Saturday 5th October 2013
Brocton 2 Bolehall Swifts 1
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Silkmore Lane, Stafford
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (36 pages)
Weather: dry, sunny spells

As a supporter, I don’t think there is a better feeling than seeing a team you follow score a late winner. I felt a sense of real elation at Silkmore Lane around 4-45pm this afternoon when a 90th-minute David Berks thunderbolt sent Combination leaders Brocton three points clear at the top with a last gasp 2-1 victory. The stunning goal was a fitting end to an absorbing and tight contest between two sides who will be challenging for promotion to the Midland Alliance all season.

The first Saturday of every month normally forces me to look at the fixtures close to home and, today, I didn’t need much persuading to watch a top-of-the-table clash on my doorstep. Both Brocton and visitors Bolehall Swifts have made an impressive start to the season, so much so, they went into this afternoon’s game at the top of the pile level on 22 points.

The Badgers (1st with 22 points from eight games), who won each of their opening six league games, remain unbeaten and were involved in an amazing topsy-turvy game at Nuneaton Griff three days ago. I followed the action on Twitter and Brocton eventually claimed the points by the odd goal in nine.

WON Sat 10 Aug – Brocton 4 Coventry Copsewood 0
WON Tues 13 Aug – Pelsall Villa 1 Brocton 7
WON Sat 24 Aug – Littleton 1 Brocton 3
WON Mon 26 Aug – Brocton 4 Stafford Town 1
WON Tue 3 Sep – Atherstone Town 2 Brocton 4
WON Tue 10 Sep – Brocton 2 Lichfield City 1
DRAW Sat 28 Sep – Lichfield City 1 Brocton 1
WON Tue 2 Oct – Nuneaton Griff 4 Brocton 5

Since the home game against Lichfield, which was covered by Pitch-side Stories, Brocton narrowly lost 2-1 in the FA Cup at Halesowen Town and progressed to the FA Carlsberg Vase First Round with a 5-3 home win over Wolverhampton Casuals after extra time.

Visitors Bolehall (22 points from 10 games) lost top spot on Wednesday and have had also won six league games including their last four.

For those unfamiliar with Silkmore Lane ground, it is the former home of Staffordshire Police and lay derelict until Brocton developed it into their smart permanent new home with two pitches, changing rooms and a hospitality room. The floodlight main pitch boasts a 110-seater stand.

Team news, as always, was provided on the whiteboard displayed in the hospitality room window and showed Brocton lacking Sam Bell and Jack Lees, who had both travelled with Stafford Rangers to Frickley Athletic.

Time for the action to commence, after I had a quick chat with the ever-popular Mick Fox (@backtogoalfox).

While Bolehall (in blue) got the first half underway defending the changing rooms end, it was Brocton who made the biggest impact during the opening minutes. Dan Shore fired wide from 20 yards out and Paul McMahon fed Craig Hulme who shot over the bar.

Gary Fife has been scoring goals since I first saw him feature for Stafford Rangers as a 17-year-old back in 2003. And he wasted no time in adding to his 200+ goal haul by putting the Badgers ahead in the 6th minute. Dan Lomas (pictured) provided the assist and Fife got forward from midfield to the edge of the area where he hammered a low shot past Bolehall goalkeeper Tom McNulty.

Brocton needed to thank Adam Whitehouse for keeping them in front a minute after taking the lead. The goalkeeper did well to block a shot from the lively Steve Day with his legs.

As chances continued to be created, an inswinging free-kick from Fife out of the left was headed off the line by a defender. Almost 2-0 but not quite.

Watching the first half in the company of the Reverend Jeff Reynolds, the contest remained a tight one with most of Bolehall’s attempts on goal being shot from outside the area.

McMahon, a recent signing from neighbours Stafford Town, forced Tom McNulty into a raction save.

It was, perhaps, inevitable that Bolehall would get back on level terms before the interval, which they did in the 42nd minute. Day exchanged passes with Chris Sturridge-Packer to get a clear shot of goal and he duly fired home off the hand of Whitehouse.

A half-time score of Brocton 1 Bolehall Swifts 1 was a fair reflection of the opening 45 minutes.

Brocton made a change at the interval with Dan Shore replaced by Damien Charie, who I remember playing for Hednesford Town a few years ago.

A nice move down the left led to a decent cross from Terry Carpenter which was inches too high for unmarked Sturridge-Packer.

Brocton had to survive some pressure from Bolehall at the start of the second half and just after the hour mark, Fife forced a diving save out of McNulty who gathered the resulting loose ball at the second attempt.

Amongst the crowd of about 110 was a contingent from Stafford Town, without a game and who should have been playing Bolehall until today’s fixtures were altered to allow Brocton to play one of their games in hand.

Both sides went close to taking the lead midway through the second half. McNulty parried a shot from Fife and Sturridge-Packer drove over the Brocton bar from the edge of the area.

With time running out in a game that could still have three possible outcomes, Brocton mounted a strong finish during the last ten minutes. Berks hit a well-struck long-range drive which beat the diving McNulty and shaved the outside of the right-hand post.

The Bolehall goalkeeper, a minute later, dived to right to hold a low-angled shot from Fife that was heading for the bottom-left corner.

The watch had ticked past 44 minutes of the second half when the game’s champagne moment came. Charie found Berks 20 yards out who sent an unstoppable volley past NcNulty. 2-1 to the Badgers!!!

There still time for Bolehall to move one last attack. Carpenter delivered a left-win corner which Day headed across the face of goal. I didn’t spot it myself but I’m told that Mick Fox’s celebration was on a par with the goal!

At full-time, it was clear that the win meant so much to the Brocton players, supporters and officials.

Midland Combination football in Stafford is buzzing at the moment. Brocton are top of the table and still involved in the FA Carlsberg Vase which Stafford Town sit in fifth position. Both are in action on Tuesday; Brocton host Bromsgrove Sporting in the league while Town hope to make progress in the Walsall Senior Cup at home to Midland Alliance outfit Tividale.

Brocton (green with white sleeves / white / green): 1. Adam Whitehouse, 2. Charlie Jones, 3. Jamie Evans, 4. Matt Skinner, 5. David Ablewhite, 6. Craig Hulme, 7. Dan Shore, 8. Paul McMahon, 9. Gary Fife, 10. David Berks (capt), 11. Dan Lomas. Subs: 12. Damien Charie (for Shore, ht), 14. Liam Haycock (for Hulme, 71), 15. Andy Bourne (for McMahon, 67), 16. Dale Roberts (not used), 17. Jethro Jarrett (not used). Manager: John Berks.

Bolehall Swifts (blue/blue/blue): 1. Tom McNulty, 2. Nick Heath (capt), 3. Brett Larkins, 4. Greg Dickie, 5. Joe Obi, 6. Mick Pollard, 7. Steve Day, 8. Terry Carpenter, 9. Chris Sturridge-Packer, 10. Dave Yonwin, 11. Chris Cowley. Subs: 12. Mitchell Piggon (for Cowley, 64), 14. Kyle Turner (for Sturridge-Packer, 82), 15. Jamie Abbott (for Heath, 72), 16. Lewis Chadwick (not used).

Referee: Dan Westwood.
Assistants: Peter Dobson and Mark Winston.

Attendance: 110 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 47:05; second-half: 47:20

1-0 Gary Fife (6)
1-1 Steve Day (42)
2-1 David Berks (90)

Cards: none