Brereton Lion made it six league wins in a row with a well deserved victory over last season's league winners Belt Road.
Brereton Lion were determined to try and jump into 4th place in the league, an amazing achievement seeing that The Lion were rock bottom and looking doomed only four weeks ago. Lion were missing a few regular players who were absent through work, travel and injury such as Cushen, Simpson, Dunn, Crutchley and Matyus and had thoughts on the big final on Sunday but still fielded a strong side. Dan Cushen in nets, Deeley and Franklin at full back and a make shift centre back pairing of Hackett and young Jake Daley. Midfield was Houston, Cowlishaw, Stockhall and Crozier. The front two of Wright and Cunningham were both trying out minor injurys for the final.
Belt Road fielded a strong 11 hoping to get the 3 points they need to finish runners up. Belt Road had beat The Lion twice already this season and their experienced side looked confident before kick off. However The Lion were well up for this game and ripped into The Belt side from the off. Cowlishaw and Stockhall in particular were very impressive in the centre and were really strong both with and without the ball. Houston and Crozier were flying up the wings and desperate to score.
The Lion were guilty of trying to hit a "wonder pass" and were not keeping the ball well enough. Whenever The Lion did play quick, two touch pass and move football they ripped the Belt Road defence wide open.
Whenever Dan Cushen was tested he was back to his usual high standards. Daley and Hackett were working well together in defence, keeping a close eye on the Belt Road dangerman Deakin. Deeley was bombing on from right back, trying to attack the space left by the roaming Houston. Franklin was solid as a rock at left back and determined to nail his plae for the final.
The Lion opened the scoring after 20 minutes when a Belt Road defender miscued his attempted clearance in the box. The ball span to Cunny who calmly slotted the ball past the keeper from six yards.
The Lion had the better of the first half and seemed to settle on the ball better. Belt Road had a few attacking moves but they looked a little sluggish and never really attacked with any outstanding pace or movement.
The second half was nearly all Lion attacking. Belt Road tried to press on by playing a high defensive line combined with an attacking 3/5/2 formation but this just left more room for this pacey Lion side to counter attack into. Cuningham was giving Belt Road player manager Will Tranter lots of grief and Tranter was forced to pull out the rough tackles. It must be noted that this HAS BEEN a strong Belt Road side. But I use the word HAS BEEN as they now appear to be carrying too many players who are getting on a bit and they could not compete with the energy levels of the younger, fitter Lion side.
Salt stepped onto the pitch for Wright on fifty minutes and showed that despite suffering from injury problems all season there is no one better at keeping the ball for The Lion than this wizard. The surging runs from midfield by Stockhall were causing Belt Road lots of problems. Credit to The Lion attack, some of the through balls were superb. Cunny thought he had got himself an assist when he slipped the ball through to Crozier who was one on one with the keeper. However Crozier took the ball too close to the keeper who bravely saved low down at Croziers feet. WIth the game nearing the end Crozier was getting chance after chance but unfortuanetly he could not add a second goal for The Lion. Whilst Crozier was kicking himself after the game for squandering five or six decent chances I was delighted that his workrate and willigness to take a gamble got him into the goalscoring spots. #STATS
Whenever Belt Raod did attack they found a solid Lion defence in their way. Big shout out to young Jake Daley, who displayed a massive set of goal kicks and had a great game at sweeper, always in the right spot to clear the ball. To keep a clean sheet against Belt Road is no easy task so well done lads. Also Mark Hackett kept up his strong run of great defensive displays, proving that he really is Mr.Dependable at the back by playing all across the back four now this season.
Lezniak stepped onto the pitch with 15 minutes to go and showed some superb touches to keep the ball well. Cheered on by his young son Wezzy was full of running and enjoyed his cameo forward appearance.
Goal number two never came for The Lion, which was a shame, but it was never really panic stations and the game fizzled out for a well deserved away win for The Lion.
Credit to the lads who could of moped about and been down after Sundays poor defeat. The league form that the Lion have showed meant that The Lion never really had to win this game but the lads certainly played like they had to and the workrate at times was pleasing.
Its going to be a BLOODY HARD final on Sunday. The Littleton have already completed the double and will be looking to complete the treble by adding the Cannock Chase Cup to their collection. But if The Lion work hard, play quick attacking football and dont moan at each other we have proved we cant beat anyone on our day.
MOM= Welldone to Jake Daley who played as a sweeper without moaning, played well and looked strong. Well done Jake!!!