Solid point

Tuesday 1st October 2013
Pelsall Villa 0 Stafford Town 0
St Mary’s Hospice Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Bush Ground, Walsall Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (16 pages)
Weather: cold and dry [coat needed]

I love nostalgic revisits, especially to places like Pelsall Villa, where my previous trip occurred years or even a couple of decades ago. Walking through the turnstile from the small car park at the Walsall Road end, my first impression, like Boston Town on Saturday, was wow! Emerging into a large seated stand, which once stood as a covered terrace at the old GKN Sankey ground, my eyes initially looked down the slope to the goal and trees at the far end. To my right, straddling halfway, were the dugouts and to my left were an assortment of interesting buildings and structures making up the tea bar, hospitality room, changing room and old stand.

It was good to be back at the Bush Ground after all these years.

The midweek games I’ve seen so far this season have been few and far between. Today, it was a case of pulling out all the stops for a first look at Stafford Town and at the same time made a first visit to Villa’s Bush Ground in 24 years. While the slope from goal to goal is obviously still a natural feature, the ground has undergone much development with the aforementioned large stand at the top of the hill and floodlights. The game itself, watched in good company, was better than the scoreline suggests though most of the key incidents occurred during the final ten minutes.

Apart from the odd blip in both the FA Cup and Vase, the 2013/14 campaign has been a good one for Stafford Town (6th with 17 points from nine games). A win tonight would have taken the Reds up into second position in the table and within two points of current leaders Bolehall Swifts.

Pelsall (13th with 14 points from 12 games) may be in the bottom half of the table but are still on the ‘Road to Wembley’ in the FA Carlsberg Vase following a 1-0 home win over West Midlands (Regional) League side Sporting Khalsa. They face a first round tie against Coventry Sphinx towards the end of the month.

The teams met at Evans Park last month with Stafford running out 4-0 winners.

Attacking down the slope in the first half, Pelsall (in red and black) got the game underway and put Stafford under early pressure with goalkeeper Ben Sturgeon producing a decent save to keep out Mark Woolbridge’s 13th minute shot.

Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested during the remainder of the first half. Town’s two chances were a long-range Jake Turner drive and a shot from captain Joe Woodward which looped over the bar off a defender.

Changes started to be created a bit more frequently during the second half. Dan Brown fired wide of the Pelsall goal while Sturgeon remained alert at the other end to block a shot from Woolbridge with his boot.

Pelsall thought they’d taken the lead in the 68th minute. Richard Taudrey’s initial shot was saved by Sturgeon and Alan Wilkes slotted home the rebound from an offside position.

With time running out for both sides, Morgan Hurley powered a close-range shot towards goal in the 88th minute which hit defender James Lewis on the line. Referee Gould pointed to the spot and dismissed the unlucky defender off for handball, a touch harsh I felt but the letter of the law. Up stepped Brown but he sent the spot kick high over the bar. No chance of using Da Vinci Code clichés to describe the winner, no chance of describing the ball as spinning away from Pelsall’s goalkeeper Panasar and my run of 52 consecutive games without a 0-0 at an end. I did, however, have an enjoyable evening.

On the plus side, it certainly was a solid performance from Stafford to earn a point which lifted them into the top five and extended their unbeaten run in the league to four games.

I found Pelsall Villa a welcoming club and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit.

Pelsall Villa (red and black stripes): 1. Amarit Panasar, 2. Scott Summer, 3. John Chambers, 4. Ash Lawley, 5. James Lewis, 6. Richard Taundry, 7. Carl Morris (capt), 8. Michael Murray, 9. Mark Woolbridge, 10. Alan Wilkes, 11. Jordan Gaou. Subs: 12. Andrew Bentley (not used), 14. Kaine Mole (for Wilkes, 73), 15. Alex Parmmenter (not used), 16. Gavin Davis (not used), 17. Kieren Miller (not used). Manager: Craig Timmins.

Stafford Town (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Ben Sturgeon, 2. Mat Dockerty, 3. James Wild, 4. Chris McComisky, 5. Joe Woodward (capt), 6. Jamie Cartwright, 7. George Burslem, 8. Francis Dacres, 9. Dan Brown, 10. Adam Cunningham, 11. Jake Turner. Subs: 12. Morgan Hurley (for Cunningham, 84), 14. Alex Barnfather (for Turner, 76), 15. Dan Stockhall (for Cartwright, 69), 16. Matt Oulton (not used), 17. Jon Warburton (not used). Player-manager: Adam Cunningham.

Referee: Richard Gould
Assistants: Dave Evans and Jonathan Nelson.

Attendance: 30 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 45:42; second-half: 48:20

Goals: none

Pelsall: James Lewis (RC, 88)
Stafford: Jamie Cartwright (YC, 46), Joe Woodward (YC, 63), Francis Dacres (YC, 90)