In a classic game of two halves Brereton Lion earned their place in the 3rd round of the Cannock Chase Cup with a stirring second half comeback. The Lion welcomed first division side Short Heath Poets to Armitage Lane. The visitors were full of confidence after a strong start in the league, comfortably beating local side Chase Spartans 6-1 last week. The Lion were on the opposite end of the scale, coming into this cup match on the back of three successive defeats in the Premier League.
In a positive sign Manager Craig Corrigan was finally able to field four substitutes, with Wright, Robertson, Southwell and Winter keeping the bench warm. Star players Cunningam and Cowlishaw were both absent and Italian Stallion Matty Hackett is close to a return alongside Franklin from his Spanish break. Corrigan started with a controversial 4-2-3-1 formation. Dan Cushen in goals with a defence of Hackett, Matyus, Cushen and Cockayne protected by Dutton and Daley. Crozier, Simspon and Deeley were supporting powerhouse Dunn in attack.
In a fairly even start both sides were trying to use the zip on the pitch to get their passing games going. Simpson was working hard to try and find space in his free role and Dunn was trying to use his strength to hold the ball up. Ten minutes in and disaster for the Lion when SHP (Short Heath Poets) scored the opening goal. A cross was put into the box too easily resulting in a close range finish. The Lion were guilty of being too quiet and waiting for the second ball instead of making it their's. A succession of Lion corners and long throws from Mark Hackett were testing the visiting defence, but credit to them as they constantly cleared their lines with brave defending. Action man style centre half Ben Cushen, bravely playing after a training ground injury, forced a superb save from close range on the half hour. More and more Lion half chances were being created, but despite Dunn and Deeley getting into decent areas the away keeper was not tested enough.
Short Heath Poets doubled their lead just after the half hour mark, a long throw not being cleared, again allowing a simple close range finish. The Lion were looking at a cup upset, never really settling into the half and carrying too many players who had not got out of bed. Only good defensive work from the Cushen brothers, combining to clear the ball off the line stopped the Lion coming in three nil down.
Time for the first "Sunday Roast" of the season from manager Corrigan, who admitted his starting formation was a mistake and altered things. The players were blasted with some harsh home truths and threatened with an early triple substitution unless a goal was scored in the first ten minutes of the half...............
Step forward Debo, who despite admitting fatigue at half time went on to have a cracking thirty minutes, with his powerful presence and skilful touch overpowering the visitors. The Lion got a goal back on 48 minutes, Mark Hackett hurling in a throw to Debo who headed it goalwards, strong pressure was put on the keeper from JR Dutton, who missed the ball as it trickled into the net. Credit to referee Nigel Kerr, who allowed the goal to stand despite the away fans calling for a push. 1-2 down and this goal transformed the Lion, who looked a completely different side from the first half. Crozier and Deeley were seeing more ball down the flanks and Simpson was finding more time in key areas. Superb grafting in the centre from Daley and Dutton made sure the Lion bossed the midfield. When SHP did try to attack, the Lion defence held strong with Jimmy Matyus in particular using his pace and strength to good effect.
Ben Cushen thought he had equalised when a powerful header rattled the bar. At this point in the game it was all Lion, the pressure on the away defence being relentless. On the hour mark, Dunn, who despite not being able to get around as much as he would of wanted found the key equaliser for The Lion. Deeley popped up on the left side on the area, and with great composure found a lofted cross nto the area. Despite being closely marked Dunn headed past the keeper. 2-2 and game on it was now time to introduce the flying Pig into the match. Sensing that the SHP defence were tiring quickly, manager Corrigan made an attacking change with birthday boy Tommy Wright replacing Daley and going into attack alongside Dunn, with Simpson making a midfield diamond with JR Dutton. It was all Lion now, with the side streaming forward to try and grab a winner. Credit though to Dan Cushen, who with the game all square pulled off an amazing save, clawing the ball out of the top corner of the goal.
Once again target man Dunn had a hand in another goal, his clever flick on finding Wright, who accelerated past the defence to smash the ball past the keeper. 3-2 now to the Lion and well on top. Crozier was showing his high fitness levels, bursting past his defensive marker time and time again. Deeley on the opposite flank was always showing for the ball and showed a very tidy first touch throughout the game. Tommy Wright got his second of the game and wrapped up the match with a fine individual goal. Deeley missed a good chance at the end, and the Lion had two late headed goals, one from Dunn and one from Crozier, disallowed for pushing. Young Jay Robertson stepped on the pitch for the last ten minutes, adding much needed fresh legs and a nice passing abilty.
FT 4-2.... A superb turn around, a great spirit and some fine footballing displays. Onwards and upwards into the next round of this cup. Another cup match next week, the Staffs Cup against Sporting Khalsa, with roll on roll off subs in place. With Dunn absent players will be training hard to try and get in the line up for this game.
MOM= a few candidates, with Wright making up for sleeping in by adding a real threat when he came on, Crozier for his second half display, superb displays once again by Dutton and Ben Cushen, but the winner is Dunn with his power, presence and finishing abilty giving the Lion the chance to get back into this tough cup match.