An astonishing conclusion to the local derby at Tipton Sports Academy saw the home side, Tipton Town, snatch victory from the very jaws of defeat to record a seasonable ‘double’ over their esteemed combatants from the past. Willenhall Town lead from near the closure of the opening half right up to the very death before Tipton’s frantic late probing spawned for them a most remarkable turnaround.

Willenhall began the encounter well, contesting every ball and, most certainly, winning their share to belie their lowly League placing, following a most tortuous season for them. Tipton’s forward momentum, spearheaded by Luke Louza, Sam Hesson and the wily TJ Davies in particular was, time and again blunted by the excellence of Willenhall’s covering techniques, skipper, Kelvin Rhuwakini and Danny Turton, in particular, taking the eye.

Ebey Marango chiselled out a more than useful effort in the 8th minute, after previously being robbed by the alert Reuben Henderson ,visiting keeper, Vishal Sharma being forced to turn the ball over the top for a flag-kick. Willenhall struck back rapidly, Ryan Mason on the charge only for Dan Patrick, in an unfamiliar full-back role, to divert the effort for a corner kick, this just after 10 minutes play. Another couple of minutes elapsed, Josh McGregor and Ryan Mason, ominously bearing down on the home goal but thwarted by the combined attentions of home skipper, Paul Henley and Mark Cartwright.

Play switched upfield resulting in a goal attempt by Tipton, TJ Davies’s curling chip finding Marango but, alas, he drove over the Willenhall crossbar. A response by the visitors, crafted by Shaun Thomas and Luke Green in the 16th minute held concern for Tipton, Matt Payne stepping in to relieve the mounting pressure. A couple of minutes elapsed before Sam Hesson forced the visitors right back, when, cutting in from the right flank, he drove into the Willenhall side-netting.

Tipton, enjoying a little purple patch, then saw a Marango free-kick well claimed by visiting keeper, Vishal Sharma, some 20 minutes having now elapsed. But the visitors were in little mood to be oppressed for long, responding positively in the 23rd minute when smart footwork by Ryan Mason created a fine opening for himself, only to undo his good work by subsequently ballooning the ball high and well wide of the home club’s goal. Willenhall continued to boss the proceedings at this stage and really ought to have sailed in front in the 29th minute when Carl Guina, having neatly eluded home keeper, Alatalo, prodded weakly off target with an open goal at his mercy. Earlier Alatalo had bested Shaun Thomas’s effort with the latter odds-on to score.

On 35 minutes an eye-catching run by TJ Davies was smartly nipped in the bud by Reuben Henderson and Marango’s surge suffered a similar fate as Willenhall quickly closed ranks to prevent his progress. With 40 mins. elapsed consternation reined amongst the home defenders and, most certainly, their more than voluble supporters too after Shaun Thomas was allowed to clearly exploit an offside position, the linesman in question, so very close to the incident, being rightly subjected to cat-calls and all things far worse. !! 0-1

No flag had been raised, the referee, way back near the half-way line had no option but to award the score which was still being most vociferously disputed by most of the watching attendance well into the second half of the game !. Even so as this opening half closed Lewis Collins almost brought Tipton parity, his powerful drive easily defeating visiting keeper Sharma but whistling just inches shy of a post.

Immediately upon the resumption for the second half the visitors almost doubled their lead, Carl Guina so very narrowly just off target. The home club responded, fashioning an attack upon the visitor’s goal on 51 mins, TJ Davies’s speculative drive from wide on the left gradually losing momentum in flight allowing keeper, Sharma to make a competent save. On 55 mins Tipton keeper, Alatalo clung onto Ryan Mason’s angled cross before Dan Patrick came to the home club’s rescue, hooking the ball clear of their goal-line following an accurate drive by Guina.

A couple of minutes later Sam Hesson won a mid-field challenge to set up an opportunity for himself, the ball beaten away by keeper, Sharma before Willenhall hit back with venom , Tipton’s Matt Payne excelling with a perfectly timed tackle on Mason. 70 minutes arrived, fine movement from Marango pressurized Willenhall but still the home club were simply unable to create a good goal-scoring opportunity. Mark Cartwright’s effort from just inside the visitor’s penalty area on 79 minutes heralded a certain equaliser, not so, as visiting keeper, Sharma clung on quite brilliantly to preserve his club’s slender advantage.

Tipton skipper, Paul Henley, then required lengthy attention before he was able, tentatively to continue. Two direct free kicks from the home club
were stoically beaten away by keeper, Sharma before the visitors broke away, Mason almost doubling his club’s tally as his 89th minute effort drifted just inches wide of the Tipton goal. Tipton responded, surely one last effort, Lewis Collins’s acute angled drive in the 90th minute drifted over the bar, seemingly the home club’s last chance of any salvation.

But patently obvious time-wasting tactics by the visitors did not sit easily with the referee who allowed the action to continue. Out of the blue, Tipton struck, Sam Hesson firing home through a ruck of legs in the crowded Willenhall goalmouth, thus levelling the scores at 1-1 in injury time to the utter delight of the home players and their supporters too! 1-1

Finished? Not a bit, for in the frenetic final seconds, when previously all had seemed lost, Tipton garnered all three points with club skipper, Paul Henley battling his way through, in support of his attack, and joyfully heading home TJ Davies’s pin-point cross for Tipton to take all three points and complete the double over Willenhall this season.


John A. Cross

President, Tipton Town F.C.

Next Fixture   J.W.Hunt Cup  DUDLEY TOWN  ( Away)   Wednesday 14th February 2018   K.O. 7-45 PM.