Brereton Lion made it third time lucky, beating Yates Sports in this Cannock Chase Cup Semi Final, and finally progressed into a cup final on their third attempt of the season. The match needed a late winning goal by star winger Alex Houston, who got his first goal of the season with a very important strike on 88 minutes.
The Lion were able to field a strong side but were short on attacking options with Cunningham, Dunn, Simpson and Matty Hackett all unavailable for the game. Sam Deeley stepped off the bench into a midfield role, alongside the dependable Crutchley. The skilful Stockhall was also rewarded with a start after impressing as a sub in the midweek game. Stochall was charged with supporting the front three of Houston, Colwishaw and Wright. The defence featured Mark Hackett, Cushen, Dutton and Franklin.
Yates Sports were full of confidence after beating The Lion in the league 2-0 earlier in the season, with local lad Jack Jangston impressing at sweeper. Langy was not present for this game but Yates still fielded a very experienced side, with Saturday players all over the park for them.
The Lion started strong with Cowlishaw and Stocky always looking to pass it to each-others feet and then run at the away defence. The Yates keeper was struggling with a leg injury and he was not comfortable receiving the ball at feet. Half chances fell to Cowlishaw and Wright and Stockhall was testing out the keeper with some wicked long range efforts. Yates were trying hard to play on the break, with a strong target man supported by two pacey wingers in attack. It was the Lion who opened the scoring though after twenty minutes. A strong, direct run from Stockhall seen him break into the box and find Alex Houston. Houston superbly smashed the ball with pace towards the back post and Sam Deeley, who had been asked by Corrigan to just sit deep in the middle and defend, was on hand to prod the ball home. A well worked and well deserved goal. 1-0
The Lion were on top now and Wright was looking dangerous on the left flank. The Lion should have added another goal before the half time whistle but the experienced Yates defence were working hard to keep the score at only one. Yates were looking a threat at set pieces, with some big men almost lining up at times to head home. Dan Cushen was looking rock solid in The Lion net. However Yates regrouped well and kept on pushing hard for an equaliser, which they found on forty minutes. A Yates attack was cleared to the edge of the area when a snap shot was hit from 18 yards out. Despite not having loads of power the ball just beat Cushen whose view of the ball was hindered by the defence. 1-1
Half Time: Some positive football showed by The Lion but also lessons to be learned with Yates showing clearly that they are a well organised and difficult side to face.
No changes for The Lion at half time but more emphasis placed on playing the ball quicker to feet. The Lion initially looked the better side with Houston and Wright attacking well and Cowlishaw battling well to keep the ball up front. After not being able to score The Lion then started to look a little tired. A tough 120 minute game on the Tuesday before was starting to show in some of the lad’s legs and the fresher Yates side started to boss the game. Yates looked like taking the lead with a succession of corners and attacks . Big Dan Cushen was in top form and pulling off some great close range saves. Credit to The Lion defence and Crutchley, who never once panicked, kept playing football, kept together as a solid unit and kept clearing their lines. A special mention to JR Dutton, who bravely competed for a header in the box when he must have knew he was going to get clattered. JR received a bad blow to the shoulder and the skipper had to be helped off the field. In his place came Jimmy Matyus, who was not 100% confident in his hamstring. Matyus had a storming game when he came on, always getting his toe on the end of the ball and defending well.
The Lion kept trying to attack as a side and The Lion always looked good whenever Stockhall picked up the ball. Stockhall's passing game was immense and the way he kept on showing for the ball in this tight game showed balls of steel and true ability.
On the 70th minute Crozier, another injury doubt after suffering from ankle problems, stepped onto the pitch to replace top goal scorer Tommy Wright, who had tweaked his hamstring when setting off on one of his pacey runs. Crozier really ran his balls off for The Lion and very nearly became an instant hero when a superb glancing header was cleared off the line by a Yates defender. Another long range strike from Stockhall nearly won the game with the accurate shot heading for the bottom corner from thirty yards; The Yates keeper desperately scrambling to claw the ball away nearly presented a tap in for Houston. Franklin was displaying the quality of his passing game from left back, with some of his pings down the line showing his class.
The game looked to be heading for extra time, with Coach Gary Phillips worried that The Lion did not have the stamina or the energy levels to win the game if extra time was played. It was at this point that The Lion needed a hero, so up stepped Alex Houston, with a scrappy but very important goal! Houston managed to scramble a shot towards goal, and that man Deeley was there again! ha ha right by the keeper in the box,. Deeley tried to flick the ball on but Houston's original shot somehow scrambled under the away keeper and into the net.
What a feeling! This Lion side keep on fighting to the end and this goal booked them their spot in the final of this cup against either Littleton or Bar Sports from Division One on Sunday the 19th of May at Great Wyrley, kick off at 1pm. A deserved spot after a very strong run in this difficult competition.
Man of the match: Once again to hang on in there and sneak through at the end took a real TEAM SPIRIT and this has to be praised. Players who have maybe not played as much as they would of have liked in the last few weeks really impressed. But the award heads to Stocky, who kept the side going and brings so much positive energy to the middle. Well done Stocky, keep on coming!!