• Harry Tizard

Late drama sees Gresley snatch victory over Haughmond

Two late goals for Gresley Rovers at the Moat Ground saw them edge out a closely contested game 3-2 against ten-man Haughmond.

The home side, who were hosting their third successive league fixture, dominated the game and opened the scoring just after half-time through Danny Munday.

However, the lead didn’t last for long and they were quickly pegged back when Zak Hartley struck a goal against the run of play to level the score.

The away side’s goal put the momentum into their favour, but the swing of the game turned once again after left-back Dan Walker was sent off midway through the second period.

The home side controlled the game but were unable to break the strong defensive setup until late on when an own-goal by Keiron Griffiths and substitute Aaron Cole gave them a two-goal lead five minutes from time, with a sublime free-kick by Carl Rodgers in stoppage time merely a consolation.

The Rovers started the game in a positive fashion. After a couple of wild shots from the visitors, with efforts from Walker and Louis Irvine sailing well wide of the goal, it was Gresley who threatened the most for the opening goal.

Kyle Batchelor struck the ball from around 30-yards out, with his shot skidding off the wet surface and forcing Sam Jones to palm the ball away from the goal before collecting it on the second attempt.

The Moatmen came close just minutes later through Paul Sullivan. After getting away from his man, the forward’s deflected shot clipped the inside of the post and rebounded into the hands of Jones in the Haughmond net.

The home side-built momentum from there, with a fantastic save from Jones keeping the score level. Picking up the ball from the right-hand side, Munday slid the ball across to David Kolodynski, whose low shot from close-range was saved smartly by the Haughmond ‘keeper.

The two combined once again on the half-hour mark. Kolodynski whipped the ball in from the right-hand side to Munday, but the striker could not get the ball on target, stabbing the ball just wide of the goal.

Sullivan then had a couple of chances in quick succession but fired the ball straight at Haughmond goalkeeper Jones on both occasions before Lucas Harrison rifled the side-netting from just outside the box.

The home side’s dominance continued for the entirety of the first-half and they were inches away from getting the game’s first goal just before the end of the first period. Andy Westwood’s curled shot from the edge of the area evaded the gloves of the goalkeeper, but the far post as well.

Haughmond struggled to swing the momentum in their favour in the opening exchanges in the second half, with the Rovers breaking the deadlock with their first attack. Harrison’s drilled cross across the box found the feet of Munday who swept the ball home.

However, the home side could not keep their lead for long, with Haughmond responding with a goal straight from the restart. Landing at the feet of Hartley, the right-back scooped the ball past Harrison and smashed a deflected shot past the reach of Joe Fryatt.

Hartley almost got his second just before the hour. Beating Harrison on the right-hand side, the fullback’s cross-come-shot floated just over the crossbar.

Haughmond kept the pressure on and should have taken the lead for the first time in the game. Lucas Redding forced a strong save from Fryatt to the far-right of the goal, with Scott Ryan unable to keep the follow-up effort on target.

In control of the game, the match turned back in the favour of Gresley when Walker was shown a red card from the following attack. Holding up the ball well, a flicked pass by Kolodynski found the feet of Munday. Running goal-wards, left-back Walker pulled down the forward 30-yards from goal, stopping a clear chance from coming to fruition.

The red card for Haughmond showed with the shape of the away side changing from a two upfront system to a defensive shape with just one attacker.

The chances started to come for Gresley, with Westwood the next man to come close. Finding space from long-distance, his looping effort would have found the top corner were it not for a strong hand from Jones parrying it over the bar.

Despite having a couple of attacks of their own, the away side found it difficult to mute Gresley’s attacking threat and they conceded twice in quick succession.

Kolodynski was the instigator of the second goal. Receiving the ball down the right flank, the attacker’s dangerous ball into the box was turned in by Haughmond defender Griffiths, giving Gresley a slender advantage with five minutes to go.

The lead was doubled just a minute later. Two substitutes combined, with Keith Thomas holding up the ball and laying it off to Cole, who curled the ball low past Jones in the Haughmond net.

The away side could not make up the deficit but ended the game with the best goal of the game. From a free-kick from around 30-yards, captain Rodgers whipped the ball over the wall and found the top corner of the goal.

The win for Gresley sees them move up to third in the Midland Premier Division, collecting 13 points from their first six games, and already winning more league games than they did in the entirety of the 2019/20 campaign.

By Harry Tizard