Smithswood Firs looked to try and continue their unbeaten league form as they travelled to Burntwood Town. Burntwood have been struggling this season but you wouldn’t have thought that the way they came out in the first half.
Else, Rooke, Thompson, Billingsley
Thomas, Evans (Capt.), Short, Harris
Subs: Glenn, Hemming, Hughes, Shiels, Wall
It was a tight game from the whistle as Burntwood looked to try and get the first goal. They created the first clear-cut chance of the game ten minutes in with a shot that David Stratford had to put wide for a corner. It wasn’t all Burntwood though, Craig Evans put Lee Harris in shortly after with a brilliant cross-field ball in behind the defence but Harris’ shot went narrowly wide of the far post.
Burntwood were looking dangerous from corners and almost took the lead with a shot at the near post. It was somehow blocked on the post and cleared between Chris Else and Curtis Thomas to keep it goalless.
There were no other real chances until ten minutes from half time as both sides cancelled each other out and restricted the chances.
It was Smithswood who turned the pressure up in this period forcing some great defending from Burntwood. Curtis Thomas crossed in for Anthony Short whose shot was blocked brilliantly by Burntwood, it fell straight to Lee Harris who shot and again found a defender in his way blocking it as Burntwood put their bodies on the line.
Craig Evans went close from an Anthony Short corner but is header went wide as it looked like the teams would go in goal less at the half.
There was a crazy last five minutes in the first half, which firstly saw Smithswood take the lead. Craig Evans collected the ball in midfield and drove forward. He hit a 30 yard shot which deflected off the defender wrong footing the keeper and going into the back of the net.
Just after followed an initial period of confusion as something happened off the ball involving Carl Thompson and a Burntwood player. Nobody saw the incident except the assistant. After a brief break in play and consultation with his assistant, the referee brandished the red card and Carl Thompson was off.
All of a sudden Burntwood were revitalised with the extra man and attacked the Smithswood goal for the last few minutes and injury time. David Stratford was again forced to deflect a shot wide, which left him on the ground in agony with a an injured leg.
Paul Ryder was happy to get his team in with the lead so he could re-group. He moved Chris Else into the centre of defence to partner Adam Rooke whose hamstring seemed to be holding up okay after last week and Lee Harris dropped in at right back with Daniel Billingsley staying at left back. He kept the two up top to give him options and went with the three-man midfield of Short, Evans and Thomas. Burntwood had played really well in the first half and Smithswood had to keep the ball in the second half as they looked like they may get tired in the last twenty minutes where they could hopefully take advantage David Stratford was bandaged up and sent back out to see if he could carry on.
Aaron Anderson had the first chance fifteen minutes in as Chris Else put a pin point pass through the heart of the defence but Anderson’s shot went just wide of the far post. Anderson was also booked shortly after.
Daniel Wall replaced the injured Daniel Billingsley as Smithswood looked to take advantage of the tiring Burntwood despite being a man down. It was a quality move that put them two up. Curtis Thomas and Craig Evans linked well on the edge of the box as Thomas put Evans back in. He beat the last man and powered home to make it 2-0.
Carl Shiels replaced Aaron Anderson as Paul Ryder looked to give his defence some protection.
It was 3-0 moments later as Craig Evans played in Luke Keen. He saw the keeper advancing and calmly lobbed it into the back of the net to make it 3-0.
Adam Hemming replaced Anthony Short.
Smithswood pushed on looking for the fourth and almost had it with a great move. Luke Keen picked out Adam Hemming in the box who laid it off to Craig Evans with his back to goal. He spun and shot just wide of the post.
Carl Shiels went close near the end as he got on the end of a Curtis Thomas cross but could only fire wide.
Smithswood’s pressure told a minute into extra time as Curtis Thomas caused them more problems down the wing. He picked out Adam Hemming’s run in the box and Hemming fired home to make it 4-0 at the final whistle.
Burntwood Town can take some heart from this performance as the were excellent in the first half and if not for a few great saves from David Stratford and a block on the line could have gone in two or three up. Smithswood’s defence was once again resilient though and claimed another clean sheet to make it only four goals conceded in eight games. Going forward Smithswood created plenty of chances which would have pleased the manager and the defence stayed solid after going down to ten men.
Smithswood are at home next Saturday to FC Stratford as they look to continue this unbeaten league form. The squad will be tested over the coming weeks with some key players missing for some of the games.