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Lye Town 1 Fairfield Villa 0
With a critically important league game against title rivals Wolverhampton Casuals on Tuesday to prepare for, getting playmaker Damian Whitcombe and goalkeeper Charlie Price much-needed match practice was more important for the hosts than adding a Smedley Crooke Cup quarter final at Bromsgrove Sporting to an already congested fixture list.
Whitcombe was held back until the 65th minute upon his return from a hamstring injury and looked understandably rusty at the back on a couple of occasions as the rain pelted down but Price played the whole game and made two vital contributions.
Ten minutes into the second half the keeper made a spectacular looking, if straightforward one-handed save to stop a stinging right-footed drive from Kieran Evans, more impressive was his smothering block to stop Fairfield veteran Steve Frost from scoring what would have been an agonising equaliser in the 89th minute.
Lower division Fairfield matched a shadow Lye side stride for stride in the first half but, even so were thankful to the profligacy of Lye’s Chris Russell who sprang the offside trap in the 20th and 31st minutes only to roll the ball wide on the first occasion and be denied by Villa goalkeeper Marc Wright the second time.
Evans had come closest to the visitors, picking left back Kalum Evitts’ pocket before taking the wrong option wide of goal and firing a soft effort at Price.
Russell was at it again in the 62nd minute, denied a second time by Wright who had earlier pushed away a powerful effort from Robin Sheffield – one of six regular starters in the Lye side which was beginning to dominate.
The goal arrived in the 64th minute courtesy of a lobbed centre from Russell out on the right which saw Steve Weaver roll a low effort into Wright’s bottom right-hand corner.
There was almost a second 12 minutes from time when Fairfield sub Joe Knight’s undercooked back pass was pounced on by Ricky Anslow who took it wide of goal only to see his shot hit a desperate-to-atone Knight on the line before bouncing onto the post and being cleared.
Rushall loanee Ramone Stephens was denied by Wright and Lye sent Ben Hadley saw an ambitious lob drop just over before Price was called upon to deny Frost late on and another fright followed from the resulting corner.
It should have been two at the death as Sheffield’s clearance sent Anslow into the kind of position from where he’s scored 40 goals this season but, having taken it expertly wide of Wright, the striker was denied by a superb tackle from Lewis Cosgrove.
Teams, Lye: Charlie Price, Stuart Ward, Kalum Evitts, Scott Moore, Robin Sheffield, Stephen Lodge (Damian Whitcombe, 65min), Ramone Stephens (Chris Poyntz, 82), Scott Gennard, Steve Weaver (Ben Hadley, 73), Ricky Anslow, Chris Russell. Subs not used: Reece Shilvock, Lawrence Brown.
Fairfield: Marc Wright, Steve Frost, Andy Pike, James Cund, Lewis Cosgrove, Stephen McGlen, Kieran Evans (Joe Knight, 60), David Rousell (Daniel Byford, 60), Scott Gaffney, Stuart Hall, Chris Glover (Chris Pratt, 80). Subs not used: Nigel Adams, Adam Pilinger.