A fully committed home side quite deservedly entered the Semi-Final stage of this Competition after besting their visitors – Team Dudley of Dudley College, the latter of whom have generally held sway over several recent encounters. However, this was most certainly no fluke, the visitors most clearly bowing their knees in the latter stages with Tipton searching for additional riches in a veritable wave of late attacks. An exceptionally good attendance was on hand to ruminate upon the merits of both clubs, most certainly Tipton’s efforts were an improvement upon recent League encounters.

Some needle was generated early in the game – 3 minutes, no more – when a clearly bookable misdemeanour was far too casually overlooked by the referee, Scott Broadway on the receiving end as he homed in upon the visitor’s goal, the home forward only able to continue after several minutes treatment. Team Dudley, currently riding high in third place in the League table, almost took a fifth minute lead through Joshua Lemm with Tipton clearly quite fully extended in clearing the danger. Still calling the tune, in the main, Dudley next fired in another dangerous free-kick, Harry Reuben helping to repel this but guilty of an un-necessary foul in doing so thus allowing the visitors to wrest the initiative once more albeit without more serious alarms for Tipton.

Clearly some ‘needle’ was now creeping into the game and on 18 mins. Tipton’s Connor Scott was forced to receive lengthy attention with the perpetrator receiving a customary booking. A smart Tipton build-up in the 23rd minute was cleverly countered by Ben Easthope’s smart interception before Tipton soon won possession once again, Luke Johnson’s curling cross clearly a test for the visitors only for Alex Smith to calm things down for them a cleverly judged interception.

Both attacks were sharp and positive but on 35 minutes, Tipton’s Teejay Davies, who would become increasingly influential as the game wore on, was quite blatantly felled in full flight only for his club’s hopes to be dashed after Dudley ‘keeper, Peter Hawk’s fine anticipation saw him dive and smother Scott Broadway’s resultant penalty kick – a splendid save, most warmly applauded by the visiting Dudley fans. Most thankful for this let-off a re-energised Team Dudley surged forwards too, some distinctly eye-catching soccer, particularly involving Jack Bailey and Craig Edwards was only quelled with some frantic tackles – claims for a penalty by the visitors ignored, but it must have been close, their resurgent efforts finally losing momentum when Jack Bailey drove over the Tipton bar in the 38th minute.

Shortly afterwards with a spirited Tipton still valiantly pressing forward, Broadway was in the thick of things again, deep in the Dudley penalty area, his effort smartly held by keeper, Hawk once more. As the interval loomed ever nearer, Dudley once again found inner strength in an effort to take an interval lead, several shots at the home goal repelled, the Tipton defence remaining resolute to a man. Jack Bailey and Chris Knight began the second half clearly searching for a goal opportunity for the visitors before being rebutted, whereupon Teejay Davies smartly took up the charge for Tipton, sweetly gliding forwards until quite heavily felled, the referee seemingly unimpressed and attracting a volley of abuse and catcalling as a result.

On 49 mins. Liam Smith’s eye-catching surge down the right flank was quickly broken up, Tipton’s forward momentum being stymied too after yet another illegal challenge on Davies simply went unpunished by an over-tolerant Match Official. Team Dudley were now clearly becoming  far more robust in their challenges and, in the 54th minute, it was hardly any surprise when Alex Smith was finally given his marching orders for some quite nasty and over-robust play, having already been warned re his attitude in the 1st half.

Still Dudley were not out of it yet, finding the wherewithal to press forwards again, despite being reduced in number, and only a canny interception by Luke Johnson helped deny them before they rapidly reclaimed possession, Craig Edwards flashing a wicked drive across the Tipton penalty area, maybe a yard or so wide of the home goalpost, this on 61 mins. Still with Dudley, their next foray at the home goal resulting in James Hill’s direct free-kick smash into the Tipton defensive wall before Craig Edwards drove the rebound goalwards but home keeper, Chris Thomas held firm.

On 66 mins., Tipton must have thought their nemesis had well and truly arrived, Team Dudley surging ahead when JACK BAILEY’S cracking header following a pin-point right wing cross left home keeper Thomas with no earthly hope. 0-1. Quite visibly stung Tipton reacted well, Connor Scott flashing in a drive at the visitor’s goal, a near equaliser, but keeper, Hawk managed to cling on. Home skipper, Sam Hesson, as ever, trojan-like in his impressive work rate and clearly desperate not to lose this cup-tie, bore his way through before being brought down.

All Tipton now as wave after wave of attacks rained upon the visitor’s goal, MAX PASHLEY’S leaping 71st minute header from Davies’s flighted corner simply all too good for a posse of defenders plus keeper, Hawk and the scores were now level at 1-1. Yet again, Broadway, in full flight, was quite illegally brought to earth in the 82nd minute, sadly for Tipton, the resultant free-kick simply sailing into the arms of visiting keeper, Hawk. On 85 mins. Teejay Davies was yet again unceremoniously brought to earth by Ben Manton whilst home skipper, Hesson was also helped off to receive attention.

Extra-time arrived with Tipton now clearly the dominant force, being willed onwards by their fans. Splendid attacking by Tipton in extra-time, the 93rd minute, resulted in Luke Johnson surging into the visitor’s penalty area with determination before crossing expertly for TEEJAY DAVIES to propel an unstoppable header past the flailing fingertips of vising keeper, Hawk. 2-1 with 93 mins.now elapsed. A massive and impressive turnaround by Tipton but the tie was still not won as Craig Edward’s curling free-kick came mighty close to another equalising goal, Liam Smith agonisingly for the visitors, heading narrowly over the home bar.

Staunch defending by the home club was just enough to keep the newly re-energised visitors out, Mark Cartwright forced to receive lengthy attention before gingerly being able to continue. The second period of extra-time arrived, Tipton surviving by the skin of their teeth. Again Team Dudley won possession, resorting to all-out attacking with Tipton repelling everything thrown at them. Tyrone Clarke’s dangerous cross only just cleared the home cross-bar before the home club al last gained some respite, substitute, Sam Armstrong firing at the Dudley goal, the ball deflected away for a corner but, just as importantly, more precious seconds frittered away.

Gradually Tipton stabilised the situation to the frustration of their visitors and their increasingly raucous fans and, indeed, almost pulled further ahead in the 115th minute when Broadway’s drive on the turn almost found the Dudley net. In the 117th minute massive relief for all present of the Tipton persuasion when TEEJAY DAVIES scurried through the middle at pace before emphatically ramming home and, in doing so, sealed a very fine victory. 3-1.

John A. Cross

President, Tipton Town F.C.