 52:00 (plus 14 minute delay)

In a much postponed FA Vase tie switched to the 3G pitch at Coles Lane, Walsall Wood kept the Midland Combination flag flying in the competition by storming into the Fourth Round with a giantkilling 4-1 victory over Wigan Robin Park. Wood scored late in the first half and again on the hour mark to take control before a lengthy delay caused by an injury to referee James Thornhill halted proceedings for around 14 minutes while a replacement assistant was appointed. When play resumed, both sides quickly scored to make it 3-1 and Wood ended any threat of extra time with a late fourth goal. A home tie against Hanworth Villa at Oak Park awaits the successful Walsall Wood side in two weeks time.

A late decision to head out this afternoon and had kick-off been 2pm rather than 3pm I wouldn’t have had enough time to drive to Coles Lane, park up, buy a programme, get the line-ups and settle down before the action got underway.

Originally scheduled for Saturday 10th December, the day when Rocester beat Long Eaton 2-1, this much-postponed tie had to be switched from Walsall Wood’s Oak Park ground to Coles Lane to ensure it was played this weekend. The pitch at Coles Lane is a 3G surface, as you’ll know from reading recent blogs of games invloving Sutton Coldfield Town.

As expected, there were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd including ‘Albion Steve’, ‘Ratty’, Albion Paul’, ‘Cannock Rob’ and ‘Groundhopper Dave’.

Home side Walsall Wood play in the Athium Midland Combination Premier Division (step 6) like my locals sides Stafford Town and Brocton. While currently in third position (36 points from 15 games), they do have eight games in hand on leaders Bromsgrove Sporting who are just seven points better off.

Visitors Wigan Robin Park achieved last season what Walsall Wood are striving to achieve this season – gain promotion from step 6 to step 5 of the non-league pyramid. After yesterday’s games, they stood in 15th position in the North-West Counties League Premier Division on 26 points from 21 games.

Defending the car park end in the first half, Wigan Robin Park (in a change kick of yellow and green) got the game underway but their goalkeeper, Jason Foulds, was soon called into action to turn round a low angled shot from the dangerous Ahmet Bilgimer.

Both sides made a lively start though the game developed into a midfield contest with defences on top and few decent scoring opportunities.

However, there was a breakthrough before half-time and it was Lewis Taylor-Boyce who gave Wood a 38th-minute lead. Tom Evans got down the right and crossed low into the area where Taylor-Boyce turned a defender and thumped a close-range shot past Foulds.

Just before the break, a club official with white hair and glasses announced to my section of the stand that the tie would be decided today with extra time and penalties if necessary.

Those comments seemed to become irrelevant just before the hour mark when Walsall Wood doubled their lead. Ian Rowlands chopped down Taylor-Boyce inside the area and Jamie Hawkins made no mistake with the resulting penalty. The home side immediately made a change – Scott Cooper replaced Danny Forrest – but the game didn’t resume. Clearly a problem had arise but what?

Some puzzled looks on the pitch (photo right)and also in the stand; @Sam_Hodkin tweeted to let me know that 'Injured lino according to the NWCFL Media Officer at the game'. It turned out that referee James Thornhill was unable to continue. After a delay of around 14 minutes, senior assistant Martin Watts took over in the middle and someone from the crowd ran the line.

The delay didn’t harm Wood as they scored a third goal within three minutes of the resumption. A terrible backpass (if indeed it was a backpass) ended up at the feet of Evans who hammered the ball past Foulds from 20 yards out.

Game over? Well no, as Wigan Robin Park quickly pulled a goal back. Ryan Small crossed low from the left and to the unmarked Joseph Hull in front of goal who steered the ball wide of Dale Faultless into the far right corner of the net.

Three goals in six minutes though they took 22 minutes to score them!

Undeterred, Wood kept pushing forward without showing signs of nerves and Foulds kept Wigan’s feign hopes alive with a save to keep out a shot from Bilgimer.

However, Bilgimer put the outcome beyond doubt with his side’s fourth goal scored in the 81st minute. He chased a seeming lost cause down the left, which lured Foulds out of his area. The striker won the ball, ran towards goal and slotted it into an empty net chased by the goalkeeper.

The Fourth Round draw is now complete (ties to be played on Saturday 19th January 2013):
Gornal Athletic v Wisbech Town
Bodmin Town v Ashington
AFC Emley v Hadleigh United
Tunbridge Wells v Dunston UTS
Rye United v Guernsey
Bitton AFC v Shildon
Larkhall Athletic v Peacehaven & Telscombe
Brantham Athletic v Whitley Bay
Newport (IW) v Brighouse Town
Bemerton Heath Harlequins v Blackfield & Langley
Ampthill Town v Enfield 1893
Ely City v Spalding United
Spennymoor Town v Lordswood
Rocester v Runcorn Town
Borrowash Victoria v Ascot United
Walsall Wood v Hanworth Villa

Walsall Wood (red with white diagonal stripe / red / red): 1. Dale Faultless, 2. Craig Deakin, 3. Tom Evans, 4. Shawn Boothe, 5. Lee Stretton, 6. Danny Forrest, 7. Ahmet Bilgimer, 8. Jamie Hawkins, 9. Lewis Taylor-Boyce, 10. Drew Aiton, 11. Andre Gonzales. Subs: 12. Scott Cooper (for Forrest, 60), 14. Michael Murray (for Hawkins, 84), 15. Tom Howard (not used), 16. Nathanial Jones (not used), 17. Matthew Bennett (for Bilgimer, 90+4). Manager: Mark Swann.

Wigan Robin Park (yellow/green/yellow): 1. Jason Foulds (capt), 2. Ian Rowlands, 3. Sean White, 4. Stephen Kay, 5. Michael Wood, 6. Colin Quirk, 7. Joseph Hull, 8. Andrew Neafcy, 9. Philip Howard, 10. Ryan Small, 11. Dean Callaway. Subs: 12. Callum Mahoney (for Callaway, 67), 14. Daniel Curren (not used), 15. James Edgar (for Hull, 67), 16. Philip Johnson (not used), 17. Daniel Whiteside (for Neafcy, 39). Manager: John Neafcy.

Referee: James Thornhill (replaced by senior assistant Martin Watts after 60 minutes).
Assistants: Martin Watts and Robert Massey.

1-0 Lewis Taylor-Boyce (38)
2-0 Jamie Hawkins (59)
3-0 Tom Evans (63)
3-1 Joseph Hull (65)
4-1 Ahmet Bilgimer (81)

Walsall Wood: Danny Forrest (YC, 25)
Wigan Robin Park: none