Halesowen Town 2-2 Carlton Town (Northern Premier League Midlands Division) 14.09.21
An 88th minute own goal from Niall Davie saw Carlton Town held to a 2-2 draw in a fabulous game at table-toppers Halesowen Town.
While the goal was harsh on Davie, who had produced a superb performance which included scoring both of Carlton’s goals, there was nothing he could do about it as an excellent Kieran Preston save rebounded off him and into the net.
The goal came during a late spell of intense Halesowen pressure, but make no mistake about it, Carlton more than matched their opponents, played some lovely football at times, created the clearest chances of the game and had they held on for the win, there could have been no complaints. That said, following the goal the Millers then had to survive a further seven minutes including time added on for one of the most bizarre incidents you are ever likely to see at a football match, and so could still justifiably be pleased with the point.
Both sides came into the game in a rich vein of form. Halesowen had won all nine games they had played this season and were top of the table. Carlton were in second place on the back of five successive wins and also unbeaten. It promised to be a cracker and it delivered.
Managers Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey made two changes from the side which had won at Yaxley last time out. In came Lawrence Gorman and Jared Holmes for Jacob Sturgess and Danny Elliott.
The Yeltz are the best supported club in the division and their raucous but good-humoured fans were in full voice from the start. But the 20 or so Carlton supporters, packed into the Halesowen Shed end in the first half, and boosted by a number of Coventry-based friends of striker Aaron Opoku, matched them for effort and occasionally volume if not breadth of repertoire.
And on the pitch it was Carlton who started much the brighter. On just four minutes they really should have taken the lead. Opoku, who caused havoc in the home defence all night, darted down the right before crossing to Davie at the back post. He looked certain to score but his header went back across goal to Nat Watson whose goalbound drive was deflected over the bar by Calum Flanaghan.
The Yeltz’s first opportunity came on eight minutes when Christopher Lait drew a decent save from Preston.
The Millers were bossing the midfield, with Holmes in particular outstanding. Khyle Sargent and Davie were covering all Halesowen attempts to move the ball and Watson was constantly looking to set Opoku or Tyler Blake through on goal. Gorman and Tyler Johal were also pushing up and denying the home side time and space.
Watson and Davie both had shots deflected away as the home support realised this was perhaps a little more difficult than they may have anticipated.
Carlton won a corner following another Opoku run and when Davie played it short to Watson, he chipped delightfully into the area where the loose ball was just begging to be converted but no Carlton player was on hand.
Halesowen sparked into life and when the Millers failed to clear a corner, there followed a scramble which led to Preston making a fine save from Lait.
Back came Carlton and some lovely play between Davie and Blake led to yet another corner. This time Watson took it and found Opoku unmarked but the striker failed to connect with his attempted header and the chance went.
The home side took the lead on 36 minutes against the run of play. Paul McCone headed goalwards following a corner. Preston tried to push or punch the ball clear but ended up directing the ball straight against Johal and could only watch on as it ricocheted into the net.
The lifted the volume even further but, far from intimidating the visitors, they responded magnificently and were level within four minutes. Gorman advanced down the right, whipped over a super cross which Blake flicked on to an onrushing Davie at the back post who got ahead of Robert Evans and headed into the net in front of the jubilant travelling support.
Shortly afterwards Sargent went off injured, replaced by Elliott. Opoku then beat Flanaghan to give himself an opening on the edge of the box. He hit a lovely curling effort which beat Daniel Platt in the Halesowen goal but missed the post by inches.
The Yeltz made a double substitution at half time and one of the substitutes, Jack Holmes, was a constant threat in the second half with Johal having to work extremely hard to keep him at bay.
The home side started the second period on the front foot, but the Millers defence looked as solid as they have all season, with Dan Brown and Toby Moore repelling all that came their way, and Gorman and Johal looking assured at full back.
Nonetheless Jack Holmes fizzed one effort just wide and he then fed Evans who advanced down the right before hitting a peach of a cross that just needed a final touch from someone but didn’t get it.
The Millers though continued to press forward and they got their rewards with an excellent goal on 71 minutes. It all started in their own penalty area when Preston picked up the ball on the very left-hand edge of the box. The home support appealed for a free kick (and potential red card) but the officials weren’t interested.
Preston hit a very deliberate 60 yard clearance straight to the feet of Watson who controlled the ball instantly on the right touchline. He ran forward before playing the ball to Blake who got to the by-line before hitting a fantastic cross to Davie at the far post who smashed the ball into the net from a couple of yards right in front of the ecstatic Millers faithful.
That left the Millers with 20 minutes or so to hold on and maintain their winning run. But Halesowen haven’t won so many games by meekly accepting defeat and they poured forward with Brown making a couple of excellent clearances.
Blake then went down injured on the right touchline near the main stand. Whilst he was being treated, with the home support suggesting he was time wasting, a spectator’s crutch came flying onto the pitch in the direction of Watson. There followed a general melee in which it appeared a second crutch was thrown / brandished and it took a good few minutes for calm to be restored.
In any event, when the game did restart Halesowen got themselves a free kick which the Millers cleared to Flanaghan whose dipping shot was tipped over the bar by Preston.
Blake finally went off on 88 minutes, replaced by Louis Czerwak, but within seconds the home side were level. A free kick from the right was missed by everyone in the area and ran to Gorman in the right back position close to the goal line. He tried to shepherd it away but lost possession and the ball was crossed back into the area. McKauley Manning hit a fierce shot which Preston saved magnificently, only to divert the ball onto Davie and back into the net in an almost carbon copy of Halesowen’s first goal.
It was harsh on the visitors but there were still another seven minutes to be played and Halesowen sensed the chance to make it a record 10th successive win. Forward they came and Brown had to block one effort and clear another one off the goal line. In the final seconds Jack Holmes drew another fine save from Preston before the referee called a halt to an exhilarating game of football.
There was time for the Carlton squad to come across to the travelling support and thank them for their efforts, and in turn receive their generous applause and it would be remiss not to mention the superb atmosphere created by the Yeltz supporters, to which the Millers fans more than contributed.
Carlton Town: Preston, Gorman, Johal, Brown, Moore, Holmes, Watson, Sargent (Elliott 42), Opoku, Blake (Czerwak 88), Davie.
*Article provided by Sky Blue Miller.
*Main image @stevemack2017 the Millers mount pressure on the Halesowen goal.