9:50am Monday 28th April 2014
By Max Hall
Lye Town 2 Wellington Amateurs 0
HAVING choked twice within touching distance of the title of late, Lye finally showed an ability to 'win ugly' after riding their luck at times against a limited visiting side.
With Amateurs having three times gone close to cancelling out defender Stephen Lodge's early headed goal - most notably when Jamie King thumped a shot against the post in the 50th minute - Lye's decisive late second arrived with a touch of good fortune.
Referee Scott Simpson failed to spot the handball that helped substitute Simon Williams bring the ball down before exchanging passes with fellow sub Kevin Nickle and rolling home a measured low finish into the bottom right-hand corner from 20 yards, two minutes from time.
Lady Luck, it seems, may finally be smiling on The Lye.
With title rivals Pegasus Juniors and Shawbury United also picking up wins, Lye know only victory in Thursday's night's derby at home to Dudley Town will guarantee the league title.
A year on from their crushing last-game failure against Wolves Casuals, Lye are taking it to the wire again and their fans will be hoping for a more convincing performance than they put in against Wellington.
The visitors had caught Lye cold from the off, winning a corner which saw Jack Wilson fire straight at Jake James allowing the Lye keeper to save with his feet.
A sluggish Lye responded with striker James Spray spinning in the area to fire wide in the 11th minute and the hosts were ahead two minutes later after the same player won a free-kick near the left corner flag which saw Scott Gennard swing in a cross for big stopper Lodge to shrug off his marker and stoop to plant a powerful header home off the glove of Ashley Rawlings.
The relief around the ground was palpable but the goal did little to bring the game to life and Amateurs keeper Rawlings was caught dozing as he spilled a straightforward cross from Stuart Ward right at the feet of an off-colour Ricky Anslow who was so surprised he could not get the ball under control.
Two minutes before the break Lye were indebted to James who had hesitated as Rob Costello chased a ball over the top but then stood up well to save one-on-one off his good knee.
The keeper was playing despite a knee injury suffered at Christmas and Lye managers Martin Thomas and Darren Goodall will be hoping to call on Halesowen Town reserve keeper Sam Pearson for Tuesday's Worcestershire Senior Urn final at Aggborough and the Dudley game now that the Yeltz have secured promotion to the Northern League Premier Division.
Despite desperate yells from the bench to raise the tempo after the break, Lye again started unconvincingly as Costello had a shot charged down from a corner and King shuddered the upright but that close shave seemed to be an overdue wake-up call for the hosts who belatedly tried to move the ball around and play on the front foot.
An obligingly retreating defence invited Anslow to have a potshot in the 55th minute but the subdued forward - who changed footwear early on and complained about stud problems throughout - fired over.
Lye had another escape ten minutes later when an attempted headed clearance by Ward spun up and dropped out of the sky with Costello having an unopposed run into the area but the forward's first touch was poor and took him away from the danger zone.
The hosts came back and when a corner was half-cleared, the impressive Matt Johnson hung in a cross which looked destined for the lurking Ben Jeavons only for Tom Lappin to get the faintest of headed touches to lift it off the lunging midfielder's toes.
With time ticking down, the managers were able to give themselves a pat on the back as substitutes Williams and Nickle combined to send the former through to finally put the crowd out of their misery with an assured finish.
With the Aggborough cup final against Worcestershire side Littleton on Tuesday, Lye know victories in their next two games will secure a first double in the club's 84-year existence. Doubtless they will put their fans through the mill again on the way.
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