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Cradley Town 2 Dudley Town 2
10:55pm Tuesday 25th September 2012 in Football
DRENIZ Bala scored 12 minutes from time to earn Dudley Town a point at Cradley Town.
The striker latched on to Steve Edmunds’ through ball before sliding his shot just inside the far post.
Rion Francis-Mills had earlier given the Robins a first half lead at a rain-sodden Beeches View Avenue.
But two goals in as many minutes from Chris Russell and Jason Barton had put the hosts in control before Bala’s late stunner.
Dudley played the last ten minutes a man down as Bala was injured shortly after levelling the game at 2-2.
And despite coming under some intense pressure, they held out to take a point and frustrate the hosts, who will feel they should have won all three.
On a night where the perfect derby weather of plummeting temperatures and lashing rain had spectators sporting scarves and the occasional snood, Cradley looked good going forward throughout but lacked the vital cutting edge until the 53rd minute, when boss Adrian Mander replaced the ineffective Nathan Jones with Russell.
Six minutes later the hosts lead 2-1 and they were on top for the rest of the game.
But the Robins also possess plenty of attacking threat and their chances, while limited, were good ones. Cradley never looked entirely safe at 2-1 and so it proved.
Infact, the home defence was nearly breached within the opening 25 seconds as keeper Matt Jones was forced into a smart save from Danny Ludlow’s low drive.
Cradley’s passing game looked excellent until they got to the edge of the box when it invariably broke down. On the one occasion they did manage to get behind the visiting defence during the opening exchanges, Barton shot badly wide of the near post.
Dudley on the other hand were having plenty of joy with balls lofted over the top and it was from one such pass Francis-Mills opened the scoring. He controlled the ball just inside the box and lifted a sweet finish over the advancing Jones.
Ross Love headed wide from a corner as the visitors enjoyed a series of pressure but Cradley should have levelled when Jack Pearlman ran onto Barton’s through ball only to pull his finish wide of the far post.
Sam Wilkinson also shot wide as half-time approached with the home side’s frustration growing ever more.
The first eight minutes of the second half followed a similar pattern until Mander made what looked for a long time like the decisive switch.
Four minutes after joining the fray Russell pulled his side level, reacting quickest when the visitors failed to clear a throw and driving a first time shot low past Tom Harper and into the far corner.
Two minutes later they were ahead. Barton was played in on the left hand side of the area and he waited for Harper to commit before firing his finish over the keeper and into the net.
Soon after another substitute, Andy Dicken, put Barton through again but this time Harper proved equal the shot tipping it round the post.
Pearlman shot over following a neat passing move, while Sean Williams was just off target with another effort and Sean Westley just failed to connect with a far post header as the hosts continued to push.
Bala, himself on as a half-time substitute, had seen one effort superbly blocked by Westley but was otherwise starved of opportunities until he delivered the evening’s sucker punch.
Edmunds played a simple ball from the right wing and the striker controlled it, before rolling a finish past Jones, with a desperate Brett Mander just failing to keep out the shot as it rebounded off the post and went in.
As the minutes ticked by, Cradley poured forward but could not find the winner. Barton sent a header straight at Harper from eight yards out and Russell also saw an effort deflected wide.
HAMMERS: Jones, Mander (Gleadon 79), Harvey, Clarke, Westley (c), Jones, Williams, Pearlman, Barton, Jones N (Russell 53), Wilkinson (Dicken 47) Subs not used: Guy, Darby.
Goals: Russell 57, Barton 59.
ROBINS: Harper, Edmunds, Whittaker, Love, Whitley, Perry, Cowley (Cox 73), McGilligan, Joshua (Morris 58), Francis-Mills (Bala 46), Ludlow (c) Subs not used: Arnold, Store.
Goals: Francis-Mills 22, Bala 78.