Smithswood Firs were struggling to fill the bench on Saturday as manager Paul Ryder’s squad took on some casualties before kick off as Adam Hemming and Carl Thompson didn’t make the game following on from Aaron Anderson and Daniel Wall pulling out earlier in the week. As a result Smithswood were only able to name three substitutes from their large squad for the game against Perrywood with two of them being new signings Nathaniel Darby and Aaron Hughes.
Ryder decided to stick with the 4-3-3 formation and give it another try starting with the following line up
McKenna, Rooke, Glenn, Billingsley
Short, Shiels, Leek
Thomas, Evans (Capt.), Harris
Subs:Darby, Else, Hughes
Smithswood almost took the lead in the first minute as Adam Rooke put a ball behind the defence. It looked like the defender was in control but Lee Harris chased him down and forced the ball off him unleashing a shot just wide of the post.
Perrywood had a great chance too in the first five minutes as they put a ball in behind the Smithswood defence and got a shot off forcing David Stratford to push it wide for a corner.
Twenty minutes in Smithswood had two great chances to put themselves in front. First, Anthony Short had a shot in the area following a corner, which was cleared off the line. Shortly after Daniel Billingsley put Lee Harris clear wide left on the counter-attack. Harris slid a first time pass into Craig Evans who was fouled on the edge of the area. Evans stepped up to shoot and made the keeper save down low.
Smithswood were looking in total control of the game. The back four were solid and Perrywood were always looking to attack down the left and the defence were doubling up on their main player and were controlling everything. In front of them Carl Shiels was breaking everything up that came through the middle and using the ball well along with Nathan Leek and Anthony Short. Going forward the front three were linking well and it looked like a matter of time before Lee Harris, Craig Evans and Curtis Thomas created that opening they were looking for.
The breakthrough came on the half hour mark. This time Lee Harris won his team a free kick 25 yards out. Carl Shiels stepped up to fire a bullet shot into the top corner giving the keeper no chance. It was a fantastic strike from the man the team like to call Gattuso.
It was 2-0 a few minutes later as Nathan Leek picked the ball up 30 yards out and hit a shot, which looked easy for the keeper to gather, but he let it slip under his body. Leek didn’t celebrate other than a little smile at it going in.
The half time team talk was positive. More of the same was required but the manager knew his players had more in the tank to give and could step it up and get more goals. It was key though to get the next goal and not give Perrywood a way back into the game.
Smithswood started very nervy as the defence gave the ball away at the back, which put Perrywood on the front foot. Nathan Leek was booked by the referee for what he deemed to be a dangerous tackle.
Perrywood got back into the game ten minutes in with a shot from the edge of the box from a really tight angle and they should have tied it up a few minutes later as they found a man free on the back post from a cross but he put it over the bar as Smithswood had to dig in.
Chris Else replaced William McKenna as Smithswood tried to turn the momentum back to them. Curtis Thomas was causing them real trouble down the right and worked a chance for Nathan Leek but the keeper was down quick to deflect his shot wide of the post. Shortly after, Anthony Short created a half chance for Craig Evans. Short whipped a cross in as Evans met it at full stretch with his outstretched foot and directed it inches wide as Smithswood looked to restore their two-goal lead.
The manger replaced Lee Harris with Aaron Hughes and the impressive Carl Shiels with Aaron Hughes.
With two minutes left Aaron Hughes bent a quality free kick over the Perrywood wall only to see it cannon back of the post and away. Smithswood then hit them on the break again led by Curtis Thomas who played in Nathaniel Darby. He held the ball up and squared it for Craig Evans but he shot just over.
When it looked like Smithswood had secured the three points and were the only side that looked like scoring, Perrywood launched a ball from the back into the Smithswood penalty area. As the ball dropped to their striker, it looked like he clearly handled the ball but the referee didn’t blow and he spun and fired the ball into the back of the net to steal his team a point.
Smithswood maintain their unbeaten run in the league and while they will look at it as two points dropped, it is still another point closer to their target of promotion at the end of the season.
Next week sees their focus switch to the challenge of their trip Division 1 side Bromsgrove Sporting in the Les James Challenge Cup.