A veritable storming contest at Old Wulf’s ground, immediately adjacent to Castlecroft where the more senior side, AFC Wulfrunians ply their trade, was well attended, Tipton’s stock certainly boosted by the number of their followers making the effort to help support their young charges.
The home side, Old Wulfrunians, desperately vying to secure the Runners-up spot in the final League Table but being hunted down by both Newport Town and St.Martins, began this fixture in prime form, clearly expecting to overcome the Black Country club’s relatively young side. Dominating from the off, Old Wulfs soon shrugged off a couple of reasonable efforts from the visitors, TJ Davies very much to the fore, picking up the pace with a vengeance, John Agnew’s speed enabling him to pierce the visitor’s defence only to be halted by young Tom Taylor’s magnificent intervention, the ball being claimed by the visitors much to the dismay of the considerable clutch of home supporters, some 8 minutes now elapsed.
Still driving forward, as expected, the home side threatened once more quickly afterwards, Jon Patrick twice besting marauding home attackers before brother, Dan, sent TJ Davies scurrying down the right. Back with Wulfs, soon afterwards, however, Michael Hancox, a notable threat but repelled in the nick of time by the combined efforts of young Taylor and Mark Cartwright, some 10 minutes now elapsed.
Chaos, however, raised it’s ugly head, at least from Tipton’s point of view, when a home assault unaccountably lead to the visitor’s disastrously conceding, John Agnew’s high swinging cross completely deceiving Archie Alatalo in the Tipton goal, the latter’s flailing arms never remotely likely to prevent the much more than ambitious high ball from nestling in the visitor’s net. 1-0. Disaster over ?, hardly for just a couple of minutes later, Old Wulfs surged even further ahead at 2-0, the over-stretched Tipton defence seemingly all at sea, allowing Nathan Lodge to close in before driving powerfully home.
Whatever game plan Tipton had was rapidly being shredded by their hosts whose overall ability, at this stage at least, befitted their current Runners-up spot in the League Table. Dogged defending by Tipton with everyone now giving their all, clearly blunting the home club’s ability to create any chances at will. Davies briefly responded for the visitors on 18 minutes, his isolated effort in reality hardly likely to succeed against such a strong looking defence.
With nothing additional to lose Tipton surprised their hosts by rallying when all seemed lost, David Kabanda’s fine work helping slip in Jarrod Grant on the edge of the home penalty area, Dan Patrick, operating at centre-forward for a change this evening, teeing up the ball, his drive curling well clear of the home goal however. At least Tipton had consolidated their position somewhat, although two goals still adrift, young TJ Davies now taking up the charge, show-boating his wiles yet again to cut in at speed from the right, two tracking defenders left in his wake until brought up short as the combined attentions of Jamie Allen and Charlie Turner doggedly helped to dispossess him.
Hancox was next to the fore for Old Wulfs, his drive at the Tipton goal on the run on 41 minutes only just curling outside the visitor’s post. As the interval neared Tipton created a more than reasonable response, both Davies and Dan Patrick finding the target but home keeper, Bostock proved their equal. On 43 minutes, however, Tipton’s refusal to simply give in almost paid dividends, Mark Cartwright’s 43rd minute high curling ball leading to a flurry of activity in the home penalty area, desperate defending just about winning out over Tipton’s strenuous efforts to force the ball home.
Old Wulfs commenced the second half clearly hunting for an early third goal and so wrap up this fixture to their advantage, Jack Marsh’s swirling difficult cross from the left, however, gratefully gathered by a by now much more composed Alatalo. Tipton, however, had emerged far brighter than in the 1st half, Manager Ian Guy, no doubt identifying for them areas of concern and in need of improvement and, as the contest evolved further his wise comments most clearly were taken to heart and eventually bore fruit.
On 51mins Jarrod Grant ghosted into the home penalty area, teeing up a goal opportunity only for Charlie Turner’s hefty but fair challenge to win the day for the hosts. Soon Old Wulfs were firing on all cylinders yet again, a lightning raid upon the Tipton goal in the 54th minute bravely denied by the worthy exertions of Jon Patrick and ball-playing Desean Martin. Ian Guy’s observations and recommendations had clearly struck home for Tipton who, in the 58th minute, stunned the home club by pulling a goal back Tarrike Thomas impishly dummying his marker, a la TJ, before arrogantly slipping the past the bemused and dumbfounded, Bostock. 2-1.
Old Wulfs, clearly stung by this unforeseen reversal, hit back hard just a couple of minutes later, Jon Patrick denying Nathan Lodge’s precisely targeted through ball from surely deflating Tipton again. Davies, for Tipton in the 63rd minute, then proceeded to really showboat his talents again, a praiseworthy crossfield frolic luring and defying tackles and challenges before arrogantly slipping the ball to Dan Patrick, the burly striker thumping powerfully home just inside the home goalpost ! 2-2. For a welcome change, all Tipton now, the home club’s earlier flamboyant panache seemingly a distant memory, no mistake!
Yet again TJ Davies assailed the shocked home defence on 71 minutes, defenders left in his wake before challenged by home keeper, Bostock, the Tipton striker slipping the ball clear of the keeper’s despairing hands but, surely to the immense relief of the now rattled home club, the ball agonisingly bushed the outside of the goalpost on it’s path to safety.
Kabanda’s glue-like harassing of Jake Pearson soon won the ball back for a by now pumped up Tipton with Davies further stretching the hosts on 79 mins, no less than three defenders required to dispossess him. The home side responded soon afterwards, Turner’s direct free-kick troubling Alatalo in the visitor’s goal who was able to cleanly gather at the second attempt. Alatalo was soon in action again, Liam McEvoy’s accurate drive for goal equalled for quality by Alatalo’s confident save.
Old Wulfs were beginning to impress once again, summoning up hidden energy to threaten Tipton’s defiance, Liam McEvoy driving for goal, the Tipton keeper, Alatalo, however executing a much more than reasonable save. Activity now switched rapidly to the other end where Dan Patrick fired over a cross into the home penalty area, young Davies out-muscled by two staunch defenders. Rapidly pumping the ball upfield as full-time neared, Cartwright was on hand to clear initially before Jack Marsh’s dangerous curling cross threatened to undo Tipton at the very death, denied only by Jon Patrick’s towering header preventing the ball reaching two eagerly awaiting forwards. One final effort by the hosts may still have won the day for them only for young Taylor to brilliantly judge his interception, surely denying Old Wulfs from reaping maximum points, which, in itself, would have been the roughest of fortune for a Tipton side every member of which being worthy of the highest praise.
So ends the season, promising so much in the early days when Tipton topped the Table only to slip away somewhat later and stabilise before even relegation threatened, followed by some decent form lately helping bolster their ability to finish their League programme satisfactorily and with a keen eye upon the future.
John A. Cross
President, Tipton Town F.C.