Brereton Lion once again put their poor league form behind them and tasted victory against a strong Hawkins Sports side in the quarter final of the Lichfield Charity Cup.
A chaotic morning for management team Corrigan and Phillips. Many players were absent through work, too many players overslept and JR Dutton and Stockhall never made the game. The Lion had a strong 11 and had to go with it. Goalkeeper Sam "The Cat" Winter and youth team prospect Connor Phillips were acting as emergency subs.
Dan Cushen was in goals, with Cockayne, Matyus, Cushen and Franklin in defence. Midfield saw Crutchley return for his first start in 18 months alongside teenage playmaker Jake Daley. Houston and Cunningham were on the flanks with Dunn and Wright up front. Once again The Lion were forced into a more direct style of play due to a pitch that despite Dennis Hibb's superb efforts at rolling was very boggy and only getting worse as the game went on.
The opposition were Hawkins Sports, currently doing very well in Div2 and full of confidence in this cup after knocking out Magic Lantern in the previous round 3-0. Hawkins started the strongest with too many Lion players still feeling the ale in their system. Hawkins missed some good early chances. In a repeat of last week The Lion let in a poor goal early on. A through ball found the visiting forward too easily and he tucked it past big Dan Cushen for the opening goal. 0-1.
Hawkins were forcing the play, making the first ball and troubling Cushen and Matyus. Hawkins had a number of corners and were looking to add goal number two from set pieces. The Lion defence held firm and slowly the home side started to get into the game more. Dunn was winning all his headers and Houston and Cunningham started to see a little more of the ball. Wright was trying hard to use his pace to get in behind the away defence.
The Lion nearly scored an equaliser with unlikely goal getters Cockayne and Crutchley both missing headers which they both should of buried. Crutchley rattled the bar from six yards and Cockayne headed wide after making a good run to the back post.
After struggling initially The Lion got their equaliser on the half hour mark after great work from birthday boy Alex Houston. A poor clearance from the Hawkins keeper was pounced on by Houston who flew up the wing and crossed for the Pig who happily sidefooted the ball past the keeper. 1-1
This goal seemed to settle The Lion down and more time was spent attacking. Houston nearly scored but was denied by a good save from the visiting keper. The Lion took the lead when a throw in reached Dunn just inside the eighteen yard box. Despite having four defenders around him the powerhouse forward juggled the ball like a young Dennis Bergkamp and forced his way to the byline. Dunn unselfishly pulled the goal back to the waiting Cockayne who was delighted to score a tap in. 2-1
This goal certainly changed the half time team talk and The Lion were looking better. HT 1-1
The Lion knew it was going to be a testing second half. The opposition had a full set of subs and were looking to use the fresh legs to their advantage. The Lion dug deep and were always trying to hit the flanks early to counter attack. It is fair to say that once again Hawkins started stronger again and they were desperate for an equaliser. A very tight cup match and both sides were going flat out to try and get another goal.
It was Hawkins who got the next goal, a cross in the box finished by a tidy header 2-2. Manager Corrigan was fearing the worst and Hawkins were looking strong. Only minutes later though and Cunny was chopped on the left wing. Cunny stepped up to take the kick from the flank and everyone thought he was going to float it towards Dunn and Cushen at the back post. Instead Cunny hit the ball with wicked power and the keeper could not stop it flying into the back of the net. 3-2. The touch, control and skill that Cunny showed at times in the 2nd half was top notch.
Hawkins were now desperate to equalise again and threw everything at The Lion. Credit to Dunn who pulled his 20stone frame back into the box time and time again to help defend corners. Matyus was now dominant in the air and Franklin and Cockayne were having superb games at full back. Jake Daley and Crutchley were holding the slippy midfield together well whilst Alex Houston was full of running on the right wing.
The Lion really did work well as a side to protect their lead. Credit to all the players for the workrate shown, there will be some sore legs in the morning. Cunny hobbled off with 8 minutes to go so on stepped The Cat who was asked to work as a lone striker with Wright now helping out in midfield. The Cat was full of running and nearly got in behind on goal. Alex Houston nearly got the goal he deserved when he raced on to a lovely Dun through ball but he blasted over.
Very hard to judge Man of the match. Everyone has received a very high rating for the commitment and desire to keep going with 11 men after a sloppy start. It was great to have Crutchley back and I think we can all see what he brings to the team with his tactical discipline, touch and steady passing game. Matyus ended the game strongly. Houston and Cunny were on fire in the 2nd half. Dunn showed time after time that he is a class act. But the MOM award is heading to Cannock with Matty Cockayne, who was an injury doubt before the match, but battled well , got his goal and made many defensive clearances all game.
The Lion will now more than likely face Ridware Oak in the semi final. Lets hammer them!
Next Week = Free week! Not sure why!!!! We have got loads of games to catch up on and we get issued a free week! strange!