Brereton Lion made the short trip to Huntington in their first away match in the Cannock Chase Premier League. The Lion owed The Littleton one after a heartbreaking penalty defeat to them in last season's Cannock Chase Cup Final.
The Lion made one forced change from last week's great victory over Rugeley United with Stockhall replacing the raving Ashley Carter in midfield. Once again manager Corrigan opted for a safety first 4-5-1 formation. The defence consisited of D Cushen, Chandler, B Cushen, Dutton and Franklin. Midfield: Daley, Crutchley, Stockhall, Cowlishaw and Simpson with Dunn as the target man.
It was fair to say that The Littleon started the game stronger. The Lion, wearing their superb new Nike away kit, supplied by Hawkins Logistics, never settled and the home side were gambling on an all out attack strategy. Dutton and Cushen were working overtime in defence trying to stop the pacey home attacks and Chandler and Franklin were up against two tricky wingers who were always trying to beat them and whip in dangerous crosses. After a few hairy moments and some rollockings from the Lion management The Lion finally started to play some football and combat the Littleton attack. The Littleton were well known for winning last season's league one title with a physical approach and they were living up to their reputation with some over the top tackles. Simpson, as per usual, seemed to be on the end of most of the kicks but kept bravely getting the ball down and playing football. Simpson and Franklin on the left seem to have a natural rappport and they were always looking to play the ball to feet and start of The Lion attacks.
The Lion took the lead midway through the first half with a role reversal from forwards Dunn and Cowlishaw. It is normally Dunn who is in charge of winning the flick ons but this time it was his chief support in attack, Mr Sammy Cowlishaw who leapt well to win a great flick on from a Lion free kick. Dunn gambled on the flick and in typical calm Debo style found the net with a great finish. 1-0 Lion.
This goal seemed to settle The Lion down. Stockhall and Crutchley were bossing the midfield and keeping a close eye on Littletons midfield dangerman. Jake Daley, was once again proving to be The Lion's star utility player and he was putting in a great shift on the right wing and always looked a threat on the ball. The way The Lion were playing it looked like an away win was on the cards, but...................................................
Up stepped Rugeley referee Kevin Williscroft. Sam Chandler was once again proving what a great signing he has been by showing his pace, strength and heading abilty at right back. After winning a tackle Changy went to fetch the ball for a Lion throw in. This enraged The Littletons "MAD-DOG" Callum who raced over aggresively to Changy in an almost karate kick approach to get the ball. Chandler raised his hands to protect himself and was then grabbed and assaulted by members of the home crowd. Unbelievably Kev Williscroft then decided to show Changy the red card for raising his hands! Shocking stuff! The only person in the Huntington area who thought Chandler deserved a red card was Kev Williscroft!! Disgrafecully poor refeering and a real test for this young Lion side.
The Lion done well to get men behind the ball and keep the scoreline 1-0 at half time.
HT 1-0 LION
The half time team talk was spent trying to calm players down, with Cowlishaw in particular enraged by the red card. Crozier replaced Dunn in the lone forward role, with Daley going to right back, Stockhall right wing and a 4-4-1 formation being put into place. Emphasis was placed on work rate and getting behind the ball to stay strong.
The Lion got off to the worst start possible in the 2nd half by conceding an early equaliser. The Littletons left back was their top scorer last season and he lined up a direct free kick from 25 yards out. The left backs tame shot was heading staright for Dan Cushen's hands before a wicked deflection took it into the back of the net.
The Littlton now had the advantage in the game and sniffed blood. With The Lion playing with 10 men and defending down the slope it was looking like The Littleton were going to run away with game. The Littleton took the lead on the 53rd minute with a powerful shot from the right winger just finding its way past Dan Cushen into the Lion net at the near post.
Now this was a real test for The Lion side. 2-1 down and with 10 men it was not looking good. Many sides would have simply threw in the towel and gone on to lose by 4 or 5 goals but The Lion side grew stronger and stronger as the game went on. Corrigan used up his remaining two subs by sending on Harry Wright at full back for the injured Franklin and the exciting Alex Houston for the tiring Cowlishaw. Crozier was working hard up front but at times his touch let him down when through on goal. Stockhall was showing his class on theright wing and a big pat on the back, once again, to Jake Daley who's surging runs and skilful play from right back were a massive part of The Lion getting back into this game.
There seemed to be a collectiveness about The Lion side and not one player stopped working, running and chasing down The Littleton players. If anything, despite being a player down The Lion looked the fitter side and were determined to snatch at least a point. Mr Williscroft was busy with his notebook and pencil, booking B Cushen, Stockhall, Cowlishaw and Crozier in the second half for various infringements.
Despite the determined play from The Lion it started to look like the Littleton were going to get the home win. Simpson whipped in agreat cross to Stockhall who blazed over.
With 10 minutes to go Corrigan opted for a 3-4-2 formation with young Harry Wright offering pace up front alongside Crozier, who was now struggling with a groin injury after a powerful sprint to goal. Wright, a Hednesford town youth team player, had been asking Corrigan for a chance up front all week, citing his speed and powerful shot as the reasons he should be a forward.
In the last minute of normal time Simpson picked up the ball on the halfway line and clipped a superb through ball to the pacey Wright. Credit to The Littleton linesman who refused to stick up his flag incorrectly, as most cheating linesmen would do. Wright got away from the defence and beat the keeper with a well placed shot, BUT the ball hit the post and trickled out. Well done to Wright who did not panic, and somehow beat the player on the line with a (scuffed) well taken finish.
What an ending to the game! There was still time for a Littleton attack which was met with a superb block by B Cushen. The Littleton had a corner and every Lion player was in the box and trying to mark up. Fortunately The Littleton corner taker mis hit it and the game was over.
FULL TIME 2-2
A great comeback to get a point at a tough ground. Still gutted at how poorly the ref handled the Changy incident. It really did look and feel like The Lion had enough about us to go on and win the game. But, incidents happen in football and the way that The Lion reacted to the double whammy of losing the lead and being a player down was pleasing. Well done to Harry Wright, a well taken goal by a superb signing. So pleasing to see so many young players coming through. Heads up please to Jimmy Matyus and Keegan Grant, who will no doubt be gutted about not getting on the pitch, but must understand that they both have big parts to play this eason and please lads keep your heads up. Well done to all LIONS!! :)
MOM: Ben Cushen; Well done to Ben who once again defended well, battled, organised and never gave the opposition forward a kick.