Wolverhampton Casuals 5 Black Country Rangers 0

Tuesday 5th February 2013
Wolverhampton Casuals 5 Black Country Rangers 0
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Brinsford Lane, Coven Heath
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: cold and wet, torrential rain at times
Attendance: 40 (headcount)
Duration (45): first-half: 47:34; second-half: 45:56

Wolverhampton Casuals stormed into second position in the Premier Division table with a ‘five-star’ performance against title rivals Black Country Rangers. On a horrible wet night just off the A449 at Brinsford Lane, Cassies never looked back after scoring twice during the opening 15 minutes through Mark Bellingham and Sean Williams. Tom Maydew added a third before half-time before substitute Dan Pilgrim and Sean Williams with his second goal wrapped up the win for the 'green and whites' in the second half. A clean sheet by goalkeeper Todd Henderson was an added bonus.

With just three months of the season left, the race to become 2012/13 West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division champions is turning out to be an intriguing contest. Prior to tonight’s fixtures, the top five were separated by eight points: Lye Town (1st with 54 points from 22 games), Black Country Rangers (2nd with 52 from 22), Shawbury United (3rd with 51 from 22), Wolverhampton Casuals (4th with 50 from 23) and AFC Wulfrunians (5th with 46 from 21).

Poster courtesy of @353photo

Tonight, both sides needed a win at Brinsford Lane, especially Casuals who surprisingly lost at home to Pegasus Juniors on Saturday; Lye and AFC Wulfrunians looked favourites to win their respective games against Wolves SC and Pegasus tonight.

Twitter, as it often does nowadays, gave me the news earlier this afternoon that the game was going ahead, though a heavy downpour on the way around nearby Penkridge made me wonder about any last-minute hitches. As I arrived a club official was busy forking the pitch. Thankfully the referee was satisfied with the playing surface.

There are a lot of things I like about Casuals from the welcome at the gate, ease of obtaining the line-ups, Julie’s tea bar and announcements throughout the match confirming lineups, goalscorers and substitutions. All things we appreciate and the stand is a nice place to watch the match from, especially on a wet night like tonight. A couple of familiar faces in ‘orange-hat Coxey’ and ‘Cannock Rob’ had the same idea as me.

Black Country Rangers (in red) got the game underway attacking the east [entrance] end of Brinsford Lane, knowing that a win for themselves and defeat for leaders Lye at home to Wolves SC would see then regain top spot lost on Saturday through inactivity.

Casuals, with the incentive of moving up to second with a win, took the lead in the 11th minute. Mark Bellingham latched on to a ball down the left and thumped a low shot past Jamie Wood from inside the area.

A perfect start and it got even better for the Cassies with a second goal four minutes later. Matthew Bailey played the ball into the path of the pacy Sean Williams down the left who hit a low shot past Wood into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Daniel Lloyd headed wide from Craig Love’s corner while Black Country were working hard to get back into the game. When they went close, the visitors found Todd Henderson in fine form. Alec Roberts crossed deep from the right where Craig Gregg’s header looked set for the net until the Cassies goalkeeper acrobatically kept the ball out with his legs.

In relentless rain, often heavy, Casuals further increased their lead with a third goal scored in the 40th minute. Sean Williams crossed deep from the right to the far post where Tom Maydew fired home. Bellingham looked to apply the final touch but Maydew was credited with the goal by the announcer. The referee checked with his assistant for possible offside but the goal stood without complaint.

Julie’s tea bar was the obvious place to head during the interval. Tweets told me that leaders Lye were 2-1 up against Wolves SC at half-time and AFC Wulfrunians 2-0 up against Pegasus. Of interest to ‘Cannock Rob’, Hednesford were losing 2-1 at home to Alvechuch in the Birmingham Senior Cup.

No fewer than three substitutions were made for the start of the second half with Black Country replacing Roberts and Liam Hughes with Paul Oakley and Adrian Lloyd.

The rain continued to vary in intensity as the visitors applied pressure from the restart with Oakley firing just wide of the target. Just after the hour mark, Gregg laid the ball back to Scott Stevenson who sent a well-struck 25-yard shot flashing past the net.

Casuals survived to score a fourth goal in the 65th minute. The visitors were caught with just three defenders back as Bellingham got down the right and crossed low for Dan Pilgrim to sidefoot home at close range. Pilgrim had only been on the field for a couple of minutes after replacing Dean Clarke.

Not throwing in the towel, even with a mountain to climb to just salvage a point, Black Country continued to threaten and Henderson produce a reaction save to keep out a header from Stevenson’s cross. The goalkeeper, determined to keep a clean sheet, also tipped over a rising shot from Lloyd.

Despite all of the rain, the pitch held up well which I suppose was good news for the referee who didn’t appear to have any thoughts towards abandoning the game. A bit of squelching from players’ boot was about as bad as it got.

However, one person sat behind me in the stand wondered “where does the rain keep coming from?” Good question, as a hell of a lot of rain had fallen during the previous three hours.

Cassies wrapped up what was a ‘five-star’ performance with a fifth goal scored in the 89th minute. Sean Williams intercepted a miss-directed pass 40 yards out and raced to the edge of the area. Faced by a couple of defenders, the forward drilled a low shot into the bottom left corner of the net out of reach of the diving Wood.

As I said earlier, Casuals suffered a surprise home defeat on Saturday so this 5-0 victory was an emphatic way keeping the pressure on the sides around them in the table. Ten-man Lye retained top spot with a 3-2 win over Wolves SC while AFC Wulfrunians defeated Pegasus 3-0. So Cassies moved up to second.

Finally, I’d like to go back to the 82nd minute and a nice bit of sportsmanship. Sean Williams collided with a defender inside the Rangers area and went down clearly hurt. As the forward lay on the ground, Leigh Pardoe went back to check his opponent was OK. Nice gesture.

Wolverhampton Casuals (green and white stripes / white / green): 1. Todd Henderson, 2. Carlo Franco, 3. Dan Rolfe, 4. Dean Clarke, 5. Daniel Lloyd, 6. George Williams, 7. Tom Maydew, 8. Craig Love (capt), 9. Mark Bellingham, 10. Matthew Bailey, 11. Sean Williams. Subs: 12. Dan Ware (not used), 14. Dan Pilgrim (for Clarke, 65), 15. Adrian Jones (not used), 16. Barry Evans (for Rolfe, ht), 17. Chris Henry (for Bellingham, 75). Manager: Carl Abbott.

Black Country Rangers (red with white hoop / red / red): 1. Jamie Wood, 2. Adam Fincher, 3. Adam Harris, 4. Russell Garner, 5. Wayne Brown, 6. Sam Wilkinson, 7. Alec Roberts, 8. Leigh Pardoe (capt), 9. Liam Hughes, 10. Craig Gregg, 11. Scott Stevenson. Subs: 12. Jozess Jackard (for Gregg, 63), 14. Paul Oakley (for Roberts, ht), 15. Adrian Lloyd (for Hughes, ht), 16. Alex Hammond (not used), 17. Jamie Hurdman (not used). Manager: Paul Garner.

Referee: M. Pearson.
Assistants: D. J. Andrews and C. Dolman.

1-0 Mark Bellingham (11)
2-0 Sean Williams (15)
3-0 Tom Maydew (40)
4-0 Dan Pilgrim (65)
5-0 Sean Williams (89)

Casuals: Dean Clarke (YC, 4)
Black Country: Russell Garner (YC, 21)