Shirley Town 2, Bromsgrove Sporting 3
AFTER a comparatively easy run out the week before, Sporting found Shirley Town a different proposition and in truth they can consider themselves fortunate to get all three points on Saturday.
The pitch received the all-clear earlier in the day and although soft and somewhat uneven there was no surface water and it played reasonably well.
Sporting started quite lively and their persistence paid dividends on the 11th minute. Dan Wilkes attempted to run through the home defence but was crudely brought down allowing Kevin Banner to step up and curl in a delightful free kick from 20 yards out.
The visitors could have increased their lead on the 19th minute when Keith Draper unleashed a powerful shot but home keeper Kenny Sanders was alert to this one and tipped it over the bar.
Shirley were intent on getting the equaliser and this duly came four minutes later when Mike Thurbon in the Sporting defence attempted to clear a high cross but struggled in the gusty conditions and headed the ball into the path of Stuart Smith-Blain who hit a well-struck shot into the top right-hand corner of George Anderson's net.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Shirley continued to press forward forcing a corner which former Rousler Martin Keight buried to give them the lead. This could have increased just three minutes later but for Anderson tipping a Leon Reid shot round the post.
Moments before Jon Rogers had come on for the injured Dan Wilkes and his presence had an immediate benefit when he robbed Keight in the Shirley back four then slotted a precise shot under the diving Kenny Sanders.
Chris Conway had the final say of the first half restoring the visitors lead with a candidate for goal of the season when he saw Sanders off his line and lobbed him from 30 yards out.
After the interval, Shirley worked hard for the equaliser and the Sporting defence minus regulars Nick Martin and Karl Fellows were stretched for long periods.
The post kept one good effort out from Paul Longthorne while George Anderson between the sticks made a couple of brave stops from striker Chris Chapman.
It was a tense last ten minutes for the large contingent of fans who had made the short trip from Bromsgrove to Shirley and there was some relief when the referee blew for the end after a couple of minutes of added time.
After the match, manager Keith Draper praised his players for hanging on to their lead in a difficult second half but said he was proud of them and pleased for supporters.
The win pretty much guarantees Sporting third place in Midland Combination Division One and they will now have to wait until the Midland Combination AGM in June as to whether they will be promoted to the Premier Division next season.
Meanwhile, there is one more league match for Sporting to play in the juicy encounter with Fairfield Villa on Saturday when a large crowd is expected at the Recreation Ground.
Shirley: Sanders; Longthorne; Keane; Ward; Keight (capt); Dugmore (Sims 77 mins); Dunkley (Dylan Townsend 83 mins), Luke Dugmore, Chris Chapman, Stuart Smith-Blain, Leon Reid.
Sporting: Anderson; Bright (McNally 90+2 mins); Allen; Roberts; Thurbon; Brookes (capt); Draper Jnr; Turk; Conway; Wilkes (Rogers 35 mins); Banner. Substitutes not used: Jenvey; Evans.
Scorers: Kevin Banner (11 mins), Jon Rogers (38 mins), Chrisi Conway (43 mins).
Sporting Man of the Match: Nick Allen. Referee: A Cooke (Bournville). Attendance: 104