Images and captions by the young David Evans
Walsall Wood have enjoyed a reversal of fortunes this season – apart from a hiccup earlier in the season, they have been resurgent, and consolidated their good form by beating Paget Rangers yesterday (Saturday 6th January 2018) on the Astroturf at Church Road, taking them to the top of the league.
A great match, that even made Bill Shaw smile. He wrote:
A good start to the new year with a very hard fought win that with Leicester Roads game postponed sees them level on points but Woods’ superior goal difference gives them the edge. Time will tell how important Tony Clarke’s 89th minute winner could be.
It’s five home games on the trot now for the Wood, Heath Hayes (weather permitting) on Tuesday night followed by the next four Saturdays, Studley, Ilkeston, Coventry Alvis and Coventry Copsewood.
So let’s hope the bad patch is behind us and we now build on our position at the top with five games at fortress Wood.
I told you all to keep the faith didn’t I?
Paget Rangers 2 v 3 Walsall Wood
A last minute winner for Wood took them to the top of the table on goal difference, the Bears had twice fought back from a goal down and looked to have won a point after equalising in the 82nd minute, but a super strike by Tony Clarke gave Wood an extremely hard fought victory that could turn out to be priceless in April.
An attacking start by both sides, five minutes gone Jack Gibson released Dan Carter into the right of the box, his cross cut out by Callum McFarlane to deny Gibson. Two minutes later Mark Williams broke over halfway and fed Carter to race into the right of the box, his ball into the centre started a bout of head tennis before a Williams shot was blocked.
Wood first threatened on 12 minutes, a right wing run and cross by Lee Butler cut out by Riqual Kousseba-Bakala to deny Sam Agar. Four minutes later Gavin Hurren won the ball wide right, he ran on and his cross under the bar was taken by Josh Benton under pressure.
On 24 minutes Lemaar Rhule picked out Carter with a left wing cross, Hurren with a superbly timed tackle. Four minutes later Billy Fagg and Carter combined cleverly on the right of the box, the ball inside found Gibson who under pressure scuffed his effort wide of the near post.
The breakthrough came on 33 minutes, a suicidal back pass was caught by Benton and then thrown behind for a corner when he realised what he’d done. Peter Till delivered the right wing flag kick Hurren climbed highest heading the ball back to the near post, Jake Humphries turning to force the ball home from close range.
Great, professional match footage as created by the superlative Russell Smith at The-Wood.tv
A break out of defence three minutes later saw Carter race into the right of the box, his reverse ball back inside set up Thule whose first time low drive was easily saved by keeper Lloyd Ransome.
Agar and new signing Lei Brown were always dangerous but the final ball was just missing. They combined on 42 minutes, a long clearance by Mitch Tolley was flicked on by Brown to Agar wide right, his far post cross put behind by Luke Bradley to deny an almost certain goal for Jordan Fitzpatrick.
The half ended with the Bears on the attack, Fagg hit a low cross from the right that was an inch in front of Rhule as it flashed across the face of the six yard box and it was Rhule right on the whistle messing up his shot from Bradley’s left wing cross.
The first minute of the second half saw a neat move through the centre open up the Wood defence, Gibson’s low drive pushed around his right hand post by Ransome.
A debatable free kick just outside the D on 55 minutes was fired low into the left hand corner by Dean Morris for a deserved equaliser.
Woods’ reply was immediate, Butler racing clear wide right, crossed into the box for Humphries to glance a header wide.
Back came the Bears, five minutes later a right wing free kick was headed wide by Bakala. A minute later a left wing corner fell to Williams, his first time effort was charged down, he was first to the loose ball but fired high over.
Back came Wood, Tolley played the ball up to Agar who cleverly released substitute Tony Clarke into the box, Benton out quickly and bravely to save at his feet.
On 65 minutes a break out of defence by Bradley saw him cross into the centre and substitute Ryan Conlon put a header wide.
The sides swapped chances until on 77 minutes Craig Deakin was fouled wide right, Till delivered the free kick beyond the far post, Tolley powered a header back into the centre, Agar scoring with a powerful header into the roof of the net.
Within five minutes the hosts were back on level terms, a long ball forward by Bradley saw Carter hold off a defender and slide the ball under the advancing Ransome. They should have gone ahead on 88 minutes, a long ball out of defence picked out Zach Brown who raced away and with a player totally unmarked to his left in a two on one situation blazed his shot wide.
It proved costly as from the goal kick Wood played the ball up to the left of the box, Clarke held the ball up before turning and firing home a peach of a low drive.
It was the type of game that could have gone either way, substitute Brown made a mess of the Bears late chance and a minute later Wood substitute Clarke showed him how to score. That’s how games are won and lost. Did Wood deserve the win, perhaps not, but the result says they won, football can be very cruel sometimes.
Heath Hayes at the Wood on Tuesday night (weather permitting) before the two big Saturday games against Studley and Ilkeston.
Paget Rangers 2011 FC – Benton, Crowley, Bradley, Morris, Kousseba-Bakala, Evans (captain), Fagg, Williams, Gibson, Carter, Rhule, Conlon, Brown, Gasiewski, Blake.
Walsall Wood – Ransome, Butler, McFarlane, Walker, Hurren, Tolley (captain), Till Humphries, Brown, Agar, Fitzpatrick, Deakin, Mugisha, Hayden, Clarke, Lund.
As ever, thanks to Bill for the report. For The Good of the Wood!