Causeway United 1-2 Stone Old Alleynians
A late Matt Thomas wonder-strike booked Alleynians’ place in the semi-final of the JW Hunt cup, at the expense of Midland Football League side Causeway United.
The Old Boys had negotiated a lively start from the hosts before Luke Askey opened the scoring, but were pegged back just before half-time.
For the second time in three days, the visitors survived trial by aerial bombardment, again led by impressive performances from Askey and central defensive partner Ian Whalley.
The hosts started quickly, hoping to catch the Old Boys sleeping after a late arrival in Halesowen, but despite a shaky start, the visitors quickly got up to speed.
Most of the early chances fell to the heads of the Causeway strikers, but they were unable to trouble Lewis Paglia.
A rare expedition into the opposition half proved to be what was needed for Alleynians. Clever play between Danny Heard and Grant Bigham won the visitors a corner, and from that Askey rose highest to meet Thomas’ pinpoint delivery.
Heard’s attempts to double the lead were thwarted by some excellent goalkeeping. The striker reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box, and his deflected shot nearly snuck past the wrong-footed keeper, who flung out his left-hand whilst going the other way to save impressively.
Just as it looked like the visitors would go into the break on top, a hopeful long ball into the box wasn’t dealt with by Paglia, leaving the Causeway number ten with the easiest of tap-ins to level the scores.
The leveller boosted the hosts, and the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with much of the game played in the Alleynians half. Causeway looked the likeliest to score, and Lewis Paglia was forced into a string of saves to keep the hosts out, including a brave stop that left three players crumpled in a heap inside the box.
There was a lengthy break in play mid-way through the second half, when one of the linesmen was injured in a collision with a Causeway player, and had to be replaced by a spectator, but that was not enough to break the concentration of the visitors who continued to deal with the wave of attacks that came their way.
And it was left to Thomas to snatch the victory in the final minutes. An Old Boys counter attack broke down but the winger was first to react to a loose ball in the middle of the pitch and struck a superb, swerving and dipping volley into the top corner to cue delight and celebrations on the Alleynians bench.
Manager Matt Smith was ecstatic with his sides result.
“I’m absolutely delighted, it might not have been the best we have played this season, but the effort that the lads put in was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for more.” Said Smith
“In a game like this against higher league opposition, on a tough pitch, I was happy for us to drop off and let them dictate play, and we kept our shape superbly.
Again, like on Saturday, the back four were amazing. And it was extra pleasing to see Pags (Lewis Paglia), recover from the mistake and have a blinder.” He added.
Stone OA: Paglia, Bigham, Askey (c), Whalley, Taylor, Sinclair, C Heard, Hodgkinson, Thomas, D Heard, Dibden