Wolverhampton Casuals 2 Shawbury United 1

Tuesday 23rd April 2013
A six-pointer tonight in the race to finish third in the Premier Division table and Casuals moved back into the top three with come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Shawbury United. In what was an entertaining end-to-end encounter, Robbie Millington put Shawbury in front midway through the first half. The visitors held the lead for just 11 minutes until Matt Bailey hammered home an equaliser for Casuals. Bailey scored what proved to be the winner four minutes after the restart and Shawbury finished with ten men after Paul McMullins picked up a second booking in stoppage time. The win extended Casuals’ current unbeaten run to 15 league games.

Wolverhampton Casuals 2 Shawbury United 1
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Brinsford Lane, Coven Heath
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (20 pages)
Weather: mild and dry

Even though they feint hopes of lifting the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division title have ended during the past week, Wolverhampton Casuals still have plenty to play for during the closing weeks of the season. With five games to go including tonight’s fixture, they were very much in contention for a top three finish and also had a 14-match unbeaten run to extend as well as a JW Hunt Cup Quarter Final against Heath Hayes to look forward to. Standing in the way of Cassies this evening were Shawbury United, the side currently in third position, two points better off with a game in hand.

For those of you unfamiliar with Wolverhampton Casuals, they are based on Brinsford Lane in Coven Heath, to the north of Wolverhampton off the southbound A449 between the Three Hammers Golf Complex and M54. The ground has a small stand containing fourth rows of benches. Founded in 1899, the club began as Wolverhampton Old Church FC and was first remained Wolverhampton Amateurs in 1914 and then Staffordshire Casuals in 1946 following a short-lived post-War merger with Old Wulfs FC. A further change of name to Wolverhampton Casuals came in 1981 when the club joined the West Midlands League where they have remained for over 30 years. Last season, they finished in third position with 85 points.

Programmes were on sale at the pay box just inside the entrance and, as always on my visits to Brinsford Lane, I was thankful to the club official in the hospitality room for letting me copy down the line-ups. They were also announced as the teams entered the pitch; announcements of goal scorers and substitutions continued during the game as well. Julie’s Cassies CafĂ© was a good place to head before kick-off and at half-time. As I mentioned to the man on the gate, one of the two programmes I purchased will be heading 'down under' to New South Wales in a couple of weeks time.

The programme editorial explained some significant facts about tonight’s game between fourth-placed Casuals (84 points from 37 games) and third-placed Shawbury (86 points from 36 games). By winning all of their remaining games, Casuals could reach 99 points and Shawbury 104 points. Casuals won the game at Shawbury earlier in the season 4-3 with an injury-time winning goal. Recently Shawbury visited Brinsford Lane and left with a crushing 7-0 victory over Darlaston Town.

The last sentence of the editorial whetted my appetite for the game, if it wasn’t already: ‘Spectators should enjoy quality football in a top of the table clash between two very strong sides.’

Casuals (in familiar green and white) got the game underway attacking the far end (A449 end) in the first half. While play was end-to-end, chances were scarce until Shawbury took the lead in the 21st minute. Lee Constantine got into the area down the left and pulled the ball back for Robbie Millington to fire home a low angled shot into the bottom left corner past the wrong-footed Stephen Taylor.

After captain Craig Love was replaced by Tom Maydew, Casuals got back on level terms in the 32nd minute. From a narrow angle on the right, Sean Williams hit a near-post shot which Shawbury goalkeeper Nick Ashley could only parry. The loose ball fell to Matt Bailey who hammered home the equaliser from a few yards out.

From a position where they needed to raise their game, Casuals were now in the ascendency though they needed a save from Taylor just before the break to keep the score at 1-1. The Casuals goalkeeper dived to his left to keep out a near-post shot from Millington.

Looking at Twitter during half-time, I spotted that second-placed AFC Wulfrunians (94 points from 38 games at the start of the evening) were losing 2-0 at Wednesfield. Leaders Lye Town (99 points from 39 games) don’t play again until Saturday when they visit Wolverhampton Sporting Community.

The second half couldn’t have started any better for Casuals as they took the lead in the 49th minute with what proved to be the decisive winning goal. Ray Facey played the ball low down the middle into the path of Mark Bellingham who appeared to be tripped. Before the referee had time to make a decision, the ball had run free to Bailey who slotted it into the bottom-left corner of the net.

Soon, Casuals threatened again as poor defending gifted a chance to Maydew who drove over the bar.

Shawbury thought they’d equalised in the 64th minute when Lester Alderson forced the ball over the line from Millington’s corner. But the referee spotted a handball and awarded a free-kick instead. The visitors continued to look for a second gaol and Casuals needed a last-ditch clearance by George Williams to keep out a goalbound shot from Harry Murphy.

Like Shawbury, Casuals also had a goal disallowed and the [correct] decision denied Bailey a hat-trick. Bekir Halil, Wearing the captain’s armband following the earlier departure of Love, fed Facey on the left who crossed low for Bailey to sidefoot home, albeit from an offside position.

Ashley produced a diving save in the 89th minute to turn a well-struck shot from substitute Chris Henry round the left-hand post.

After keeping his cards hidden for the first 75 minutes of the largely good-natured contest, Mr Price then produced four yellows in 15 minutes, two in the direction of Shawbury’s Paul McMullins who headed for the changing rooms a few minutes before the rest of the players.

Casuals cleverly wound down the clock in the closing stages to record their 27th league win of the season. I must be a lucky omen as my own run of recent Casuals games extended to seven without defeat with the last five being victories!

Wolverhampton Casuals (green and white stripes / white / green): 1. Stephen Taylor, 2. Ray Facey, 3. Luke Tudor, 4. John Clapp, 5. Daniel Lloyd, 6. George Williams, 7. Bekir Hahil, 8. Craig Love (capt), 9. Mark Bellingham, 10. Matt Bailey, 11. Sean Williams. Subs: 12. Angelo Franco (not used), 14. Adrian Jones (not used), 15. Tom Maydew (for Love, 25), 16. Barry Evans (for George Williams, 84), 17. Chris Henry (for Bellingham, 84). Manager: Carl Abbott.

Shawbury United (red/red/red): 1. Nick Ashley, 2. Harry Murphy, 3. Adam Groom, 4. Paul McMullins, 5. James Askey (capt), 6. Marc Stelland, 7. Lee Constantine, 8. Dan Beddows, 9. Robbie Millington, 10. Tom Ward, 11. Lester Alderson. Subs: 12. Dale Williams (for Beddows, 67), 14. Steve Giles (not used), 15. Stefan Holliday (not used), 16. Dan Stevens (not used), 17. Owen Lloyd (not used). Manager: Dave Richards.

Referee: J. Price.
Assistants: T. Ahern and R. Scott-Mullen.

Attendance: 50 (headcount)

Duration (45): first-half: 46:46; second-half: 47:21

0-1 Robbie Millington (21)
1-1 Matt Bailey (32)
2-1 Matt Bailey (49)

Casuals: Matt Bailey (YC, 76)
Shawbury: Marc Stelland (YC, 80), Paul McMullins (YC, 84), Paul McMullins (YC/RC, 90+1)