Stone Old Alleynians 2-1 AFC Ludlow
Two late goals were enough to send the Old Boys second after a dramatic victory over fellow high-flyers AFC Ludlow at Wellbeing Park.
Goals from Carl Dibden and Danny Heard either side of a Ludlow reply earned the 3 points for Alleynians, who were reduced to ten men after goalkeeper Lewis Paglia was dismissed for protesting about a handball in the build up to the visitor’s equaliser.
Managed Matt Smith was also sent from the dugout after protesting about the ruling out of a Luke Askey header at the start of the second half.
A bright and energetic start from the visitors kept the Stone defence alert, but after weathering the storm the hosts began to grow into the game. Luke Askey headed narrowly wide from an Adam Tomkinson corner and then Cameron Sinclair blazed over when a knock down fell to him in the box.
Stone thought that they had the lead in the opening minutes of the second half, when a Tomkinson free kick found Askey at the far post who nodded home whilst being wrestled to the ground by the Ludlow centre back, however the linesman felt that it was Askey who had been doing the fouling and disallowed the goal, much to the frustration of the Alleynians bench.
Then shortly after, another coming together between Askey and the Ludlow number five resulted in yellow cards for both men, a decision which angered Smith and led to the referee asking him to leave the dugout.
Substitute Sam Hodgkinson should have opened the scoring when he raced clear to find himself one on one with the keeper, but unfortunately he put his shot over the bar.
Lewis Paglia was then on hand to keep the score level; a clever cross from the Ludlow right-winger found an unmarked attacker inside the six yard box. But Paglia, hampered by a hamstring injury, somehow managed to spread himself and divert the effort over the bar from point blank range.
Danny Heard was then denied by the woodwork, some nifty footwork inside the area saw him evade several tackles, but his powerful drive slammed against the bar.
It fell to Carl Dibden to break the deadlock. A clever pass through from Heard saw the frontman go clear. His first effort was saved by the keeper, but Dibden was calm enough to bury the rebound.
It looked like Stone would see the game off, but when a high, hanging cross was put into the box, Paglia came to claim it and tangled with a Ludlow striker, who appeared to use his hands to knock it away from the keeper before rolling the ball into the back of the net. The referee awarded the goal and dismissed Paglia for his protests.
Tomkinson then came close to putting Stone back in front when a loose ball fell to him in the box, but like Sinclair earlier, his shot went over the bar.
But deep into injury time Alleynians secured the points. A right-wing cross from Hodgkinson found Tomkinson at the far post, and his volley led to a goal line scramble before Heard slammed home the winner.
Manager Matt Smith was ecstatic with his side’s fourth straight win.
“I’m really pleased with the win, which caps off a great week for us having won all three games we have played. I had to make a few changes to freshen the side up and I think it shows the spirit and character we have in the side now that we scored the winner with ten men in stoppage time.” Said Smith
“I have to say though the officials were dreadful today throughout, we had a goal disallowed right after half time which was an absurd decision which would have changed the game.
“There were multiple things they got wrong and their attitude and the way they spoke to the players was not right. Thankfully we won the game ourselves and they didn’t affect us getting the three points. We have a tough game next week where we need to work hard to continue to move forward.” He added.
Stone OA: Paglia, Bigham, Askey, Whalley, Taylor (Hewitt), Sinclair (Hodgkinson), Griffiths(c), Wilson, Tomkinson, D Heard, Dibden