Lion and Heath Hayes locked horns for the third time this season in this much awaited divisional League Cup final at Hednesford Town FC friday night.
Playing in front of a fairly sizeable & noisy crowd the game began at a frenetic pace. Hayes were first to show with an early freekick after 2 minutes which just cleared the Lion bar. Lion responded quickly and in the next minute Robbo fired a shot just over the Hayes bar. Sam then produced a quick turn and shot which was well saved by the Hayes goalie.Two minutes later a dangerous break by Hayes was foiled when Dan Cushen collected the ball just before the speedy Hayes striker. Sam then produced a quick through ball for Paul Dutton to run onto but was adjudged offside. However on 12 minutes disaster struck. The referee detected a push on the Hayes striker in the box and awarded a penalty which was converted to give Hayes the opener. Heath Hayes then dictated play for some time without ever threatening to add to their score. Lion did have one or two attacking ideas but the half ended without much telling action.
Lion began the second period quickly and JR went close with a smart header.Then Hayes pressurised Lion with successive corners and Dan had to be at his best to prevent Hayes increasing their advantage. Lion then threatened briefly with both JR and Robbo going close with efforts from Lion corners. Dan Cushen was then replaced by Gary Phillips after 54 minutes following injury. Wezzy then fed Sam who cut in from the left to produce a save from the Hayes goalie. On the hour Pitchy came on for Wezzy and the transformation was immediate. Pitchy's direct running at speed caused all sorts of problems down the left for Hayes and on 63 minutes his crosss was diverted for a corner. The corner was cleared albeit only to Matty Cockayne standing some 30 yards out. He immediately produced a stunning lob shot to clear the Hayes goalie for the equaliser. The action then became end to end with Lion looking the more dangerous. Matty H then came on for Sam for the last 20 minutes . With Lion now having wide players on both flanks their attacking options increased and they looked the more likely to go on and win the game. Both Matt y H and Robbo had excellent opportunities to score but both were spurned. If Lion were the dominant force in the last quarter then Hayes made up for it in the first period of extra time. Six minutes in following a spell of attacking pressure their midfielder produced a stunning volley from the LH corner of the box to restore their advantage. Just before the period ended a similar effort but from further out on the right made it 3-1 to Hayes. Lion continued to fight back but were further undone following a mix up between centre half and goalie allowing the Hayes striker to poach the fourth. Lion however scored a consolation effort when JR netted from a tight angle just before the end.
A game where quite a few Lion players failed to reach their normal standards. Also a game where team selection restricted attacking options. Our full potential was only reached when we were able to revert to our normal method of attack, i.e.down the flanks. A lesson to be learned!