by Nick Pullen
FA Cup Preliminary Round
Black Country Rangers 1, Halesowen Town 2
BRAVE Black Country Rangers bowed out of the FA Cup - but not before giving Halesowen Town a real run for their money in a bone crunching contest at Tividale's Packwood Road ground.
A bumper Sunday afternoon crowd helped swell the Black Country coffers for a club more used to playing in front of 10 men and a dog.
But this was Black Country's big day out for what is their first ever venture into FA Cup competition and they duly came flying out of the traps to put Halesowen under pressure for the opening 15 minutes.
Black Country really should have scored after just three minutes when the ball fell kindly to impressive Elliot Skelding who found himself unmarked in front of goal, but was denied by a brilliant point-blank save from Yeltz goalkeeper Paul Evans.
Once the game settled down, Halesowen began to get on top.
They should have taken the lead on 27 minutes when Chris Lait failed to convert from Adam Meacham's cross.
However, Halesowen hit the target six minutes later following a fabulous three man move.
Tom Tonks released Ben Haseley down the right flank, who in turn crossed for the oncoming Elliot Turner who thundered home with a first time shot at the far post.
Two minutes later, Halesowen increased the advantage when Haseley hit a fairly tame shot at goal, but wrong-footed Black Country goalkeeper Richard Kennedy in the process, who then slipped and could only watch in horror as the ball rolled steadily into the net.
Halesowen could have easily added a third goal on 44 minutes when Haseley latched onto a Tonks cross, but his downward header bounced back up on the half volley and just went over the crossbar.
Black Country looked more composed after the break and clawed a goal back within six minutes of resumption when Skelding whipped in a right wing cross which Paul Oakley buried with a first time shot.
Chance proved at a premium, Evans getting down at full stretch to cut out a dangerous Skelding shot on 76 minutes while opposite number Kennedy did well to claim a Haseley shot on goal moments later.
Halesowen had the ball in the back on the net on 84 minutes when full back Adam Meacham raced over half the length of pitch to place past Kennedy, only to be given offside.
Halesowen were happy to close down the final few minutes by taking the ball into the corners, a clear sign that Black Country had pushed them hard.
Halesowen now have a home tie against Midland combination club Brocton in the 1st Qualifying Round
Black Country: Kennedy; Fincher, Hammond, Hurdman, Pyle, Hunt, Skelding, Oakley, Jakob, Price McKerdy, Subs: turton, Garner, Cartwright, Parke Tovey Halesowen Town: Evans; Green, Meacham, McKenzie, Turner, Kelly, Lait, Tonks, Grffiths. Haseley Gueyes. Subs: Martin, Penney, Parker, Fullaway.