Sat 19 Mar

The Hammers had most of the play but found it hard to break down a well-marshalled Hillsiders' defence

Cradley's good little run comes to an end at home to Malvern Town.

On the official last day of winter it was cool and pleasant and we had a decent crowd of 60 for a change but it was disappointing to see the end of our five game unbeaten run. We had the most of the play and did most of the attacking but Malvern were talented and committed and their defence was well marshalled by the experienced Dene Whittal-Williams.

Cradley looked just a little under par on the day possibly due to having played extra-time in a gruelling match just four days earlier. Interestingly our cup opponents Wolverhampton Casuals also lost 2-1 at home on Saturday.

First half

 We almost went a goal down after just 3 minutes when a pass-back put our keeper Shaun Edwards under pressure and his clearance kick was almost knocked back over his head from close range by Ben Hayes but Shaun plucked the ball out of the air.

On 9 minutes Chris Bladen broke clear behind the Malvern defence but he was harried by the young defender Ben Sauntson, who made several vital blocks later on, and the away keeper Charles Weaver came out to block the shot. There was a rebound but this was easily cleared by Dene Whittal-Williams.

Chris Bladen races forward chased by Adam Sauntson but his shot is blocked by the Malvern keeper and cleared.

On 21 minutes Malvern had an attack which was half-cleared to Aaron Richards but he put his shot wide.

On 22 minutes R’mar Mrray sent over a cross which was just a fraction too high for Chris Bladen at the far post.

On 23 minutes Malvern took the lead. Ben Hayes made a break down his right-wing but there were no team mates near so he chose to shoot from 30 yards out. It could not have been better placed as it soared over Shaun Edwards into our net putting the visitors 1-0 up.

Ben Hayes’ shot on 23 minutes took everyone by surprise including our photographer but here’s the end result as the ball goes over Shaun Edwards and just under the bar giving Malvern Town a 1-0 lead.

The Hammers fought hard for an equaliser and forced several corners. From one Joe Colley shot just wide of the near post and from another Lewis Clarke headed over. On 36 minutes our hopes rose when Darren Whitley put Jovan Blake-Walker through. Jovan, despite being hassled by that man Sauntson again, got his shot away but the keeper saved with his foot. Chris Bladen connected with the rebound but he had men on him and his effort bobbled agonisingly wide of the post. If Lady Luck helped us a little against Casuals she was not going to show her face on Saturday!

Jovan Blake-Walker shoots on 36 minutes, hassled by Adam Sauntson, but keeper Charles Weaver sticks out a foot to save.

For the remainder of the first half Scott Stevenson and R’mar Murray were constantly putting balls into the Malvern box but they were defending deep and in numbers and we couldn’t break through.

Second half

It seemed it would be just a matter of time for the Hammers to score because the Hillsiders had not mounted a genuine attack since taking the lead out of the blue on 23 minutes. We began the second half strongly with Darren Whitley and Lewis Clarke shooting over the Malvern bar.

Then on 49 minutes came a real body-blow for Cradley when the Hillsiders scored from another innocuous looking situation. We had lost possession of the ball on the half-way line but we had lots of men back and when Luke Corbett flicked over a high, floating cross they had just Bryan Craven in the six-yard box while we had five players plus our keeper.

The ball found the veteran Craven in virtually a standing position and he just got enough head on it to dink it upwards and just under the bar so Malvern went 2-0 up. We could hardly believe it.

On 49 minutes the cross comes over to Bryan Craven (10) and he heads it on to make it 2-0 to Malvern Town.

Just one minute later Scott Stevenson nearly pulled a goal back for Cradley but shot into the side-netting.

R’mar Murray (7) also fancies a shot but we believe it is Scott Stevenson’s shot heading for the side-netting on 50 minutes.

Then strangely Malvern Town came back into the game as an attacking force for just five or so minutes from 52 to 57 minutes and then were forced back on the defensive for the rest of the game except for just one instance.

Shaun Edwards saved two Dave Reynolds shots and two headers from the same player in quick succession.

Then Cradley hit back on 57 minutes. Substitute Kieron Bennett crossed from our right wing and Jovan Blake-Walker intercepted to cleverly dink the ball over the keeper at his near post to reduce our deficit to 2-1.

On 57 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker (9) dinks the ball over the keeperand it’s in the net to reduce our deficit to 2-1.

Plenty of time left and it looked certain Cradley would go on to score more goals but six further attempts on goal failed to break down the resolute Malvern defence. Lewis Clarke went mighty close on 60 minutes when the Malvern right-back lost the ball but his shot went just wide of the far angle.

On 60 minutes Lewis Clarke (8) fires just wide of the far angle after their right back had lost the ball.

On 76 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker produced some good footwork to get himself in a position which often leads to a goal for us but Adam Sauntson again got a vital foot in at the last minute to save the day for the Hillsiders. Thus our frustration continued.

A quick word about the referee Ed Corbett. He had a great game letting the game flow and talking to the players when necessary and keeping his cards in his pocket until the very last few minutes when he had to show a yellow to a Malvern player. Impressive!

Jovan Blake-Walker got into a good position on 76 minutes but the alert Adam Sauntson (4) got another block in for Malvern.

After the block on Jovan’s shot Malvern’s Ben Hayes was put clear down their right on 76 minutes and he nearly caused us another surprise when his low shot went across our keeper and narrowly wide of the far post.

Then it was back to normal with the Hammers remorselessly on the attack. In the last five minutes it was almost ‘shots in’ as Lewis Clarke, R’mar Murray, and Ollie Oatley had shots blocked but Malvern held out so it was just not our day in the end.

We remain fifth in the table but it’s getting very tight.


Tue 15 Mar

League Cup holders Cradley reach the semi-finals again.


The Hammers began well but it was a super show from keeper Shaun Edwards which kept them in it in the 2nd half. An extra time Bladen goal decided it..

Cradley Town are not going to give up their League Cup without a fight and we were certainly made to fight hard in this game as Casuals gave it all they’sd got in an effort not to lose to us three times in a row this season.

Casuals played some really good football throughout and, while their keeper was rarely troubled, the Cradley keeper Shaun Edwards got us off the hook with a succession of fine saves. On other occasions our visitors got themselves into some excellent positions but were wayward with their finishing. Thankfully it was the Hammers who scored the all-important goal and we are now just one game away from the final.

The game was at fever pitch at times with the away bench constantly barracking the under-pressure referee and their substitute Mark Habbershaw inflaming the home supporters with his usual aggressive conduct off the pitch on the side-lines and on it.

The way the home players maintained their equilibrium was a credit to them and their club.

It was a cold night but fortunately the recent dry weather persisted and the conditions were favourable for a good night’ss football.

Looking back now we see Cradley started the game well and Scott Stevenson, Jovan Blake-Walker, Lewis Clarke and Chris Bladen all put efforts just wide of the target by the 36th minute.

The Cradley defence battled steadfastly for the whole game and skipper Matt Aston was well on the way to gaining the ’sman of the match’s award until our keeper Shaun Edwards pulled off some stunning saves to maintain a clean sheet.

On 37 minutes came our first real problem as two defenders went to clear a ball but neither did and one of the league’ss best strikers Liam Hughes was presented with a one-on-one chance. He shot but Shaun parried the ball upwards and it looked like the ball would arc into our net but thankfully it cleared the bar.

Casuals’s Liam Hughes (11) shoots whilst being harried by Darren Whitley (4) and somehow our keeper Shaun Edwards manages to put it over the bar on 37 minutes.

The Hammers finished the half strongly and a powerful Jovan Blake-Walker cross on 44 minutes was almost deflected into his own net by a Casuals defender.

Second half.

We have to admit the second-half belonged to our visitors. Soon after the re-start Shaun Edwards saved a shot from the visitors’s Jay Holdcroft and a minute later Liam Hughes had the whole goal to shoot at but put his low shot past the far post. A big let-off!

For the first half-hour of the second-half the Hammers hardly got a look-in as many Casuals efforts went wide or were blocked or headed away or saved.
There were a couple of Scott Stevenson free-kicks, the first Cradley failed to make contact with and the second flew just over the Casuals near angle on 63 minutes. Scott also shot narrowly wide of the far post on 75 minutes.

Shaun Edwards saves a Brad Lewis (10) header on 68 minutes

Shaun Edwards punches a Liam Hughes (11) shot away on 78 minutes.

Players from both sides were getting cautioned by the referee at regular intervals and the whistle went for the end of 90 minutes normal time.

Extra time.
The first period of extra-time saw a Casuals shot from Liam Hughes saved easily by Shaun Edwards. Then on 93 minutes Ryan Edwards shot wide for Cradley. On 95 minutes the Hammers made the vital break-through. It was a Casuals throw-in in our half of the pitch (as an anguished cry from the visitors’s bench reminded us) but Ryan Edwards took control of the ball and came racing out of defence to lay the ball off to Jovan Blake-Edwards on our left wing.
Jovan dug deep to muster up some dregs of energy to sprint down the wing before releasing an inch-perfect cross to the far post where Chris Bladen made no mistake shooting strongly low into the net putting the Hammers 1-0 up.

On 95 minutes it’ss a quick break forwards by the Hammers and Jovan Blake-Walker (9) crosses from the left and Chris Bladen (10) right powers in a shot to put us 1-0 up.
Full marks to Jovan who showed great awareness in realising the pass was a better option than shooting himself. That’ss real team-work.

Cradley didn’st want to lose it now but probably made the wrong decision with still eight minutes to go when Chris Bladen tried to keep the ball in the corner by the flag. He quickly lost possession and Casuals were on the attack again!

It was pretty even now though. We attacked and they attacked as the players kept the momentum going despite tired limbs. Our keeper Shaun Edwards had to pull off just one final save on 118 minutes when the Casuals captain Dan Forward scooped in a shot from a seated position and Shaun pushed it over the bar. Our visitors were screaming for a penalty shortly before this but luckily the referee turned down their appeals.

Another save for the Hammers keeper as Shaun Edwards pushes Dan
Forward’ss (5) close-range shot over the bar on 118 minutes.

The resultant corner came in and Cradley took possession of the ball and sent it down-field on 119 minutes with Chris Bladen chasing it completely free with just substitute Richard Trow on his trail but losing the battle to keep up with Chris. We were sure Chris was going to seal the win with a second goal but the Casuals keeper Harry Radford managed to block his shot.

We all felt a little drained at the final whistle but the Hammers are through to the semi-finals where they will be at home to Bromyard Town or Wolverhampton Sporting or Pegasus Juniors.

After losing six out of seven a while ago we are now unbeaten in our last five games. Well done you Hammers!
Keeper Harry Radford saves from Chris Bladen on 119 minutes.


Sat 12 Mar

The Hammers triumph 4-0 over Pegasus Juniors.

Sat 12 Mar - West Midlands (Regional) League - WMRL Premier Division


The game was a tight affair until Cradley took the lead on the half-hour mark but it was one-way traffic after that.

Three weeks without a game but the Hammers hit the ground running on this spring-like day with a fabulous win over a much-respected Pegasus Juniors team.

It was quite an eventful morning on the day of this game. Tragically the 19 year-old young referee Tom Murphy who was due to officiate on our game phoned us to say he had to pull out because he had discovered his grandmother dead earlier that very morning. Naturally he was terribly upset but he was brave enough to phone us with the awful news. Grandparents usually have a much stronger bond with their grandchildren nowadays than in the old days and we send our sincere condolences to the Murphy family in Burntwood.

On a less tragic note Aaron Lloyd left us to join Dudley Town. We thank him for his efforts for us this season and hope he does well for Dudley.

Another unusual matter was we had to play this game in our blue strip because our red kit had not been brought back early enough to get it washed after a friendly against Alvechurch on the Tuesday.

We had our latest two recruits Kieron Bennett (see left) from Tipton Town and Ryan Edwards (back with us again) from Gornal Athletic on the bench for this game.

The Hammers started the game well and were on the front foot for the first ten minutes. On 9 minutes Chris Bladen had a one-on-one chance but the young keeper Jason Davies pulled off a good save and Jovan Blake-Walker, following up, had his shot blocked.

Jovan had another chance to shoot past keeper Davies (standing in for the injured Nathan Phillips) just two minutes later but shot wide of the near post.

Then for twenty minutes or so Pegasus began to give us the strong challenge we had expected. A typical Peggy through-ball found their top-scorer Sam Pearson on 20 minutes but Sam mis-kicked and our keeper Shaun Edwards was grateful to gather the ball in his arms.

Juniors pegged us back forcing several corner-kicks but our defence stood firm and Shaun Edwards tipped over a dangerous Jack Lewis free-kick on 29 minutes.

Our defence were following a policy of booting the ball out of our own half as quickly as possible and this paid rich dividends.

It came as a bit of a surprise though to be honest when Cradley took the lead on 31 minutes. Scott Stevenson (who had a splendid game coming back from his ham-string injury) knocked a ball goal-wards and while Pegasus dithered, looking for an off-side decision, Lewis Clarke played to the whistle and headed the ball past the visiting keeper putting us 1-0 up.

Lewis Clarke (8) heads the Hammers into a 1-0 lead on 31 minutes but everyone, except the ecstatic Joe Colley, checks with the linesman just to make sure the goal stood. It did!

Amazingly from this moment onwards Pegasus were dead in the water and never threatened our goal again. Chris Bladen beat a defender to give himself another one-on-one opportunity on 35 minutes but again the young keeper foiled him.

On 40 minutes our skipper Matt Aston lost a contact lens but luckily he was able to find and re-fit it.

Matt Aston re-fits his contact lens on 40 minutes whilst a concerned Scott Stevenson (in turquoise socks) looks on.

Cradley completely dominated the second-half but it was still a big relief when our second top-scorer Jovan Blake-Walker increased our lead on 59 minutes. A high ball forward was headed on by the tireless Lewis Clarke who seemed to be relishing the fact we weren’st playing on mud for a change (just a bit soft!) and Jovan seemed to take the ball to an impossibly acute angle before firing a rocket shot across the keeper and into the net low at the far post putting us 2-0 up.

Jovan Blake-Walker (9) fires in a great cross-shot on 59 minutes putting the Hammers 2-0 up against Pegasus Juniors.
On 60 minutes R’smar Murray, who was having a great game again, was tackled by the uncompromising Pegasus defender Jack Lewis and had to come off the field for four minutes to have TWO injured legs treated by our physio Sam Cooksey.

R’s’smar Murray (7) feels the force of a Jack Lewis tackle and our physio Sam Cooksey sets about treating his wounds.
Some of us felt R’smar should call it a day and rest his injuries but Sam looked after him like a mother and got his shin-pads, socks and tape back in place ready for him to re-join the fray and we were mighty glad she did when he scored a short while later.

Our substitutes Ryan Edwards and Kieron Bennett had come on and Ryan almost celebrated his return to our colours with a goal with his first touch of the ball but the keeper saved his shot.

We really had Pegasus under pressure forcing a succession of corners and on 75 minutes the ball was half-cleared to R’smar Murray who fired in a perfectly placed shot putting the Hammers 3-0 up. We were really delighted with this three goal cushion against one of the division’ss form teams especially as they had brought a fair number of fans with them. It was just reward too for R’smar who has been working really hard and playing some super football this season.

On 75 minutes R’smar Murray (7) fires the ball goal-wards and it beats the keeper watched by Ryan Edwards (15) to give Cradley a 3-0 lead against Pegasus Juniors.

On 78 minutes Chris Bladen completed the scoring with a penalty kick making the final score 4-0 to Cradley. The Pegasus central defender Jack Lewis had barged into Kieron Bennett as a high cross was coming in and the referee Liam Corbett immediately pointed to the spot. Jack and Kieron were certainly not best mates as they clashed a few more times in the remainder of this game.

The Hammers remain fifth in the table thanks to this win but Pegasus have dropped three places to tenth which shows how fierce the competition is with teams like Wolverhampton Sporting, Dudley Sports, Ellesmere Rangers and Malvern Town all pushing their way up the table. We are due to meet several of these on-form rivals in the closing stages of this season so let’s hope we can keep our current good run going.


Sat 20 Feb

Last-gasp equaliser foils the Hammers.


West Midlands (Regional) League - WMRL Premier Division

Oh dear! When does a draw feel like a defeat? When you have a win snatched from your grasp by the last kick of the game, that’ss when! It was windy, cool and rainy at first at Queen Street Bilston and we wanted to do much better than we did there in December going 3-0 down to Bilston Town without a whimper.

Willenhall Town had been having a pretty poor season but they had beaten Black Country Rangers 3-2 away in their previous game so we knew we needed to perform well to get something from the game.

On 5 minutes the Willenhall keeper was somehow way out near the corner flag but Sam Wilkinson managed to get his cross past him and Chris Bladen deflected the ball goal-wards from a very narrow angle. With his keeper AWOL it needed a goal-line clearance from Chris Milliard to deny us an early goal.

Willenhall Town’ss Chris Milliard (3) clears Chris Bladen’ss effort off the line on 5 minutes.

Our keeper Shaun Edwards was penalised on 11 minutes for handling outside his area but the free-kick hit our wall and the ball was cleared.

The Hammers went close again on 21 minutes when Jovan Blake-Walker’ss shot hit the far post. The loose ball came to Chris Bladen who seemed certain to score but fired straight at the keeper. His blushes were spared by the offside flag.

In the whole of the first half Willenhall had, we think, just two shots, one wide and one high. Cradley had several promising moves including one on 44 minutes when, with people in the box, Jovan Blake-Walker put in a cross which was too strong, too high and went out beyond the far post for a goal-kick. We should have been ahead bearing in mind the possession we had but we weren’st finding our men very well. Most of our through balls were annoyingly being ’shoovered’s up by the stocky Lockman defender Lyndon Weller. Our notes stated ’sCradley not doing very well’s.

Unfortunately it was Willenhall who started the second-half brighter and sharper with Leon Weller, Danny Hemmings and Kieron Robinson being creative and difficult to dispossess.

On 52 minutes Matt Vaughan was cautioned for fouling a player who looked like breaking through and Shaun Edwards did well to save a close range header from the subsequent free-kick.

On 59 minutes the newly signed former Boldmere St Michaels man Ross Clarke slipped a ball through for Willenhall and we looked for an offside flag which never came. Alex Carlin was clear on goal with just our keeper to beat and we breathed a huge sigh of relief as the striker hit a poor shot which Shaun Edwards was able to kick away for a corner.

Shaun Edwards saves from Willenhall’ss Alex Carlin on 59 minutes. Like R’smar Murray (3) we all thought it was an un-missable chance!

It was a sobering thought to think we could lose this one but the lads weathered the mini-storm and really we bossed the last half an hour of the game.

We were getting behind the Lockmen’ss defence at last. On 61 minutes Chris Bladen almost got into a ’schipping the keeper position’s and on 62 minutes he DID get into such a position but the effort went wide.

This Chris Bladen (10) chip went wide on 62 minutes and it was still 0-0.

On 66 minutes Sam Wilkinson put in a corner kick which their keeper could only parry away before Ross Clarke booted the ball away. A minute later the now-exhausted Jovan Blake-Walker battled his way to the by-line before pulling back a poorish pass.

On 73 minutes we finally took a deserved lead when our young gun substitute Charlie Gregg threaded a pass through to Chris Bladen who beat the off-side trap and raced on to slot the ball past Tom Turner to make it 1-0 to the Hammers.

On 73 minutes Chris Bladen (obscured) races clear of Lyndon Weller beats the Willenhall Town keeper Tom Turner and the ball’ss in the net giving Cradley a 1-0 lead.

Less than two minutes later it was Jovan Blake-Walker latching on to a through ball and having just the keeper to beat. He knocked the ball past Tom Turner but then hit the deck as the two collided. A penalty perhaps but the referee said ’sno’s.

On 75 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker knocks the ball past Tom Turner but gets upended as he tries to go after the ball and the score remains 1-0 to Cradley.

Willenhall Town raised their game after this let-off and our defence (and Richard Thomas-Robinson) in particular had to make some vital interceptions to keep them at bay.

On 90 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker again forged his way into the Willenhall box and he went down under a challenge from the uncompromising Graham Ashton. A penalty again surely? ’sNo’s said the referee ’she got the ball!’s

On 90 minutes Willenhall’ss Graham Ashton (right) moves across to tackle Jovan Blake-Walker (left) in the box.

The referee indicated play would finish after four minutes added on time and we thought, despite not getting a fair crack of the whip, we would hold out to get the three points. It increasingly seemed that the home team were getting away with body-checks, pushes, pulls and trips and that only when our legs were completely kicked from under us did we get a decision.
Then to compound the issue further we were 30 seconds from the end when the wily Kieron Robinson went down under a non-challenge from Darren Whitley and he got the free-kick in a dangerous position. At that stage Kieron must have known that was the only way to breach our defence and his gamesmanship paid rich dividends.

On 94 minutes from 25 yards the left-back Chris Milliard (who had cleared the ball off the line in the first few minutes of the game) moved in to take a left-footed free-kick. We were praying it would hit our wall or go over the bar like the previous home free-kicks but this one was perfectly on target going up high and curling into the top right corner making the score 1-1.

On 94 minutes Chris Milliard (out of picture) puts his free-kick over the Cradley wall and it’ss in the net snatching a last kick of the game 1-1 draw for Willenhall Town.

We all felt robbed and our keeper Shaun Edwards made his feelings known to the referee thus getting booked for dissent. Shaun was not to know it but this was our tenth ’sdissent’s caution of the season and thus it got us a £85 fine from Birmingham County FA on top of the normal £10 cost of a caution.

Our dissenters have been Shaun Edwards, Danny Priest, Michael Briscoe, Lewis Clarke, Matt Aston, Joe Lawley, Adam Meacham, Ben Billingham and Will Tibbetts (twice). If we get another five dissents it will get us a £160 fine from BCFA.

Literally, as soon as we kicked off to re-start the game the referee blew the final whistle and he left the field with his assistants with a lot of criticism from the Cradley fans ringing in his ears. On the day AFC Bridgnorth beat Black Country Rangers 4-1 at Beeches View Avenue pushing the Hammers down to fourth in the table.


Tue 16 Feb

The Hammers revival continues with a 4-0 win over Bromyard Town.


West Midlands (Regional) League - WMRL Premier Division

Our battling visitors had won at Shawbury United and Haughmond earlier this season but an early goal paved the way for a form-book win for Cradley.

This was a cold, dark, windy night with short periods of drizzle thrown in for good measure. We had virtually a near top versus a near-bottom game to play but, as usual in this league, nothing could be taken for granted because Bromyard had pulled off some super wins at Shawbury United and Haughmond earlier in the season.

The former Hammer Matthew Vaughan has rejoined us from Gornal Athletic and we had a very strong looking bench for this game with Matthew, Sam Wilkinson, Aaron Lloyd, Darren Whitley and Danny Priest on it. Danny Priest hasn’t played for seven games now and seems to have taken over the assistant manager role now that Andy Mole doesn’t come any longer.

The players had been complaining recently about the WMRL balls we’ve been using being hard so we lashed out on five new ones for this game. The Hammers responded by going 1-0 up after just 1 minute. Chris Bladen fired in a shot which came down off the cross-bar and Ollie Oatley was there in the ’Will Tibbetts’ role to nod it back into the net. This was Ollie’s first goal of the season and his second of all time for Cradley so he was naturally delighted as were all of us.

Chris Bladen’s shot comes back off the cross-bar and Ollie Oatley (7) heads it in to give the Hammers a 1-0 lead against Bromyard after just 1 minute.

On 7 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker reminded us what a great asset the Blake-Walker / Bladen pairing looks like being for us when he laid the ball off and Chris Bladen ran on to it, drawing the keeper before firing in to give the Hammers a 2-0 lead.

On 7 minutes Chris Bladen shoots past the Bromyard Town keeper and the ball beats a defender to the goal-line sending Cradley into a 2-0 lead.

All the time our visitors were battling hard but the goals continued to flow for the Hammers when on 24 minutes that man Chris Bladen looped in a shot which dipped and beat the away keeper Aaron Thomasson at the foot of his post putting us 3-0 up.

On 24 minutes Chris Bladen (far left) is about to connect with the ball which goes high towards goal and beats the Bromyard keeper at the foot of his post giving the Hammers a 3-0 lead.

R’mar Murray put in a good run and shot on 41 minutes but the score was still 3-0 at the half-time whistle.

Early in the second-half Jovan Blake-Walker shot over and then had a one-on-one chance blocked by the Bromyard keeper on 52 minutes.

Aaron Lloyd has hit a goal drought going ten games without scoring. On 71 minutes though the Bromyard keeper had to make a good save to deny him

On 71 minutes the Bromyard keeper produces a good save to deny Aaron Lloyd (16).

Aaron Lloyd inflicted a blow on Bromyard though by setting up a goal for Chris Bladen on 74 minutes. A long ball forward looked an easy take for the keeper but he was handicapped by a knee injury and he was distracted by Aaron’s close proximity which allowed Aaron to get a toe in and nick the ball away from the goalie. Chris Bladen has been in very sharp form since rejoining from Gornal Athletic and he was on the scene to smash the ball past a defender and into the net giving the Hammers a 4-0 victory on the night.

Aaron Lloyd enjoys a bit of arm wrestling and nicks the ball away from the Bromyard keeper on 74 minutes. Chris Bladen (11) shoots and the ball is heading for the net to put Cradley 4-0 up.

Bromyard had been so lively on the night it was only now we could feel the three points were safely in the bag. Sadly we suffered a set-back on 77 minutes when our play-maker Scott Stevenson pulled a hamstring and had to leave the field. Let’s hope Scott gets back into action soon.

So, after losing all our games in December and January, February was proving much better this being our third win in a row and we our place in the top four was consolidated for the time being at least.


Sat 13 Feb

A two-goal burst from the Hammers claims the points in this hard-fought game.


West Midlands (Regional) League - WMRL Premier Division

Cradley are hoping their mid-season slump is behind them after winning at Haughmond and defeating the in-form Casuals in two successive games.

A cloudy, cold, dull and windless day at Beeches View Avenue but a super, much-needed win for the Hammers against a Casuals team who had been on really good form lately.
There was an excellent start to the game for the Hammers when Scott Stevenson laid a pass off to Jovan Blake-Walker after just 2 minutes. From the edge of the area Jovan fired his shot low and hard into the far corner giving Cradley a 1-0 lead. It was a professional finish and he has now scored in each of our last four games.

Jovan Blake-Walker (9) puts Cradley 1-0 up on 2 minutes.The Hammers were pretty much on top for the first fifteen minutes but Casuals struck back to level on 17 minutes. We lost possession of the ball to Mark Habbershaw near our corner flag and there were appeals for hand-ball against Darren Whitley (see left) as his cross came over. The referee said ‘play on’ but we only half cleared the ball to Liam Hughes who produced a superb dink over our keeper Shaun Edwards to equalise at 1-1.
Liam Hughes produces a great chip over Shaun Edwards to equalise at 1-1 for Wolverhampton Casuals on 17 minutes.

Both sides tried hard to increase the score but it remained 1-1 at the half-time whistle. At the start of the second-half Casuals were dominant for twenty minutes or so and during this period Shaun Edwards had to make several good saves for Cradley.
On 57 minutes though there was nothing Shaun could do to prevent Casuals taking the lead. He’d pushed a good shot round his post and from the resultant corner kick the ball went low through a ruck of players towards our far post. R’mar Murray couldn’t get a good a good kick at it but it hit his standing leg and came out to the Casuals sub Dan Cresswell who hammered the ball into our net from close-range giving the away team a 2-1 lead.

On 57 minutes the stocky Dan Cresswell (right) fires Wolverhampton Casuals into a 2-1 lead from close range following a corner kick.
Mark Habbershaw is a big, talented player for Casuals but his language at times was indecent in the extreme. We expect the usual swearing on the pitch because it’s mortal combat out there but Habbo was beyond the pale. Then he had a spat with Ollie Oatley and wanted to ‘sort it out on the car park’. Utterly childish and certainly not a good example for the youngsters.
Some of us Cradley fans were, we must admit, resigned to losing this game by a fair margin but luckily the lads had the talent and conviction to turn the tables on our visitors.
It all changed in just a couple of minutes. On 66 minutes our left wing-back R’mar Murray was racing across the edge of the Casuals area from left to right evading tackle after tackle and our young substitute Charlie Gregg raced forward to take a pass from R’mar and he produced a brilliant low cross-shot which beat the former Dudley Town keeper James Scarratt and also our own Chris Bladen who would have liked to get a toe on it and ended up in the far corner equalising at 2-2.
Charlie Gregg is out of the picture but his shot is heading goal-wards and it beats the keeper to bring the Hammers back on level terms at 2-2 on 66 minutes.

Literally just one minute later the Hammers regained the lead. A quick ball forward found Jovan Blake-Walker in the opposition’s penalty area. Despite having two defenders on him Jovan held the ball up and then laid it off to Chris Bladen who scuffed (or was it a good shot and a deflection?) a shot into the net leaving the keeper wrong-footed and giving Cradley a fabulous 3-2 lead on 67 minutes.

Chris Bladen (11) fires goal-wards on 67 minutes and the ball is in the net watched by goal provider Jovan Blake-Walker (left) and Cradley go 3-2 up.
We had been in the same position a fortnight earlier and lost but this time we took the three points. Richard Thomas-Robinson did have to clear a ball off our line on 74 minutes but Casuals seemed to have shot their bolt.
Full marks to skipper Matt Aston and his defence for standing firm against a potent Casuals attack. Having done the double over them in the league we look forward to hosting the same opponents later in the season in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.


Wed 10 Feb

A battling League Cup win for the Hammers at Haughmond.


Cradley took one step towards retaining their League Cup trophy with this, often backs-to-the-wall, triumph at high-flying Haughmond on a super pitch.
It seems the Hammers are not going to give up the League Cup which they won last season without a fight. We were often under the cosh and Haughmond will rue the several chances they missed but it was a gritty performance by Cradley who battled for every ball against the high-flying home team and came away with a great win after five consecutive defeats.
It was a dry day for a change but rather cold and it was probably the first time since the beginning of November that we didn’t have to contend with gale-force winds and slippery, wet pitches. The lads appreciated, we are sure, the superb Haughmond pitch which was super smooth and without a blemish. Haughmond share it with Shrewsbury Town U21s and the Football League people ensure it’s a good playing surface when the weather allows.
From the start Haughmond exerted some pressure on us. Shaun Edwards tipped a good shot over his bar on 3 minutes and from the corner there was a melee which seemed to go on for ever (probably about four seconds) before the ball went out for a goal-kick.
A melee on our goal-line on 4 minutes with our R’mar Murray on the post keeping the ball out while the grounded Haughmond captain Craig Farr tries to get his foot to it. A close one but they didn’t score on this occasion!
For the next fifteen minutes it was all Cradley. Ollie Oatley, Richard Thomas-Robinson, R’mar Murray and Jovan Blake-Walker all threatened the home goal before we were gifted the lead on 16 minutes.
The Haughmond keeper Sam Jones, who had been brilliant in our 3-1 league defeat nineteen days earlier went way out of his area towards the corner flag and laid the ball off to a defender who mis-hit it straight to Sam Wilkinson. Sam hit the ball first time from 25 yards into the empty net to give the Hammers a 1-0 lead. A gift goal but Sam had to be cool and accurate to cash in on it.
On 16 minutes Sam Wilkinson (8) side-foots a shot towards the empty Haughmond net and now the home keeper is on the scene but too late as the ball is in the net and Cradley are 1-0 up.
Haughmond came back at us strongly and after a few near misses they equalised on 35 minutes. A Dean Richards cross was laid off by Dave Howarth to Dan Perry who shot on the turn to squeeze the ball in between the post and Shaun Edwards making it 1-1.
On 35 minutes Dan Perry (11) shoots with Michael Briscoe attempting a block but the ball is in the net and Haughmond have equalised at 1-1.
In the remainder of the first half attacks were rare but Jovan Blake-Walker did have a near post shot kicked away by the keeper.
The Hammers started the second half in commanding form. They had three strong shots blocked earning them a corner on 50 minutes. Scott Stevenson, who had a really good game, sent over a brilliant ball to the far post where Jovan Blake-Walker met it with a powerful header which went in, possibly off a defender and the keeper, giving the Hammers a 2-1 lead. Having watched Albion’s cup game on TV it’s obvious Jovan could give Berahino some tips on heading the ball!
Jovan Blake-Walker heads in Scott Stevenson’s corner at the far post……
……….. and celebrates giving Cradley a 2-1 lead on 50 minutes.
Cradley hung on to this lead like grim-death. Our bench comprised mainly of defenders so our two front-runners Jovan Blake-Walker and Aaron Lloyd had to stay on until the end despite looking absolutely shattered after 70 minutes. We were under constant pressure throughout but thanks to some dogged defending, some great saves by Shaun Edwards and some below-par finishing by the home team we held on for a great win.
A super Shaun Edwards save on 51 minutes. Another one on 60 minutes. We entertain today’s visitors Wolverhampton Casuals in the quarter-finals. 


Sat 30 Jan

Ten-men Hammers nailed by a late Stone fight-back.


Sunny but cold at Beeches View Avenue as a battling Stone side came back from two down to extend the Hammers losing run to five games.
Back home at last! This was our first home game since losing to AFC Bridgnorth here on 5 December 2015. The lads fought so hard on another wet, bobbly pitch and scored three goals but still cannot snap out of this long run of defeats. This loss to Stone Old Alleynians was our fifth in six league games and our sixth in seven games altogether.
It wasn’t raining for a change but there was a cold wind to begin with. Then the wind dropped and we felt warmer in the bright winter sunshine. Stone won the toss and had us facing the bright sunshine in the first half so our keeper Shaun Edwards borrowed a Cradley Town cap from the club shop!
Another unusual thing was the match officials used the opposite diagonals in this game so the assistants didn’t have to run up and down the muddy usual diagonals. Full marks to referee Liam Corbett for being able to handle this. There were occasions in the game where players and fans alike were looking for offside decisions and there was no linesman there!
We were happy to have Will Tibbetts back in our line-up for this game because his new team Bromsgrove Sporting were postponed at Southam United.
The game started off as an even affair but Cradley broke the deadlock on 25 minutes when Chris Bladen, back with us and looking as combative as ever, took advantage when a Stone defender completely missed his kick. Chris took the ball and fired in a high shot, possibly deflected, which went in nicely just under the bar to put Cradley 1-0 up.
On 25 minutes out of the picture Chris Bladen’s shot soars over the keeper and under the bar giving Cradley a 1-0 lead.
Old Alleynians came back at us strongly after going behind but on 28 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker produced a good run and a pass to find Chris Bladen. Despite the proximity of several defenders Chris controlled the ball and shot expertly (possibly deflected) into the top left corner of the near post giving the Hammers a 2-0 lead. We were all hoping this would finally be our day to get a win under our belts again
On 28 minutes Chris Bladen (9) prepares to shoot and the ball whistles into the top corner past keeper Matt Burslem putting the Hammers 2-0 up.
Stone came back at us yet again. Aaron Lloyd, playing in defence, helped halt one dangerous attack when we had to be careful not to give away a penalty but on 38 minutes Stone pulled a goal back in surreal circumstances. A speculative long low trickling shot from Danny Heard was ignored by everyone and the ball hit our post and diverted into our net reducing our lead to 2-1.
On 38 minutes a long-range Danny Heard shot trickles over our line after hitting the post reducing Stone’s deficit to 2-1. Stone’s Sam Wilson (8) follows up and our keeper Shaun Edwards and skipper Matt Aston (4) look on in shock.
We in the Cradley camp still felt confident and hoped the set-back would just keep us on our toes from thereon but we were to be disillusioned. Just before the half-time whistle Stone’s Alex Kay was put clear by a smart through ball but he skied his shot way over the bar. Another reminder we needed to be on our toes!
Some of us were just coming out of the clubhouse after the interval when Old Alleynians drew level on 48 minutes. From the other end of the ground it looked like our keeper came to the edge of his area to claim a ball, that he laid it off to our left-back who attempted a cross-field lateral pass to our right-back but somehow the ball fell to that man Danny Heard who looped his shot into the top right corner of our net to equalise at 2-2. It seemed we were trying to throw the game away again!
For half an hour after being pegged back we looked the better team. Richard Thomas-Robinson sent a fierce shot just over and Will Tibbetts shot just wide and just over. On 70 minutes some of us were out of our seats cheering a goal which never was! Jovan Blake-Walker beat several players before crossing and Will Tibbetts let fly with a fierce shot which looked a goal all the way. Unfortunately the Stone keeper Matt Burslem pulled off a great save to push the ball away for a corner. Drat!
On 70 minutes Will Tibbetts (hidden) has his fierce shot punched away by the Stone keeper Matt Burslem.
On 79 minutes, much to the relief of the Cradley fans including one or two first-time visitors, we DID go 3-2 up. Richard Thomas-Robinson, who was having a fine game, found Jovan Blake-Walker in space on our left hand flank. Jovan cut inside and let fly with a good, low shot which was inadvertently deflected over his keeper by the foot of the Stone centre-half Ian Whalley. Some would say all our three goals were helped by deflections but we could do with a little good fortune!
The Hammers go 3-2 up on 79 minutes when the toe of Stone’s Ian Whalley (5) tips Jovan Blake-Walker’s (10) shot over his keeper Matt Burslem.
We were hoping the little piece of luck for our third goal on 79 minutes would help us to the much-needed three points but we faded from the game almost completely and Stone Old Alleynians, helped by a super-sub contribution from Adam Tompkinson, dominated the last fifteen minutes and stole the win from under our noses.
On 82 minutes Matt Aston was harshly penalised for a challenge a yard or two outside his penalty area. Danny Heard took the free-kick which rebounded off our wall back to him. We blocked another Heard shot and the ball screwed away to the far touch line where it was retrieved by the away team and centred so Danny Heard could have yet another shot at goal in search of his hat-trick.
Darren Whitley and Joe Colley achieved partial blocks but both players hit the deck in doing so in the slithery conditions and Stone’s George Askey slid in to get just enough on the ball to send it creeping into our net off the post making the score 3-3. It was gut-wrenching to be pegged back again just three minutes after going in front.
Seven Cradley players on the job but with Daz Whitley and Joe Colley grounded George Askey (11) slides in to nick the ball in off the post equalising for Stone at 3-3 on 82 minutes. In the bottom picture the ball appears to be in front of the post but in fact it is behind the post.
Aaron Lloyd has done some sterling work for us this season in attack, midfield and defence and is second only to Lewis Clarke in the number of appearances he has made for the Hammers this season despite injuries and an earlier suspension but he has often resorted to rugby-tackling an opponent and thus he earned his eighth yellow card of the campaign in this match.
Worse was to follow on 85 minutes when Aaron inexplicably kicked the ball away after having a hand-ball decision against him in a rare Cradley attack thus earning a second yellow card and an early shower.
It was now a ‘backs to the wall job’ for ten-men Cradley. On 86 minutes the Stone sub Adam Tomkinson beat his marker on the Stone right-wing and shot across our goal. The ball went just beyond our far post and out for a goal-kick.
On 89 minutes Sam Wilkinson, happily back with us again, blocked a Darren Heard shot and we hoped to hang on for a draw. That hope was shattered on 92 minutes when Tomkinson again beat his marker on the wing and sent in a cross which was glanced home by a header from George Askey who was stooping at the near post to give Stone Old Alleynians a 4-3 win.
On 92 minutes somehow George Askey (11) manages to squeeze home a near-post header to give Stone a 4-3 win and break Cradley’s hearts.
Both teams gave their all in a hard-fought, entertaining game but it was the fifth defeat on the trot for the Hammers. We are somehow still fourth in the table but there is only Tipton Town below us in the Form Table based on just the last six games. We’ve just got to ‘ommer’ somebody soon to bring a smile back to our faces!


Sat 23 Jan

The Hammers lose this top four clash in Shrewsbury.


We could certainly do with getting a win under our belts and will celebrate when that win comes.

Out of form Cradley lose to a quick breaking, clinical finishing Haughmond outfit in the Shropshire rain.
After six weeks without a league game the rain finally held off for a bit enabling us to travel to Shrewsbury for this top four clash. The pitch was still soft though and the heavens opened again later on so most of the second-half was played in pouring rain again!
For some of us it was our first visit to the Shrewsbury Sports Village which is a big modern sports complex with various 3G pitches, rock climbing walls, cafes, loads of changing rooms and meeting rooms, and children’s playgrounds. The place was packed out with young girl footballers and their parents.
The stand on the main pitch was very popular with the local doves and pigeons many of whom were billing and cooing above us as we watched the game.
A pair of Shropshire doves at Haughmond FC.
The Hammers, with Chris Bladen making his season’s debut for us, were always busy in this game but we are finding it difficult at present to create clear cut chances. On 23 minutes, under pressure from Jovan Blake-Walker, their keeper hurried a clearance which hit his own player and bounced along the six-yard line but we had no one there to take advantage. Apart from that the home keeper Sam Jones had a terrific game.
On the other hand Haughmond carved us open several times in the first half hour. On 8 minutes and 18 minutes they had free shots on the edge of our area but shot over the first time and wide the second time.
On 30 minutes though their acts of generosity came to an end and they scored a fine goal. Their striker Kevin Renshaw sent a long diagonal ball to our far post where the right-back Dean Richards rose high to meet the ball at full speed, heading the ball in and giving Shaun Edwards no chance. Thus Haughmond were 1-0 up.
Haughmond’s Kevin Renshaw (9) looks on in satisfaction after his cross has been headed in at the far post by right-back Dean Richards (now out of the picture) giving the home team a 1-0 lead on 30 minutes.
Strangely enough the Haughmond attack was hardly seen after this point and in the remainder of this game the Hammers made 20 attacking moves compared to the home side’s 5 attacking moves. The name of the game today from Leicester City down is ‘the quick counter attack’ and Haughmond showed how effective this is in the second half of this match.
Cradley’s Scott Stevenson supplied lots of crosses and excellent corners throughout the game and on 36 minutes Chris Bladen almost headed one in but the home keeper made a good save.
The home keeper Sam Jones palms away a Chris Bladen (11) header on 36 minutes.On 39 minutes, as for most of this game, Cradley were on the attack and Luke Williams fired a shot across goal and just wide of the far post and, in the second-half, on 50 minutes R’mar Murray beat two or three defenders before firing in a shot which Jones (see left) saved with difficulty.
On 52 minutes however Cradley went further behind. Dave Howarth (No.10 but confusingly down as No.11 on the team sheet) dwelt on the shoulders of the Cradley last line of defence and when a ball was knocked through into space he was on the ball like a rabbit. Darren Whitley and Joe Colley tried to catch him but he let fly with a cool shot past Shaun Edwards and Haughmond were now 2-0 up.
On 52 minutes, despite Darren Whitley and Joe Colley (3) chasing him down, Dave Howarth (10) shoots past Shaun Edwards giving Haughmond a 2-0 lead.
The Hammers were frustrated by all this and on 60 minutes Aaron Lloyd and Luke Williams were both cautioned for cutting off in the bud another home move by illegal means.
On 63 minutes, with the home goal under constant pressure, Joe Colley put in a ball which Jovan Blake-Walker headed goalwards from point-blank range but somehow keeper Jones read it and pulled off an unbelievable save.
On 73 minutes we could have conceded another goal when last season’s WMRL Golden Boot runner-up Steve Hole was put clean through but he dallied, possibly trying to get the ball on his left foot, and our substitute Ollie Oatley closed him down and prevented him getting a shot away.
Ollie Oatley (15) frustrates Haughmond’s Steve Hole (11) on 70 minutes.
On 72 minutes Luke Williams sent a pile-driver just over the Haughmond bar from 25 yards and on 78 minutes we got the goal our efforts fully deserved. At last we managed to find a player in space when Lewis Clarke heard a call and back-headed the ball perfectly for Jovan Blake-Walker to run on to and lash an unstoppable shot past the redoubtable Sam Jones. Sam was still in mid air when the ball hit the back of the net. The score was now 2-1 and it was good to see Jovan back on shooting form after weeks out with injury and inactivity.
On 78 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker (9) made a great connection with the ball and it flew past defenders and the keeper reducing our deficit to 2-1 at Haughmond.
The Hammers were now back in the game but our hearts were broken on 86 minutes when another Haughmond goal took the game away from us. Ollie Oatley had worked well in defence after coming on as a substitute but his attempted ball forward was blocked on the half-way line and knocked back into our half. With us pushing forward there was just skipper Matt Aston there running back towards his own goal and, under pressure from sub Dan Perry, the ball ran free for that man Dave Howarth who was rapidly on the scene sniffing another goal opportunity.

Dave Howarth bore down on our goal and again with great coolness he slotted the ball past Shaun Edwards to make the final score 3-1. Matt Aston was absolutely fuming angry after this goal as he retrieved the ball from the back of our net. Was there anything specific or does Matt just not like losing we wonder?

On 86 minutes, in the Shropshire rain, our skipper Matt Aston and the home sub Dan Perry (12) run towards our goal whilst tussling for control of the ball Dave Howarth snatches control of the ball chased by Matt Aston (5) and guides it past Shaun Edwards to put Haughmond 3-1 up.
After the setback of going two goals down Cradley knuckled down and went on the attack yet again but we couldn’t pierce a packed home defence despite forcing several corners. We hope to do better when we return to play Haughmond in the League Cup on Wednesday 10th February! Luke Williams will not be with us because he has decided to return to Dudley Sports for the second time this season!!
A Shawbury United fan sitting nearby said we deserved something from this game as the final whistle went. That’s small consolation.
Well it was good to be back in action but it’s sad to lose four of our last five league games. The terrible weather we’ve had over the last few months has not helped us at all. We are still fourth in the table but the chasing pack are catching up fast.
We could certainly do with getting a win under our belts and will celebrate when that win comes.


Wed 13 Jan

Hammers battled well but dipped out of the BCFA Midweek Floodlit Cup at Nuneaton.


Rain again!! It rained heavily from start to finish but at least we got this cup tie done and dusted having not played a game for a month.
A game at last!It was a month since our 3-0 defeat at Bilston Town. We’ve lost three in a row now and this was the first time this season we’d failed to score in two consecutive games.
However we’d been trying to get this cup tie played since 1st December 2015 and after two postponements at Cradley Town and delays due to Nuneaton’s march to the last sixteen of the FA Vase we finally got this tie played and Griff will host Gornal Athletic in Round Three. The Griff people were very hospitable on the night and they refrained from exercising one or two rules of this competition which would have caused Cradley some real problems so we wish them well in their quest for glory this season.
We were lucky to get it played too because the incessant rain held off for most of the day but from teatime onwards the heavens opened yet again and this game was played on a quagmire by its conclusion.
Luke Williams was suspended for this game and Chris Bladen was cup-tied having already played for Gornal in this competition but we were happy to have Aaron Lloyd, Jovan Blake-Walker and Hugh Sproston back from injury. Mark Bellingham made his debut this season for us up front and despite the passing years the veteran looked really fit and sharp.
Mark Bellingham (fit and sharp) in action (right) at Nuneaton. Photo courtesy of the Nuneaton News.
Despite not scoring (and losing) the Hammers did very well against strong opponents. Mark Bellingham and Jovan Blake-Walker did really well going close on several occasions. R’mar Murray started this game and worked hard and bravely on our right wing.
R’Mar Murray (left) did well on our right wing at Nuneaton in the rain. Photo courtesy of The Nuneaton News.
Nuneaton also went close to scoring on occasions too and they made the vital break-through on 68 minutes. In the dreadfully slippery conditions a ball into our box seemed to be completely harmless and our keeper Shaun Edwards was crouching to pick it up when our central defender Darren Whitley slid in to deal with the ball too. Darren’s intervention knocked the ball past Shaun into the path of Griff’s Alex Naughton who, strangely with an open goal in front of him, knocked the ball to the far post where Aden Moore apologetically tapped it in unchallenged giving the home team a 1-0 lead.
Our keeper Sean Edwards and Darren Whitley get in a tangle on 68 minutes presenting the ball to Haughton who crosses to Moore and Griff go 1-0 up. Courtesy of ‘Swifts Fan’.
Cradley reacted in great style to this set-back and bombarded the Griff goal for the next ten minutes hitting the post and forcing the home keeper to make some super saves.
On 88 minutes Nuneaton made a break down their right wing and the cross was knocked in by their top scorer and substitute Luke Shorthouse making the final score 2-0 to Griff.
On 88 minutes Hugh Sproston (2) makes a valiant effort to intervene but Luke Shorthouse leaps to hammer in a cross making the final score 2-0 to Nuneaton Griff. Photo courtesy of The Nuneaton News.
No excuses from Cradley but we fans would like to see a game not affected by pouring rain or high winds or both. When will this atrocious weather end?
Full marks to the referee Tom Bowkett who allowed the game to continue to the end and kept his cards firmly in his pocket.
Many thanks too to The Nuneaton News and video maker Swifts Fan whose photos and video are used here. Our own 177 photos taken far, far away in the dry of the stand, beyond the running track and long jump pits, were virtually useless!


Sat 12 Dec

Gales again and heavy rain at Queen Street.


All the other Premier Division games were rained off on this day and Bilston Town got their reward with a convincing win over lack-lustre Cradley Town
TwitterFacebookMoreWe had had hours of heavy rainfall before this game and it was still raining when we arrived at Queen Street, Bilston but the pitch was still playable and it was the only one in the Premier Division that was because every other game was rained off.
So we didn’t add to our backlog of fixtures but unfortunately we didn’t add to our points tally either. We had high hopes considering we were third from top and Bilston were fourth from bottom but the home side adapted to the very high winds and were worthy winners in the end. The wind was gale force again just as it had been the previous Saturday against AFC Bridgnorth and keepers and defenders had the ball blown back at them if it was lofted high.
We were without Jovan Blake-Walker and Aaron Lloyd again (both injured) and Lewis Clarke and, with the wind in our faces in the first half, it was fourteen minutes before we made our first attempt on goal when Scott Stevenson shot over the bar.
Bilston went close to scoring on 18 minutes when the former Cradley player Mike Wardle (he played one game for us this season) fired just over our bar after taking the ball on the run.
The Bilston keeper Luke Kriskinans had kicked some of his early goal-kicks too hard such that, with a strong wind behind them, they went straight to our own keeper Shaun Edwards but on 29 minutes, with Cradley pushing up, he put a perfect goal-kick over our back line where the home striker Tom Piggott raced on to it, drew Shaun Edwards and fired a perfect cross shot into our net to put Bilston 1-0 up.
On 29 minutes Bilston’s Tom Piggott (9) gets behind our defence heads towards the corner flag lets fly with a cross shot past Shaun Edwards and it puts Bilston 1-0 up despite the efforts of Darren Whitley (2) and Matt Aston.
Cradley failed to cope with the conditions and made just three or four half-hearted attempts to get back on terms in the first half. On 38 minutes Luke Paskin, playing in an unaccustomed left-back role, got forward but his shot across goal went out for a throw-in.
Bilston’s Piggott had a good understanding with his left-winger Matt Barnett and on 42 minutes he put Barnett clear down the left. Fortunately for the Hammers Barnett’s low cross was missed by everyone.
Just one goal down and with the wind behind them now would Cradley take the game by the scruff of the neck in the second-half? We started the second-half brightly and did pile on the pressure for fifteen minutes but we failed to make the break-through and when Bilston came up with more goals our challenge evaporated in the wind.
The Hammers pushed up early on in the second-half and on 49 minutes Rob Whitley fired in a shot which was blocked and it almost fell to Will Tibbetts but not quite.
On 55 minutes Will Tibbetts created the best of Cradley’s rare chances when he got to the by-line and pulled the ball back for Danny Priest but Danny’s shot went just wide of the post much to the relief of the home team and substantial crowd. If it had gone in would it have deflated the home team who had gone four games without a win? Who knows?

A chance for Danny Priest (10) on 55 minutes but he shoots just wide.
Bilston got themselves into more trouble on 57 minutes when an attempted clearance almost ended up back in their own net after the gale force wind affected the game again but they got away with it.

When Bilston did break free they found space better and ran off the ball better than we did.

The home team broke free again on 58 minutes but the ball was passed to the right wing to a non-existent Bilston player so it went out of play for a Cradley throw-in near our corner flag.

Despite it being a Cradley throw-in on 59 minutes somehow it led to a Bilston attack! We lost the ball from the throw-in and it was crossed into the box where that man Tom Piggott scuffed it goal-wards. The ball was deflected away off Shaun Edward’s legs but the canny Mike Barnett was there beyond the far post to hook it high into our net giving Bilston Town a 2-0 lead.
On 59 minutes Tom Piggott (9) meets a cross and boots it goal-wards where Shaun Edwards blocks it with his leg with Rob Whitley (5) and Matt Aston (4) trying to help the ball deflects AWAY from goal and is then hooked back INTO our goal by Mike Barnett whose leg is just showing on the left putting Bilston 2-0 up.

On 67 minutes Danny Priest fired a free-kick towards goal. His routine earned us a goal against Dudley Sports and it was on target again this time but the Bilston keeper pushed it round the post for a corner.

Danny Priest (10) curls in his free-kick on 67 minutes but the Bilston keeper Luke Kriskinans pushed it round the post for a corner.
On 69 minutes Bilston’s Paul Holden made a break which was ruled off-side but he carried on to shoot into our net which possibly should have earned him a yellow card in the circumstances.
Just a minute later on 70 minutes Bilston put the final nail in Cradley’s coffin. Their keeper kicked the ball downfield against the wind and Tom Piggott took control of it around the half-way line. He played a terrific one-two with his co-striker Barnett and advanced on our goal before firing in a scorching shot which went just inside the post and made the final score 3-0 to Bilston.

On 70 minutes having out-stripped our defence Tom Piggott prepares to shoot and shoots past Shaun Edwards to put Bilston Town 3-0 up.
Just a minute after going three down Danny Priest took another free-kick for the Hammers. The ball went round the wall and dipped again so that Kriskinans only just got to it to push it away from goal.
Luke Williams raced to collect the loose ball on the by-line and crossed it back in. The ball landed on top of the cross-bar before dropping behind the net.
On 71 minutes Luke Kriskinans is nearly beaten by a Danny Priest free-kick at the foot of his post and Luke Williams (8) put the ball back in which landed on top of the bar before dropping behind the net.
The game petered out disappointingly for Cradley. The home keeper was in trouble at times from our corner kicks with the very high wind affecting the flight of the ball but we never had anyone in the right place to shoot past him.
At the other end Piggott’s confidence was sky-high and Richard Thomas-Robinson and R’mar Murray had to help our defenders stop us falling to an even heavier defeat.
Despite losing three of our last four games we are still genuinely in third place (now fourth) in the table. The terribly gusty conditions in the last two games have done us no favours at all but we need to get back to winning ways soon to keep us up there with the leaders.
Hammers in flux. The happy team which won us some superb victories in 2015 at Stone Old Alleynians, Malvern Town, Wolverhampton Casuals, Lye Town, Pegasus Juniors and Gornal Athletic has taken a knock with Adam Meacham and Will Tibbetts leaving and Aaron Lloyd and Jovan Blake-Walker suffering nasty injuries.
However our manager Mark Jones has been busy over Christmas signing recognised goal-scorers Chris Bladen, Craig Tibbetts, Mark Bellingham and Ryan Rowe as well as gifted players Liam Williams and Charlie Gregg.
Approaches have also been made for Alex Perry from Dudley Town, and Sam Wilkinson from Black Country Rangers. Sam has now joined us.
Thus we are in a state of flux just now and may need a few games to get back on track.


Sat 5 Dec

A game played in a gale.


AFC Bridgnorth do the double over second placed Cradley Town in a tight game in very difficult conditions.
It was good to be back in action after not playing the previous week. On Friday most pitches in the area were sodden after a couple of day’s heavy rainfall but high winds on the Friday and Saturday had just about dried them out. Indeed the high winds were still with us whilst playing this game. The floodlights were swaying and it was really tricky for the players out on the pitch.
Cradley unfortunately were missing a few players for this six-pointer. Lewis Clarke missed his first game of the season and Aaron Lloyd was here but limping badly and watching from the stands due to damaged knee ligaments after getting injured playing 7-a-side football.
Things got worse just a minute into the game when Jovan Blake-Walker aggravated the ankle injury which had kept him on the sidelines for almost a month. Thus we were now missing four of our top five goal-scorers!
Cradley went ahead on 6 minutes when Substitute Danny Priest scored with his first touch of the ball. We can’t recall just how it began but Bridgnorth had a rookie keeper in goal with their usual keeper Chris Crook being suspended. Somehow their stand-in goalie Tom Whitney was way out on the edge of his area when the ball came to Danny Priest on his left wing. Danny immediately let fly and the ball sailed high and into the empty net leaving Whitney stranded putting the Hammers 1-0 up. From over 25 yards and with the wind against him Danny did well to hit the target.

On 6 minutes Danny Priest’s long-range shot sails over the stranded keeper who knows he’s beaten all ends up and it’s in the net putting the Hammers 1-0 up over AFC Bridgnorth.
For about the first twenty minutes it looked like Cradley would win the game easily as Luke Williams, James Johnson and Danny Priest produced some good runs and crosses but there was no end product.
Throughout the game neither side seemed to fancy putting in any ‘crossbar challenge’ shots which would really have tested the keepers in those gale-force conditions. Indeed Bridgnorth must have been grateful their inexperienced keeper was given such an untroubled game overall.
Cradley almost went further ahead on 22 minutes when a Danny Priest run and a Scott Stevenson cross found Will Tibbetts unmarked at the far post but the swirling conditions prevented Will from getting a sure touch on the ball and it flew upwards and wide.

Will Tibbetts (10), as predatory as ever, gets to Scott Stevenson’s cross on 22 minutes but the ball flies off Will’s boot and wide of the goal in the gale-affected game.
Sadly we never really looked like scoring again after this incident. Bridgnorth took a grip of the game from here on in and it looked like the Hammers were just trying to hang on until half-time when the wind would then be behind us.
After the break it wasn’t Cradley who got going again, it was Bridgnorth who upped their game playing against the strong wind. On 53 minutes a ball came into our box and Liam Bood and a team-mate made life difficult for our keeper Shaun Edwards and the ball ballooned up and across our goal towards the far post where it looked a simple tap-in for Ryan Guryn but Darren Whitley almost got across to block it. In the end it required a desperate horizontal lunge from Guryn to force the ball over our line to equalise at 1-1.
On 53 minutes a ball into our box is punched across goal by our under-pressure keeper Shaun Edwards into the path of Ryan Guryn (4) and a horizontal lunge from Guryn forces the ball over our line despite a valiant effort to block by Darren Whitley (2). AFC Bridgnorth are happy to be level at 1-1.
A few minutes later Bridgnorth again had us on the back foot for quite a period forcing a succession of corners. From one of these on 59 minutes the Bridgnorth captain Andy Hartlebury leapt to power in a header from six yards which Shaun Edwards parried across his goal but by the time it reached Joe Colley at the post it was a foot over the line and Joe’s clearance was all in vain as AFC Bridgnorth went 2-1 up.

On 59 minutes the Bridgnorth captain Andy Hartlebury powers in a close-range header from a corner Shaun Edwards parries but the ball skews across our goal and Joe Colley’s clearance is all in vain because the linesman signals it’s crossed the line by a foot and Bridgnorth are 2-1 up.
In a game of very few clear-cut chances it was the visitors who carved out the better ones. Indeed it took a fine save from Shaun Edwards to deny Liam Armstrong in a one-on-one situation on 68 minutes which saved us from a heavier defeat.
Cradley threw everything we had at Bridgnorth in the final ten minutes but free-kicks hit the wall or went over the bar, shots were deflected out for corner kicks and a ball in from Joe Colley (who had a good game) was glanced in by Luke Williams’ head on 88 minutes but it was clearly off-side.
After this game The Hammers were still clinging on to second place in the table but Shawbury United had forged six points ahead with another big win and AFC Bridgnorth were now just two points behind us with three games in hand.


Sat 21 Nov
Cradley go nap against in-form Sports.


Everything fell right for the Hammers in their 5-1 local derby win against Dudley Sports.
On a cold day, this was a great way for the Hammers to bounce back after last week’s defeat at Dudley Town and the departure of top-scorer Adam Meacham. Dudley Sports had been catching us up recently with a good run of form but this win has opened up a good gap between us again as they stay fifth and we move up to second in the table level on points with Shawbury United.
Cradley took an early lead on 7 minutes as we attacked in numbers and the Sports defence got themselves into a tangle. Luke Williams (8) puts in a challenge and gets a touch on an intended clearance, diverting it in off keeper Matt Jones to put the Hammers 1-0 up.
It was end-to-end fare in a lively game and Dudley Sports probably went closer to scoring than we did but at half-time there was still just the one goal in it.
With Sports breathing down our necks we were relieved to go 2-0 up on 51 minutes. Aaron Lloyd rose to meet a Scott Stevenson free-kick but his header was blocked. Fortunately Lewis Clarke was first to react to stab the ball home.
53 minutes - Robert Whitley (Darren’s brother making his debut for Cradley) put in a strong tackle which earned him a yellow card. Robert did really well in central defence.
The Hammers didn’t enjoy their two goal cushion for long though as Sports pulled a goal back on 55 minutes causing us home fans to worry again.
There didn’t seem to be much danger when Sports attacked down their right flank but when Darren Whitley blocked a shot it fell to the talented Shepherd Machingauta who picked his spot perfectly to fire between keeper Shaun Edwards and Matt Aston from a narrow angle to reduce the deficit to 2-1.
Seven Cradley players there or thereabouts but Machingauta (8) stills finds room to slot home on 55 minutes reducing Dudley Sports’ deficit to 2-1.
Skipper Matt Aston and Dudley’s Stuart Hillman then had a spat about who should retrieve the ball from the back of the net and, similar to that occasion at Wellington, Hillman collapsed to the turf holding his face. The referee was not impressed however and cautioned both of them!
Cradley soon scored again going 3-1 up on 61 minutes. This one also came out of the blue as, from a throw-in, Aaron Lloyd (who had a super game) laid the ball off to our bearded veteran wide-man Scott Stevenson who despatched the ball first time low into the far corner of the Sports’ net. This was Scott’s fifth score of the season.
Dudley Sports tried hard to come back at us immediately as that man Machingauta twice in quick succession got the ball into our box. On the first occasion Shaun Edwards came out to the edge of his area to take the ball from him and forty seconds later Darren Whitley overtook him from behind to get in a great block just as the ball left Machingauta’s boot. Both times we had to be spot-on not to give away a penalty.
Despite Machingauta’s worthy efforts, overall Dudley Sports did not quite present us with the stern test we’d expected and two profitable Cradley free-kicks finished them off and allowed us to see out the game in a relaxed and happy mood.
The first came on 65 minutes after Aaron Lloyd had been fouled just outside the box. Danny Priest’s excellent left-footed free-kick cleared the wall and landed right at the foot of the near post just out of reach of our former custodian Matt Jones and the Hammers were 4-1 up. This was Danny’s first goal for the Hammers in ten appearances over three seasons.
Danny Priest (7) puts Cradley 4-1 up over Dudley Sports on 65 minutes with this excellent free-kick.
On 77 minutes the Sports centre-half Jason Walters brought down perpetual motion Will Tibbetts on the edge of the box again and was cautioned. Aaron Lloyd took the skilful free-kick which just cleared the right side of the ‘wall’ and dipped in front of the keeper. The ball broke loose and our substitute R’mar Murray won the race and stabbed the ball home to score his first goal for Cradley making the final score 5-1 to us.
Aaron Lloyd (9) sends his free-kick goal-wards and R’mar Murray (15) races in to score putting the Hammers 5-1 up on 77 minutes. R’mar Murray has disappeared under a pile of bodies but the ball is in the net. It was R’mar’s first goal for the Hammers and he vows there are more to come!!
After the final whistle the Sports manager harangued the match officials at close quarters all the way back to the dressing rooms. They said Tony Gore had been complaining about a throw-in!!
This was our 21st game of the season so we are now exactly half-way through the league season. To be second just behind Shawbury United on goal difference at this point is a magnificent achievement by the lads and the management.
The whole team excelled against Dudley Sports but the away team rightly nominated Aaron Lloyd as our man of the match while the Black Country Radio man of the match nomination went to Will Tibbetts for his non-stop chasing, harrying and involvement.

Sat 14 Nov
The Hammers rue their missed opportunities at The Dell.


So much possession and so many chances but shot-shy Cradley failed to take them and paid the price as the Robins bounced back.
There was an early 2.00pm kick-off at The Dell because Dudley MBC were awaiting spare parts to get some of the floodlights working at the council-owned stadium.
This defeat was hard to take for the Cradley fans. The team has done so well this season we’ve become accustomed to winning but a local derby on a sodden pitch proved to be a leveller.
We should have won though because we had so much possession and attacked the Dudley defence constantly but with little reward. On a greasy pitch we should have troubled a home keeper making his debut but we seemed reluctant to shoot and so many of our attacks fizzled out as we tried to make one pass too many.
We can look back on some incidents and think we didn’t have the rub of the green but Dudley made the most of their very few attacks and if you get the ball in the net more times than your opponents you deserve to win plain and simple.
Cradley took the lead on 41 minutes but we should have been way ahead at that stage having shot wide and headed wide on several occasions. Also we had troubled their keeper at times but not followed up for the tap-ins. Having second top scorer Jovan Blake-Walker out injured did not help. Dudley had given us a warning though on 33 minutes when they ‘scored’ from a free-kick at the far post but it was offside.
On 41 minutes Scott Stevenson sent over our umpteenth corner kick which was headed down by a home defender but only as far as our Darren Whitley who managed to block the ball and fire past the Dudley keeper as he was falling backwards. It was Darren’s first goal of the season and the Hammers were at last 1-0 up.
Darren Whitley (in blue) fires goal-wards and the Hammers are 1-0 up at Dudley Town on 41 minutes.
A look at the stats shows Cradley have not lost a game this season in which we have scored. We have won or drawn every game if we have scored. We’ve lost three in the league Black Country Rangers 3-0, Smethwick Rangers 2-0 and AFC Bridgnorth 1-0; and one in the FA Vase Pinxton 1-0.
We thought our opening goal would lead to another three points but we had a fair old set-back on 45 minutes. The referee decided our new signing from Shawbury United, Jack Hickman had fouled Dudley’s Ekwemalor and he awarded a free-kick. It’s customary for the Mourinhos and the Pulis types to criticise referees and I’m afraid we must follow the trend on this occasion because everyone in the stand and the linesman, just a yard away could see the big Dudley man just fell over on the tricky surface when his feet went from under him as he tried to change direction. Not a foul !
The decision proved crucial when the Dudley No. 11 took the free-kick and in the strong wind it flew high and over our keeper Shaun Edwards and dipped just under our bar at the far post to equalise at 1-1. There seems to be some confusion over the identity of the Dudley scorer because the Dudley teamsheet and FULLTIME says it was Marius Ologu, while the reports in the local papers say it was Marius Schiopu. He did look more like a Schiopu than an Ologu it must be said.
The Dudley Town free-kick results in the ball going into our net on 45 minutes to make the score 1-1 at half-time.
The Dudley Town people looked quite bemused at this as they trudged off on hearing the half-time whistle probably wondering how on earth they were going in all square after being played off the park for 45 minutes. We were quite bemused too with feelings of injustice thrown in for good measure.
The second half started with Cradley still on top forcing corner after corner. We made two changes after ten minutes or so with another new signing Mitchell Plows coming on for Joel Ayettey and then Jack Hickman suffered an injury which left him limping badly so Danny Priest replaced him.
The Dudley goal led a charmed life with shots being cleared off the line and the pressure finally paid off on 73 minutes when the ever-lively Will Tibbetts was brought down in the box by Joe Woodall. Woodall was booked and Adam Meacham lashed home the penalty kick to put the Hammers 2-1 up. This was Adam’s 20th goal of the season for Cradley.
Adam Meacham strikes home this penalty kick on 73 minutes putting Cradley 2-1 up at Dudley Town.
Surely, we thought, Cradley would press home their advantage to win the game now but Dudley had obviously not read the script and they again came back at us and were level again within minutes.
On 77 minutes, with their top scorer Shawn Devonport now on the pitch after being out injured, Dudley had us on the back foot for virtually the only time in the game and they pulled a goal out of the blue. We half cleared a ball out of our defence but Alex Perry half-volleyed it back at us and it went high over Shaun Edwards and under our bar again to make it 2-2. We didn’t get a picture of this because it caught us unawares!
Perhaps a draw wouldn’t be so bad ? Unfortunately we didn’t even get that. We seemed to be unsettled now. Aaron Lloyd picked up his sixth caution of the season and Dudley continued their little fight-back with Devonport shooting over our bar.
On 84 minutes the unthinkable happened. Paul Oakley drew in three Cradley defenders but still managed to get a shot away which hit our far post. It rebounded to our defender Matt Aston on our goal-line but Shawn Devonport’s predatory instincts saw him there unmarked to knock the ball in from close range giving Dudley a 3-2 win.
On 84 minutes Dudley’s Paul Oakley (far right) puts in a shot which hits our far post and the ball comes back off the post to Matt Aston on the line but Shawn Devonport (17) knocks the ball in to secure a 3-2 win for Dudley Town. Sorry we didn’t get a picture of the coup de grace because our finger stopped pressing the shutter release for some strange reason.
The referee added about six minutes on at the end and we did press and win corners and Aaron Lloyd managed to somehow get a shot in (despite the ball being passed behind him) which caused the keeper to flap at the ball but again there was no one following up. When the final whistle went the ball was in our half of the pitch and somehow we looked well beaten at that point.
We were not the only top of the table team to drop points that day and even after this defeat we were still third just three points behind Shawbury United. Let’s hope we can get back on track right away to keep us up there with the front runners.
Our job is now a little more difficult after top scorer Adam Meacham has left us to join Lye Town. Lye, with a well-to-do chairman, are in a position to cherry pick the region’s talent but the game was ever thus. Will Tibbetts turned them down earlier in the season to prove money isn’t everything so we will press on and enjoy our football here at Cradley.

Sat 10 Nov
A big Hammers J W Hunt Cup win against plucky Wonder Vaults FC.


Cradley Town will now be away at Heath Hayes or Stone Old Alleynians in Round Two of the J W Hunt Cup.
On a fairly cold night in front of a very sparse crowd of 19 we, as expected, made progress in the J W Hunt Cup against Division Two Wonder Vaults. Tim Beech stood in for our keeper Shaun Edwards who was welcoming new baby daughter Evie into the world. Congratulations to Shaun and family!
Plucky Wonder Vaults held out until the 21st minute before conceding a goal. The ball was knocked forwards and Jovan Blake-Walker timed his run to perfection, took it on a pace or two and fired home into the far corner to give the Hammers a 1-0 lead.
On 21 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker (11) lets fly and Cradley go 1-0 up against Wonder Vaults in the J W Hunt Cup. Just three minutes later on 24 minutes a well-placed Adam Meacham free-kick beat the wall and the Wonder Vaults keeper to put the Hammers 2-0 up.
Adam Meacham (9) hits a free-kick goal-wards and it curls round the wall and in at the foot of the post to put Cradley 2-0 up on 24 minutes.
Just seconds later and still in the 24th minute Matt Aston knocked a ball forwards which was laid on to our top scorer Adam Meacham and Adam held off some defenders before shooting past the keeper at his near post putting the Hammers 3-0 up.
Adam Meacham draws back the trusty left foot on 24 minutes and the Hammers go 3-0 up against Wonder Vaults. On 29 minutes Wonder Vaults pulled a goal back after Karl Gardner was adjudged to have brought down a visiting player in the box. Jamaine McFarlane sent Tim Beech the wrong way from the spot and reduced the deficit to 3-1.
Wonder Vaults’ Jamaine McFarlane (obscured right) scores from the penalty spot and brings the score back to 3-1 on 29 minutes. The goals continued to fly in and our buzzing, bustling Jovan Blake-Walker beat a couple of defenders before lashing in a shot on 32 minutes which increased Cradley’s lead to 4-1. It was both a joyful and painful experience for Jovan who suffered a nasty ankle injury in the process of scoring probably bashing his ankle on the keeper’s studs. Despite treatment from our physio Sam Cooksey Jovan was unable to continue and Joel Ayettey came on in his place.
On 32 minutes, after battling past a couple of defenders, Jovan Blake-Walker shoots past the advancing keeper and it’s in the net to put the Hammers 4-1 up. Joe Colley (right) was confident it was going in! The collision with the keeper put Jovan out of action though for the remainder of this game and our defeat at Dudley Town.
After the interval Vaults held us at bay for a while but on 61 minutes Joel Ayettey was at the far post to meet a well-flighted Michael Briscoe free-kick and his header back across goal put Cradley 5-1 up. Joel has several important ‘assists’ to his name but this was his first actual goal for the Hammers.
Joel Ayettey sees his header put the Hammers 5-1 up against Wonder Vaults on 61 minutes. On 71 minutes Will Tibbetts was brought down in the box and Adam Meacham put Cradley 6-1 up from the penalty spot clinching his hat-trick at the same time. In the above photos Adam Meacham (obscured right) puts the Hammers 6-1 up from the spot on 71 minutes against Wonder Vaults.
Will Tibbetts got a goal for himself on 75 minutes as the Hammers went 7-1 up. This score was set up for Will by an excellent cross from Joel Ayettey. Will Tibbetts (7) applies the finishing touch to a Joel Ayettey cross putting Cradley 7-1 up on 75 minutes.
The rout was completed on 79 minutes when Adam Meacham bagged his fourth goal of the evening. Another excellent Michael Briscoe ball into the box saw Joe Colley and Adam Meacham have shots blocked but the rebound fell nicely for Adam who tapped in to finish the night’s scoring at 8-1.
Adam Meacham (9) walks the ball over the line on 79 minutes giving the Hammers a 8-1 win over Wonder Vaults in the J W Hunt cup.
It was an expected big win for Cradley but Wonder Vaults gave it everything they had and never gave up trying, much to their credit. Cradley will be away to Heath Hayes or Stone Old Alleynians in Round Two.

Sat 31 Oct
A massive F A Vase disappointment for the Hammers


It looked a favourable FA Vase draw against lower level Pinxton but Cradley couldn’t crack a dogged home defence and went out to a stunning late goal
Our FA Vase win over Lye Town earned us this trip to Nottinghamshire in the First Round Proper. We had reached the Second Round Proper of the Vase twice before in our history, in 2005-6 we beat Lye Town and Newark Town before losing at Newcastle Town, and in 2007-8 we beat Meir KA, Ellesmere Rangers and Mickleover Sports before losing to Gedling Town.
To be honest we really fancied our chances of progressing being a top of the table Step 6 team playing a mid-table Step 7 team but cup competitions are great levellers as we found out.
It was a nice day, sunny at times, and the ground was pleasant and intriguing as it was, like ours, situated on a big slope from the main road to the lovely St. Helen’s church at the top of the hill. The pitch was flat though and the grass was lush, possibly too lush and giving.
St. Helen’s Church as seen from Pinxton’s ground.
Cradley had a problem on the day in that we had several defenders missing. Thus our top-scorer Adam Meacham dropped back to central defence and Joel Ayettey started his first game for us up front.
It was all Cradley to begin with. Will Tibbetts reckoned it was a penalty when their keeper tackled him after 6 minutes but the referee thought otherwise.
On 8 minutes we had a scare when a deflected free-kick looped upwards and came down on top of our crossbar with our keeper Shaun Edwards stranded.
It’s hands on heads for the young Pinxton fans behind the goal as a free-kick drops on the Cradley crossbar and goes out for a corner kick.
Cradley looked sure to score on 17 minutes after some good play by Joel Ayettey set up Jovan Blake-Walker but the shot was excellently saved by the home keeper Gareth Briggs. Briggs went on to have a really good game making save after save to keep the Hammers from scoring.
The home keeper foiled Jovan Blake-Walker on 17 minutes with this excellent save.
Really up front nothing was going according to plan for us. Scott Stevenson’s crosses all seemed to end up in the keeper’s hands, on 25 minutes Jovan executed a complete air-shot and on 27 minutes Joel Ayettey missed a Will Tibbetts cross seemingly because he tried to kick it when he should have headed it. Football is much easier when you are standing on the terraces!
Joel Ayettey gets in a tangle trying to get his foot to this Will 
Tibbetts cross on 27 minutes.
In truth there were very few chances for either team in the fifteen minutes before the interval.
After the break we upped our game again but Pinxton defended doggedly and we just could not get past keeper Briggs.
On 81 minutes a ball skimmed off Lewis Clarke’s head and hit the post. Now we were thinking ‘Pinxton are going to pinch this’.
Sure enough on 82 minutes Pinxton’s Luke Walker from the left-wing position evaded Darren Whitley’s attempt to close him down and got in a good shot from a narrow angle which gave Pinxton a 1-0 lead.
On 82 minutes Pinxton’s Luke Walker (far left) breaks the deadlock with this shot past Shaun Edwards which gave the home team a 1-0 win.
In the final ten minutes we moved Adam Meacham up front and threw everything at Pinxton but we were desperate now and we still couldn’t pierce a packed home defence. On 89 minutes Aaron Lloyd headed a Chris Whittaker free-kick against the post.
This Aaron Lloyd (8) header on 89 minutes hit the Pinxton far post and went out for a goal-kick. Just no luck for us on this day. On 91 minutes an equaliser looked certain as Will Tibbetts found space to get in a shot but the keeper Gareth Briggs pulled off yet another great save.
Virtually our last chance of staying in the FA Vase on 91 minutes but the keeper breaks our hearts with this fine save from Will Tibbetts (second left). The final whistle went on 92 minutes and the shattered Hammers couldn’t believe they had lost a game which they had dominated. Particularly Aaron Lloyd who lay face down on the turf in despair for an age.
We began the month of October with an FA Vase win and ended it with a Vase defeat but, as they say in football, you can’t win them all. It was a great month for us overall.
We wish Pinxton luck in the Second Round Proper. They are delighted to have been drawn away at Long Eaton United of the Midland Football League Premier Division who are just twenty miles away down the M1.
That’s not quite such a good draw as Haughmond though who should have a crowd of around 3000 watching them at Hereford FC. At £7 a head Haughmond could be taking home around £10,000.

Tue 27 Oct
A hard earned local derby win for the Hammers


Cradley let an early lead slip but clinched a late winner to leave Garden Walk in a happy mood.
It was a dark drizzly night for this visit to our old rivals. In August Gornal were expected to be strong challengers for the title this season and began with a win over fellow favourites AFC Bridgnorth. Then they suffered a series of unexpected defeats and slipped to tenth spot in the table but they had recently bounced back with good wins over Wellington Amateurs and Black Country Rangers.
It was a tremendous result therefore for Cradley to achieve this 2-1 win at Garden Walk against a team full of uncompromising characters.
It was a bruising encounter at times with Gornal’s central defensive partnership of Matt Vaughan and Ross Love not holding back but the Cradley forwards shrugged off these unwanted attentions and constantly threatened to score.
On 11 minutes a Will Tibbetts corner kick found Adam Meacham lurking beyond the far post just where he likes to receive the ball but this time his fearsome shot was saved by Richard Kennedy at his near post. On 21 minutes the ever-probing Cradley got the goal their pressure deserved when Jovan Blake-Walker ran on to a super through-ball and expertly slotted it past Kennedy to put us 1-0 up. The ball (believe us!) is in the net in this photo (left). Our umbrellas were going up and down as the drizzle got heavier and then eased off again and came again etc. On 25 minutes an unsighted Jovan Blake-Walker could only knee a Will Tibbetts corner over the bar from two yards out.
Jovan had no time to react to this ball which he put over the bar. Half-time came and went with Cradley still dominant but we couldn’t add to our lead. On 54 minutes Gornal brought on two substitutes and Kris Wedderburn used his physique well. We looked certain to score on 72 minutes when Will Tibbetts split the Gornal defence with a pass which put Adam Meacham clear on goal but he shot straight at the grateful keeper.
The Gornal keeper saves from Adam Meacham on 72 minutes. This inspired Gornal to come back at us at last. On 74 minutes their right winger, as he so often did, checked to get the ball on his left foot and his looping shot went a fraction wide of our far post.
Everyone watches Alex Cowley’s looping effort go just wide on 74 minutes. On 75 minutes Gornal equalised much to the disappointment of the Cradley faction. With Cradley pressing forward a long ball down the middle, which is usually the best form of attack, undid us and Geoff Hill timed his run perfectly to get the drop on our defenders. Keeper Shaun Edwards came racing out but Hill timed his shot to perfection to level at 1-1 as all Gornal celebrated.
We felt hard done by but if one has the majority of play and do not take one’s chances this is often the outcome. Darren Whitley (5) puts in a strong challenge but Gornal’s Geoff Hill (10) gets his shot away to equalise at 1-1 on 75 minutes.
Gornal kept up the pressure after scoring and on 82 minutes they had us in real panic-mode in a melee in front of our goal. They hit the post during this melee before Richard Thomas-Robinson was able to clear the ball off his line. Phew!! The thought of losing after being on top for so long was dreadful.
Joy and ecstasy was to be ours though on 84 minutes. Our two substitutes R’mar Murray and Joel Ayettey had a hand in us grabbing a vital winning goal. R’mar passed the ball to Joel who attacked Gornal from the left wing, beating a defender or two before crossing to the far post where the ever-reliable Will Tibbetts came steaming in to force the ball over the goal-line restoring our lead at 2-1.
In scoring Will had to fight off the close attentions of a Gornal defender and some suggested a possible own goal but Will definitely got the last touch. On 84 minutes Joel Ayettey receives a pass from R’mar Murray crosses the ball to the far post where Will Tibbetts (7) fights off a Gornal Athletic defender to force the ball into the net giving Cradley a fantastic 2-1 win.
Gornal fought back gamely with Alex Cowley again left-footing a shot just over the angle of our goal on 85 minutes but it was the Hammers who went mightily close to scoring with an outrageous effort on 88 minutes.
The Gornal keeper had to come way out of his goal to beat Joel Ayettey to the ball and he booted it downfield where from a range of 65 yards or so Aaron Lloyd volleyed it back at the Gornal goal. It was fully on target but it bounced a couple of yards out from the goal-line and bounced over the bar! What a goal that would have been and it was still a glorious effort from Aaron. Aaron Lloyd’s 65 yarder looks on target but it bounces just over the Gornal bar!
This was a really good win against strong opponents in a local derby and keeps us well up with the front runners in the WMRL Premier Division.
I think everyone (at the Rebels) hopes that I can, and so do I.

Sat 24 Oct
Top v bottom game goes true to form


The Hammers enjoyed a comfortable win but the Ams scored their first goal at Cradley at the fourth attempt.
The pitch was saturated after heavy rainfall and the players had difficulty keeping their feet but the Hammers accomplished their expected win against the struggling Wellington Amateurs. ‘Struggling’ was a word which seemed to be permanently added to OUR name in some of our Midland Football Alliance years but not at the moment as Adam Meacham notched a hat-trick and Scott Stevenson, Will Tibbetts, Aaron Lloyd and Jovan Blake-Walker all got on the score-sheet.
The Hammers took the lead on 12 minutes. Jovan Blake-Walker beat the away right-back on the by-line and put over a pin-point cross. Adam Meacham leapt like the proverbial salmon to head the ball downwards and it entered the net off the inside of the near post. The Wellington keeper was wrong-footed and transfixed and Cradley were 1-0 up. Our top scorer Adam was pleased to get back on the goal trail after failing to score in our four previous games.
On 12 minutes Adam Meacham (9) leaps to meet Jovan Blake-Walker’s cross and his header goes downwards and upwards and in off the inside of the post to put Cradley 1-0 up against Wellington Amateurs.
We had a few chances which we didn’t convert and we were afraid we would pay the price for not finishing off the Ams. Indeed Wellington should have equalised on 29 minutes but their left-winger completely mis-kicked when he was clear on goal.
Cradley nearly had a new name on our goal-scorers chart on 35 minutes but R’mar Murray, playing left-back as at Pegasus, saw his shot saved by their keeper.
Scott Stevenson had looked assured and skilful on the tricky surface and he scored with a goal out of the blue on 43 minutes. He put in an unstoppable, diagonal, long-distance chip over the keeper into the top corner to put us 2-0 up and we thus felt much more comfortable whilst enjoying our half-time refreshments!
Almost before we had got back to our seats after the break Will Tibbetts increased our lead to 3-0 on 46 minutes when his shot came down off the under-side of the cross-bar, bounced on the line and spun back into play. It must have been close but the linesman signalled that the ball HAD crossed the line and a goal could be awarded.
On 51 minutes Adam Meacham came running in on the Ams goal from our right flank and the angle looked too acute but Adam confidently fired in a low cross-shot which entered the net at the far post putting us 4-0 up.
Adam Meacham’s cross-shot gives the Hammers a 4-0 lead over 
Wellington Ams on 51 minutes.
At this time the referee noticed Joe Colley had come on as a substitute for Lewis Clarke who had left the ground at the interval. Joe got cautioned for entering the field of play without the referee’s permission.
On 55 minutes Cradley knocked a long ball down the middle and Jovan Blake-Walker, who was just on-side, outran the chasing defenders before executing a perfect chip over the advancing keeper to give us a 5-0 lead.
On 55 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker (11) leaves the Ams defenders in his wake before chipping the keeper to give the Hammers a 5-0 lead in great style.
The pitch was still very damp and slippery, a pass behind you or a pass a yard too far in front of you and you couldn’t get it because your feet would slip from under you. Thus we gave the ball away in our half of the pitch on 76 minutes and Wellington’s Jay Evans was presented with a good chance and he didn’t spurn it, firing home a good shot past Shaun Edwards to reduce the arrears to 5-1.
This was Wellington Ams first goal here at the fourth attempt having lost 2-0, 7-0 and 5-0 on their previous visits but it was of little consolation to them. They are of course a more difficult proposition at their own Wickes Stadium where we have won just the once in three games.
A consolation goal for Jay Evans (7) of Wellington Amateurs seen here scoring past Shaun Edwards despite the last ditch efforts of Darren Whitley.
Despite pulling a goal back the Ams looked a little care-worn and despondent and it was no surprise when the Hammers went further ahead on 84 minutes. Aaron Lloyd met Danny Priest’s corner at the near post and his header sailed into the net to put Cradley 6-1 up.
Aaron Lloyd (far right) plants a header into the Ams net on 84 minutes putting Cradley 6-1 up.
There was still time for Cradley to go further ahead and when Wellington conceded a penalty by bringing down Danny Priest on 89 minutes there was no argument about who should take it. Adam Meacham needed to get his hat-trick and he accomplished this with ease putting Cradley 7-1 up. Was this our first penalty of the season?
Adam Meacham (right) strikes the penalty kick sweetly and 
Joe Colley (15) races in in case of a rebound but the shot is too strong for the Ams keeper and the Hammers complete a convincing 7-1 victory on 89 minutes.
So after two draws against Wellington (Herefordshire) and Haughmond it was good to get the three points against Wellington Amateurs (Shropshire) which keeps us up with the front-runners.

Tue 20 Oct
Hammers hard graft earns a point.


Top of the table Haughmond blocked everything Cradley threw at them and defeat looked likely until a late Lewis Clarke scorcher rescued a point.
Haughmond may have played more games than anyone else but they are not top of the league for nothing as we found out on this very pleasant October evening.
We totted up 10 Cradley attacks in the first half compared to Haughmond’s 7, and 14 Cradley attacks in the second half compared to Haughmond’s 7. So we did most of the attacking but Haughmond were excellent at blocking everything we threw at them.
On the other hand our keeper Shaun Edwards had to pull off some really good saves to keep us in the game. Our new signing from Alvechurch FC Michael Wardle did his share of heading away dangerous balls too.
As early as 13 minutes Cradley looked certain to take the lead as a pin-point Adam Meacham cross found Will Tibbetts unmarked at the far post. Will is our expert ‘nodder-in’ in these situations (how we wish he’d had a chance with some of those missed headers at Wellinton!) but this time Will showed he is human after all by mis-directing the ball back across goal instead of putting it in the net. Being under lights probably made it a little more difficult.
On 13 minutes Will Tibbetts (8) headed this Adam Meacham cross back across the Haughmond goal.
On 30 minutes Michael Wardle and Jovan Blake-Walker smashed shots goal-wards which were batted away by the Haughmond defence, and on 38 minutes Adam Meacham looked likely to bamboozle a couple of defenders but he over-ran the ball. Cradley’s frustrations were mounting by the minute.
Cradley piled on the pressure after the interval but it was the usual scenario with us raining in shots, hitting the woodwork but not getting any breaks or fortuitous rebounds.
On 61 minutes though Haughmond were raining in shots against us when they did get a fortuitous rebound. The ball fell to Ed Ashlin who fired in his first goal of the season to give our visitors a 1-0 lead.
On 61 minutes our keeper Shaun Edwards makes a great save from Haughmond’s Scott Graham (5) but the ball falls to Ed Ashlin (9) who shoots our visitors into a 1-0 lead.
The Hammers were trying everything now. They must have thought the gods were against them on this night but we finally got the equaliser on 84 minutes and what a super goal it was!
Joel Ayettey, playing his second game for us, came on as a substitute and played the ball laterally to Lewis Clarke who smashed a great shot goal-wards which curved just enough to go inside the post and into the net to equalise at 1-1.
On 84 minutes Lewis Clarke (6) shoots goal-wards and the ball flies at a big rate of knots through the night air beating the Haughmond keeper and equalising for Cradley at 1-1.
It was a big relief for the fans but the players didn’t celebrate too much knowing there was still work to do. However we became over-anxious in our quest for three points making a mess of our crosses and our free-kicks so it ended as a draw and the Cradley boys looked grim as they left the field of play. However we knew October was going to be a very tough month and we’ve acquitted ourselves well showing we too deserve to be up there with the league leaders.

Sat 17 Oct
Cradley fail to take their chances in this draw at Wellington.


End to end stuff with both defences run ragged at times, the Hammers could not complain when a dogged Wellington scored a late equaliser.
With Wellington having a slightly poorer league record than Pegasus, especially at home, we probably felt confident of another win in Herefordshire just four miles up the road from Pegasus Juniors’ ground. It was nice to see their white cat as usual (we sadly saw two dead ones by the roadside on our journey there) before the game patrolling the hedges to see if any snacks were to be found.
There was quite a lot of new house-building going on which the Wellington FC people welcomed saying they need new people in the village. There are only around 160 children in the local school (sounds a lot but really isn’t) and they need more.
We usually enjoy a meat pie at Wellington but there were none to be had at the club. There had been such little demand hitherto they had thrown away the last lot. A much needed enforced diet for us or rather for me!!
Wellington are a team who can always rise to the occasion and they made life very difficult for their League Cup Final conquerors. After just 3 minutes their top scorer Josh Hunt made a break and he was brought down by Chris Whittaker in the box. No penalty was given though which was a let-off for us. Hunt was to be a continual thorn in our side.
Chris Whittaker and Wellington’s Josh Hunt go tumbling in our box after just 3 minutes. Not a penalty though!
In the absence of our top scorer Adam Meacham Danny Priest started this game for us and after 5 minutes his chip landed on top of the Wellington net.
After 10 minutes the referee reckoned the home keeper’s purple shirt was too much like our blue shirts and a white one was found for him.
On 12 minutes Lewis Clarke fairly tackled the home team’s playmaker and second top scorer Paul (Norman) Jones who had to go off with an injured leg. We pragmatically thought this would help us but his replacement Glen Segust caused us some problems too.
On 24 minutes Lewis Clarke seemed in a good position as he thundered down to the right hand side of the home goal but he elected to pass to Will Tibbetts and didn’’t find him and the ball was cleared possibly with the help of a hand-ball and a double ricochet by the Wellington defenders. We went so close so often in this game!
This Lewis Clarke (6) cross misses Will Tibbetts but finds 
Wellington’s Ben Thomas and his hand on 24 minutes. No penalty given.
The Hammers finally found their scoring form on 32 minutes and what a great goal it was. Facing his own goal near the half-way line Aaron Lloyd produced some tricky footwork (as can be seen on the Mowdog blog) before hooking a lovely pass to the unmarked Danny Priest on our left-wing. Danny pulled the ball back to Jovan Blake-Walker who had to beat a challenge from the Joe Royle look-alike Aaron Morgan before firing in a super shot past keeper Mancui to put Cradley 1-0 up.
On 32 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker shoots Cradley into a 1-0 lead at Wellington.
We badly needed another goal but it never came and Wellington threatened to score themselves continually such as on 36 minutes when Josh Hunt chased after a through ball from his own half. Our skipper Darren Whitley chased him down and did brilliantly to hold him up and finally smother his shot as reinforcements arrived on the scene.
There were scares at both ends before half-time finally came after the referee added on five minutes. Their keeper dropped the ball after an Aaron Lloyd challenge and Joe Lawley fired inches wide. Then, just a yard or two out, Jovan had a shot blocked by Mancui. At the other end Ben Thomas headed wide and Segust fired in a powerful cross-shot which Shaun Edwards somehow pushed over his bar.
Then Cradley knocked a ball forwards which their keeper took but had to drop as he found himself leaving his goal area. Will Tibbetts chased him but was cautioned after tapping his heels and causing him to fall. Frenetic stuff!
After the break Cradley had chance after chance to score but we couldn’t apply the finishing touch. We reckon there were thirteen missed second-half chances shared between six of our forwards / midfielders. There were three headers right in front of goal which all went wide of the left-hand post as if there was a big magnet there. I even cheered one header because I was so certain the ball was going in! Doh!
After our eleventh failed effort on 78 minutes (Danny Priest shot wide of the far post) we seemed to lose our impetus. We had a massive warning on 80 minutes when Josh Hunt at last got into space in front of our goal. He shimmied round Shaun Edwards but amazingly, with an open goal in front of him, his shot hit the near post and flew across our goal before being cleared Phew!! A let-off for the Hammers on 80 minutes as Wellington’s Josh Hunt (right) hits our post when he should have scored.
We still couldn’t raise our game but ninety minutes were approaching and it looked like we might doggedly hang on to the three points. We knew the referee was going to add several minutes on however.
Wellington finally and deservedly really cracked us open on 89 minutes. Richard Thomas- Robinson cleared a ball downfield into the opponents’ half and the impressive defender Ben Thomas took the ball to his left-hand touch-line. The never- say-die Will Tibbetts tried to win the ball or at least force him into touch but Thomas moved deftly out of Will’s path leaving him tackling thin air. Thomas motored into our half of the pitch before lofting over a superb ball which Josh Hunt was able to knock on with his chest without breaking stride and fire past the helpless Shaun Edwards to equalise at 1-1.
On 89 minutes despite having Darren Whitley (4) and Richard Thomas-Robinson (15) on his tail Wellington’s Josh Hunt shoots past Shaun Edwards to snatch a late equaliser in the 1-1 draw. Shaun Edwards asks why Wellington were allowed to score!
The above goal and other vital incidents are brilliantly captured on video by Peter Ray groundhopper and football blogger on his ‘The Mowdog on the Road’ website. Peter will be at tonight’s game Cradley v Haughmond too.
The five minutes added on saw Cradley spring belatedly back to life. On 92 minutes Will Tibbetts chipped a shot over the Wellington keeper but also just wide of that blasted far post. On 93 minutes Wellington’s Josh Hunt was cautioned for simulating a head-butt by our rock-steady defender Matt Aston and on 94 minutes Lewis Clarke rose majestically to meet a Danny Priest corner but headed it (yes you’ve guessed it!) just past the post.
So it was a ‘what if’ game for both clubs but Wellington will definitely be happier with their point than we are with ours.
Peter Ray’s much missed pet ‘The Mowdog’ after which his blog is named.

Tue 13 Oct
A long midweek trip to Pegasus Juniors but the Hammers bring back three points!


Our first win at Pegasus in five attempts as Cradley staged a second-half come back and bagged a late winner.
A long journey down to Hereford on a nippy, dark night but a well deserved win after going a goal down made the return journey a happy experience. We had lost all of our previous games there (four of them) so it made the victory even more enjoyable.
We were missing one or two regulars. Indeed Aaron Lloyd and Lewis Clarke are our only ‘ever presents’ after sixteen games but it enabled Joe Lawley and R’mar Murray to start from the off. R’mar was in the unaccustomed role of left-back but it didn’t stop him getting up and down the pitch in ’Chris Whittaker’ style. Both of them competed for every ball which is a very necessary thing.
In the first twenty minutes the Hammers pushed forward and R’mar shot over the bar twice and Jovan Blake-Walker shot wide twice.
With their speedy forwards Pegasus rely on quick counter-attacks for most of their goals and they played this trick to perfection on 21 minutes when a Cradley attack broke down and the ball was quickly booted downfield for Sam Pearson to chase. Chris Charles was the only defender who could get near Pearson but he couldn’t prevent him shooting. Our keeper Shaun Edwards parried the first shot but the ball fell kindly for Pearson who scored at the second attempt to make the score 1-0 to Pegasus Juniors.
Pursued by Chris Charles (2) Sam Pearson sees his first shot parried by Shaun Edwards but he fires in the loose ball giving Pegasus a 1-0 lead 
on 21 minutes.
Some of us Cradley fans were feeling a bit despondent about this but skipper Darren Whitley and his defenders made sure they weren’t caught out like this again. We hurled ourselves at every ball booted into our half to ensure the home front- runners had a miserable evening living off scraps under the impressive floodlights.
We had a chance to equalise straight away but the imperturbable Aaron Lloyd headed Joe Lawley’s cross straight at the keeper.
This Aaron Lloyd header on 22 minutes went
to the keeper.
James Hawkins of Pegasus and our Joe Lawley clashed heads when both went for a high ball on 40 minutes and Hawkins took no further part in the game.
Both sides had had their chances in an all-action game but Jovan Blake-Walker went mightily close to equalising one minute into time added-on at the end of the first-half when his shot hit the Pegasus cross-bar.
Jovan Blake-Walker fires a shot against the Pegasus cross-bar after 46 minutes of the first-half.
The home side still had time for another counter-attack which caused us a few more anxious moments and we were still trailing just 1-0 at the interval.
In the second-half on 57 minutes Adam Meacham dived in for the ball clashing heads with the home right-back but both were able to continue after treatment (see left).
The Hammers had been far more the dominant side after the interval and after going close several times we got our reward on 59 minutes when Lewis Clarke stabbed in the equaliser making it 1-1. Two defenders tried to get the ball off Jovan Blake-Walker right in front of their goal. They managed to block the shot but the ball ran loose to Lewis Clarke who stabbed in from close-range.
On 59 minutes it’s a dangerous time for the home defence as Jovan Blake-Walker (6) uses his strength against two Pegasus defenders and Lewis Clarke (7) stabs home the loose ball to equalise at 1-1.
Cradley brought on Joel Ayettey, a new signing from Tividale FC, for the last twenty minutes and he made a contribution to our winning goal on 82 minutes. He collected a Michael Briscoe free-kick and whilst attempting to cross it Will Tibbetts came racing in to kick the ball off Joel’s toe. The ball bi-sected the Pegasus keeper and a defender on its way to goal and we were delighted to be 2-1 up.
Joel Ayettey leaps to cross a Michael Briscoe free-kick on 82 minutes. Will Tibbetts gets in a snap shot.which beats the keeper and Will celebrates putting the Hammers 2-1 ahead.
The Hammers had fought back magnificently with every man playing a part in bringing three points back to the Black Country from Herefordshire as our unexpectedly successful season continues.

Tue 6 Oct
The Hammers go down battling at soggy Bridgnorth.


After a very wet day Cradley couldn’t crack the home defence and went down to an only goal in this close, hard-fought top of the table clash.
After a very wet day we travelled to a soggy, dark Bridgnorth Town. We were top and the home side were fourth but AFC Bridgnorth had dropped only four points all season and they were just four points behind us with three games in hand.
In addition AFC had conceded only four goals in twelve games and were favourites with Shawbury United to win the league title at the end of the season. Cradley tried their darned hardest to alter that but in very hard-fought game we lost to the only goal of the match.
The Hammers won the toss and chose to kick up the steep slope in the first half. Was that a wise decision? For the first twenty minutes we did well. Scott Stevenson shot across our opponents’ goal and then put a free-kick over. Adam Meacham shot at their keeper on 15 minutes.
On 19 minutes Will Tibbetts finished off a good Cradley move by forcing the keeper into a good save and then Lewis Clarke attacked their near post with the keeper pushing the ball out for a corner.
The Bridgnorth keeper makes a save at his near post to deny Lewis 
Clarke (6) on 20 minutes.
On 28 minutes Adam Meacham’s constant pressure caused a home defender to pass the ball back to his keeper. The keeper picked the ball up and the referee deemed it to be a back-pass. We had members of both teams standing on the goal-line but Jovan Blake-Walker’s free-kick slammed against the wall, another shot came in from the rebound but it was smothered out for a corner kick and then a second corner as Cradley piled on the pressure.
Adam Meacham (10) pressures the AFC Bridgnorth keeper into picking up a back-pass on 28 minutes.
Jovan Blake-Walker’s free-kick slams against the wall of players on 29 minutes and it was eventually put out of play for a corner-kick.
Adam Meacham put pressure on the home keeper on 33 minutes and Jovan Blake-Walker had a shot saved on 37 minutes as shown below. The keeper Chris Crook complained to his defence saying he could hardly keep his feet in the greasy conditions but we still couldn’t beat him. He changed boots at half-time.
On 39 minutes however Bridgnorth, in one of their spasmodic attacks, managed to breech our defence to score the only goal of the game. The ball was switched from the home side’s left flank to the right wing where their busy right-back Kevin Buxton came steaming in at speed to shoot a great shot from an angle into the far corner of our net making the score 1-0 to AFC Bridgnorth.
A cross-shot from AFC’s Kevin Buxton (out of the picture) puts them 
1-0 up on 39 minutes.
The second-half began with neither side threatening much. Jovan Blake-Walker had a shot blocked on 60 minutes and Richard Thomas-Robinson had a header saved two minutes later. On 66 minutes there was a flare up between our Chris Charles and AFC’s Anwar Olugbon. The two were separated and both players eventually cautioned after the referee consulted his assistant.
Chris Charles and Anwar Olugbon are separated and Matt Aston (5) gets floored by an angry Olugbon.
The game against an abrasive Bridgnorth outfit was a bad-tempered affair. Matt Aston complained about flying elbows in the first-half to an unsympathetic referee. By the end of the game we had four players booked and Bridgnorth three. The referee also had a ‘thing’ about throw-ins being taken from the correct spot and continually switched the throws to the other team if he wasn’t happy. The same referee has been appointed to our J W Hunt Cup game against Wonder Vaults here on Tuesday 10th November!
The Hammers got back into an attacking mode as the second half progressed but generally had no luck. Will Tibbetts had a good shot saved, on 76 minutes Lewis Clarke headed a Scott Stevenson free-kick inches wide and on 87 minutes Jovan put a great shot a fraction wide of the far post.
AFC Bridgnorth caused us only the odd problem. On 90 minutes a shot hit our bar and nearly went in off the back of our grounded keeper Shaun Edwards and a minute later a shot went narrowly wide of our far post.
For the six minutes of ‘extra’ time it was Cradley on the attack again. On 93 minutes a low, deflected Will Tibbetts shot looked a certain equaliser but somehow their keeper Chris Crook saw it coming through a ruck of bodies and pushed it wide of his post for a corner. Drat!
The home keeper Chris Crook at full stretch pushes Will Tibbetts’ shot away on 93 minutes.
So last season’s runners-up AFC Bridgnorth took the precious three points but the Hammers can think themselves unlucky not to have taken something from the game.
On the way home in wet conditions just after that big right-hand bend just past Enville we saw a toad leap into the road right in front of us. I made sure my front wheels went either side of him (as I thought) and my wife asked if he would be all right. I said he would provided he hadn’t jumped under the rear wheels. My son woke me up (late riser!) the next morning to say there was a toad stuck under my front number plate! He must have jumped again just as we approached him and he had been hanging upside down for twelve hours with his right arm stuck in a join of the front bodywork. We extricated him. His arm looked a little damaged but he appeared uninjured apart from that and now hopefully he’s living in our garden. I took extra care when mowing and strimming on Wednesday but I didn’t find him.

Sat 3 Oct
A local derby 4 - 2 triumph in the FA Vase for the Hammers.


Super-sharp Cradley tear into a four goal lead at Lye Town to progress to the First Round Proper.
On another really nice and sunny Autumn afternoon our ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ continued with a great day out at Lye Town and a place in the next round of the F A Vase. Lye Town had defeated Barnt Green Spartak 3-0 in the First Round Qualifying whilst Cradley were given a bye.
For Cradley it was a good feeling to secure a win over one of our biggest local rivals, and our Causeway United friends will regard it as some revenge for Lye’s 8-0 or 9-0 win over Causeway at The Grove last season.
The ground at Stourbridge Road was looking really spick and span and the playing surface was probably the best we’ve ever seen it which is a credit to their chairman Brian Blakemore and his committee.
The Hammers got stuck into the Flyers from the off and Adam Meacham put us 1-0 up after just 90 seconds. The ball was punted forwards and Adam harried two defenders who lost control of the ball allowing Adam a punt at goal. The keeper pushed the ball sideways but Adam was on the spot again to knock the ball agonisingly slowly goal-wards (perhaps the keeper got a slight touch on it again) but the ball just beat Jack Pearlman to the line and it was a great start for the Hammers.
With just 90 seconds on the clock Adam Meacham (8) harries the Lye Town defenders gets in a shot, the ball is parried sideway. Adam gets in another shotthe former Cradley player Jack Pearlman (4) looks likely to clear the ball but it beats him over the line to give the Hammers an early 1-0 lead.
Lye Town were probably still favourites at this stage because we’ve taken the lead there on a few occasions only to be overhauled by a determined home team and of course they do play in the Premier Division of the Midland Football League which is one step higher than or WMRLeague.
However Cradley were bossing the game and a simple goal on 8 minutes gave us a 2-0 lead. Scott Stevenson sent over a pin-point cross from our left flank and Adam Meacham was there to nod it, unchallenged, into the net. We were in charge of the game and a shock win now seemed to be on the cards.
On 8 minutes Adam Meacham (8) heads a Scott Stevenson cross into the Lye Town net giving Cradley a 2-0 lead in this FA Vase game.
The Hammers continued to put the home defence under the cosh. Lewis Clarke and Will Tibbetts just failed by millimetres to get to enticing crosses and captain Darren Whitley had a shot saved.
On 30 minutes our hero from the previous game Jovan Blake-Walker made his mark on the game. He moved in on a Will Tibbetts pass and his first shot was blocked by frantic defenders but the ball came back to him and he rifled in a shot to the top corner to put the Hammers unbelievably 3-0 up against our higher league opponents.
Jovan Blake-Walker (10) smashes in a shot on 30 minutes to put 
Cradley 3-0 up at Lye Town on 30 minutes.
In the remainder of the first half Will Tibbetts and Scott Stevenson put shots over the Lye Town bar and Lye Town nearly pulled one back when our new keeper Shaun Edwards (preferred to Matt Jones) came out of his area and Scott Gennard’s chip landed on the top of our net.
We enjoyed our half-time refreshments but knew the job was not yet over. Lye made two substitutions at the break and shortly after the re-start Lye’s James Spray was cautioned for a nasty tackle which left our defender Chris Whittaker limping until he was substituted fifteen minutes later.
Lye Town were getting more into the game now but we hit them with a perfect counter-attack on 60 minutes. A Lye free-kick hit our cross-bar and we swept the ball down-field. Adam Meacham’s effort was rebuffed but again the ball fell nicely for the inrushing Jovan Blake-Walker who again showed remarkable power and accuracy when his shot scorched past the home keeper giving the Hammers a 4-0 lead.
On 60 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker (10) fires goal-wards and the ball rips into the Lye Town net giving the Hammers a sensational 4-0 lead.
Jovan and the Cradley lads were pretty happy with their 4-0 lead!
A fantastic 4-0 up but then one starts to wonder. How could we now lose £800 and a place in the next round? Did Shaun Edwards really NOT play for Bromsgrove Sporting in the first round of the FA Vase?? Worrying doubts go through one’s mind!
Cradley kept pressing. Lewis Clarke headed over a Will Tibbetts corner and when Adam Meacham (the bane of the home defence) bocked their keeper’s kick Will Tibbetts shot over.
Things started to go against us a little. On 71 minutes Matt Aston challenged James Spray (or Kevin Nickle?) for a ball in our box and probably most of the home fans too thought Matt was unlucky to be yellow-carded and a penalty kick was awarded too!
The Hammers continued to defy Lye though and Shaun Edwards saved Spray’s spot-kick, pushing it round the post.
On 71 minutes Shaun Edwards saves Spray’s penalty kick and those two pros Matt Aston (4) and Darren Whitley (5) race into the box in case there’s a rebound. That’s what we like to see!
Lye had a corner kick after the penalty miss (save!) and it was ‘shots-in’ for a while but we managed to block all Lye’s efforts. Cradley then went back on the attack and substitute Joe Lawley got in a shot and so did Adam Meacham but Adam was offside.
It was confusing to know which Lye player was which at times because some of them weren’t wearing the numbers shown on the team sheet. That’s something that doesn’t happen here at Cradley because Mark Jones and Andy Mole are rightly very particular on this matter.
Lye Town finally notched a goal on 79 minutes when a long cross from their right-wing was headed in by Simon Williams at our far-post reducing their deficit to 4-1.
Lye Town pull a goal back with this Simon Williams (11) header on 79 minutes making the score 4-1.
Cradley gave away a free-kick just two minutes later on 81 minutes and Lye’s dead-ball specialist Tom Overfield put the free-kick out of Shaun Edwards’ reach to complete the scoring at 4-2.
Lye Town’s Tom Overfield (10) pulled another goal back with this 
free-kick on 81 minutes making the final score 4-2.
That was virtually the end of any threat from Lye as the Hammers comfortably saw out the rest of the game including five minutes added-on. If they had scored that penalty we might have felt a bit jittery but they didn’t!
It’s good to win a little FA prize money after falling at the first hurdle in both the FA Cup and FA Vase last season and we look forward to a trip to Pinxton in Derbyshire in the First Round Proper on Saturday 31 October. Well done you giant-killing Hammers!

Tue 29 Sep
The Hammers overcome superfast Wolves Sporting.


Cradley had to pull out all the stops to win 3-1 but were inspired by Jovan Blake-Walker in their fight back after going behind early on.
The light nights have gone now so it was dark and cool for this game. Sporting had their old favourite Ethan Delaney back from Rushall Olympic for this match and we knew they would really be up for it but these are halcyon days for Cradley Town and we showed tremendous application and bravery to wrest control back from Sporting after they took the lead.
All our players are performing superbly so far this season but they say ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and on this night that man was the ebullient Jovan Blake-Walker. Jovan made two goals and scored the other for the Hammers in a remarkable display.
Cradley started the game on the front foot with Will Tibbetts having a shot saved after just 2 minutes but the young, athletic Sporting side attacked with lightning speed and it seemed, at times, we would have difficulty holding them.
On 16 minutes the mercurial Ethan Delaney pounced on our defender Matt Aston winning the ball from him. Delaney then put in a cross which evaded defenders and attackers alike until Josh Saramento, steaming in from his right wing, met it cleanly and his angled drive fizzed past our keeper Shaun Edwards putting the away team 1-0 up.
On 16 minutes Sporting drew first blood when Josh Saramento (obscured by Michael Briscoe 5) met a cross from his left wing to shoot past Shaun Edwards giving Wolverhampton Sporting a 1-0 lead.
Sporting had a good chance to go further ahead on 22 minutes when their central defender James Lewis was unchallenged at a corner kick but his header flew well over the bar.
A chance missed by Sporting’s James Lewis (5) on 22 minutes.
After this let-off the Hammers, through Will Tibbetts and Adam Meacham, mounted attacks on the away goal and we got our reward on 27 minutes. Jovan Blake-Walker from way over by the far corner flag did really well to send over a low cross which was guided first-time past their keeper by the boot of Adam Meacham at the near post equalising at 1-1.
On 27 minutes Adam Meacham (left) expertly guides a Blake-Walker 
cross past the Sporting keeper to equalise at 1-1. The usually phleghmatic Adam allows himself a little raised arm celebration.
Cradley tried hard to score again with a Michel Briscoe header going narrowly wide and an Adam Meacham shot being brilliantly tipped round the post at full stretch by the visiting keeper Luke Stevens.
Then Sporting showed they still had teeth themselves when Jamal Fuller broke clear and he had two shots, one being blocked by our keeper Shaun Edwards and the other going wide. The hard-working Will Tibbetts helped Matt Aston and Daz Whitley in ensuring Fuller had little time to compose his shots.
Just a few seconds later on 35 minutes it was Will Tibbetts up the other end heading us into a 2-1 lead. Again it was Jovan Blake-Walker who manufactured the goal with another super cross from our left-wing and Will Tibbetts is always the man who will nod them in at the far post. Will has five goals now this season and four of them have been carbon copy headers.
On 35 minutes Will Tibbetts (7) meets a Jovan Blake-Walker cross at the far post and heads it down and into the Wolverhampton Sporting net to give the Hammers a 2-1 lead.
Will Tibbetts wheels away after scoring and Adam Meacham and Scott Stevenson celebrate with him.
Life was difficult for Cradley as Wolverhampton Sporting came back at us with a vengeance in the second-half. Shaun Edwards had to save from John Letford on 55 minutes and on 56 minutes our defence slipped up allowing Josh Sarmento a free run on our goal. Josh took the ball past our keeper and looked certain to score his second goal of the night but he screwed his shot badly wide.
Thus it went on for almost the first thirty minutes of the second-half. Sporting even had a long throw-in expert who added to our problems. Our manager Mark Jones barked out instructions as he re-arranged his defence. We did have the luxury of having Lewis Clarke and Karl Gardner on the bench and they were brought on to help keep Sporting at bay.
It was a massive relief therefore when we added to our lead on 76 minutes. This time Jovan Blake-Walker scored a magnificent individual goal. With his manager screaming ‘Take them on, take them on!’ Jovan did just that before unleashing a tremendous rising shot which beat their keeper and tore into the net to give the Hammers a 3-1 lead.
On 76 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker prepares to strike a mighty shot…………
……which rips into the Sporting net to give the Hammers a 3-1 lead.
Wolverhampton Sporting refused to give in though and battled to the end. Richard Thomas-Robinson had to clear one effort off our line after another long Sporting throw-in but our defence played really well to keep the visitors out.
Near the end Aaron Lloyd put in a shot which went a long way off-target but he said he was determined to get one shot off before the end of the game.
The three points took us back to the top of the table and a magnificent record of seven wins in September and just one defeat should put us in pole position for the WMRL September Team of the Month. Or is AFC Bridgnorth’s record even better? Or is there even a Team of the Month award this season?
The Cradley ‘Ommer.

Sat 26 Sep
Cradley go nap against plucky Tipton Town.


The Hammers get back to winning ways with an true-to-form win at bottom club Tipton Town.
It was quite warm and sunny at Tipton and it’s remarkable how the sun keeps coming out on our matchdays. We had finally had a free midweek which allowed Haughmond to take top spot from us but we knew we had an ideal opportunity to bag another three points at bottom club Tipton Town.
Cradley started off well and Adam Meacham rattled a shot off the foot of the Tipton post after just 5 minutes. However the home side were trying hard to get their first win of the season and, helped by new striker Ravi Sangha signed from Bilston Town, they went close with two corners on 10 and 17 minutes.
Our goalkeeper Shaun Edwards (making his debut) and his defence survive an awkward Tipton Town corner on 10 minutes and another one on 17 minutes when the game was still goal-less.
It was a relief therefore when Will Tibbetts put the Hammers 1-0 up on 18 minutes. Adam Meacham crossed the ball from right to left and Scott Stevenson did extremely well to get it back across goal when he was almost standing on the by-line. Will was at the far post and despite having a big defender on him he was able to head the ball high into the net while facing away from goal. That is Will’s fourth goal of the season for us and they have all been headers except the one which clinched a draw at Bromyard Town.
Will Tibbetts (almost obscured by the defender by the post) gets his head to Scott Stevenson’s cross,. the ball goes goal-wards and the Hammers are 1-0 up on 18 minutes at Tipton Town.
Our usual striker Aaron Lloyd was doing a good job in defence having to fill in there due to a couple of absences while up front we kept going close to increasing our score. On 29 minutes a ball from Richard Thomas-Robinson (we think) who was back from a holiday found Adam Meacham in space and Adam produced yet another of his great strikes giving the keeper no chance as the ball flew across the surface of the well-manicured turf from 25 yards to give Cradley a 2-0 lead.
This is Adam Meacham’s goal on 29 minutes giving Cradley A 2-0 lead at Tipton Town. We couldn’t get Adam in the here he is (No.9) getting ready to restart the game.
Cradley continued to dominate and went close on numerous occasions and got their reward going 3-0 up on 46 minutes on the stoke of half-time. The ball had whizzed back and forth across the Tipton goal-mouth but the final cross came from Adam Meacham who set the ball up for Lewis Clarke to force the ball home from close range. The celebrations were quite muted with the Hammers not wanting to rub Tipton’s noses in it to add to their depression.
Provider Adam Meacham (9) watches Lewis Clarke stab the ball goal-wards from close range;.putting the Hammers 3-0 up at Tipton Town on the stroke of half-time.
Our goalkeeper Shaun Edwards had to make a good save from Tipton’s Shane Grainger on 50 minutes to remind us the game wasn’t over yet but Adam Meacham fired in another long, low shot on 54 minutes to increase our lead to 4-0. This was similar to Adam’s first-half strike but this time the keeper got a hand to it but still couldn’t keep it out.
Adam ‘scored’ again with a header on 63 minutes but it was not allowed to stand, the referee claiming Adam helped the ball on with his hand.
Adam Meacham was denied his hat-trick on 63 minutes when this ‘goal’ was ruled out for hand-ball.
The Hammers were probably guilty of losing concentration to a certain extent at this stage. Joe Colley and Karl Gardner got booked but Jovan Blake-Walker continued to work hard. His cross cum shot skimmed the far post on 76 minutes and substitute R’mar Murray (a big Arsenal fan) shot just wide on 79 minutes.
The Tipton keeper Josh Morgan makes a brave second-half save from Jovan Blake-Walker.
More good work by Jovan and Will Tibbetts saw an excellent cross come in on 88 minutes and our other substitute Trevor Wassell clipped the ball in from close range to make the final score 5-0. This was Trevor’s first goal for the Hammers and the youngster, signed from Sunday side Grange Athletic, was obviously delighted to score.
Trevor Wassell fires in on 88 minutes to make the final score 5-0 to Cradley at Tipton Town.
It was a job well done for the Hammers and we remain in second spot in the table.

Sat 19 Sep
The Hammers suffer a home defeat against Smethwick Rangers.


Cradley’s six match winning streak ends against a top-form, physical Rangers team.
While it’s starting to get dark at 7pm we are still getting some nice sunny days and this was one of them. It wasn’t too sunny for the Hammers on the pitch though as Smethwick hassled us throughout and our amazing six game winning run came to an end.
Our visitors, the UK Asian champions, were up for it from the start and our defence had to work overtime blocking shots, heading shots away and saving shots.
Smethwick attacked us from the start. Here Darren Whitley (4) and Matt Jones are relieved to see Ben Lund (9) fire just over on 7 minutes.
After around 12 minutes it looked like we could make a rare attack of our own but Adam Meacham was cynically pulled down by the Rangers central defender. No yellow card was forthcoming! We thought that might mean the referee could control the game without resorting to his cards but in the final analysis we had three players cautioned and Smethwick the same.
Smethwick’s Joe Clarke (5) brings down Adam Meacham on 12 minutes.
After 20 minutes or so Smethwick really turned the screw. They were more dynamic than Cradley and forced Darren Whitley and Michael Briscoe to head fierce shots away. Then their striker hit the Hammers cross-bar.
Rangers deservedly went ahead on 36 minutes when Ben Lung was allowed to turn and get in a powerful snap shot which just beat Matt Jones’ outstretched glove and rattled off the inside of the post and over the line putting the visitors 1-0 up.
Smethwick’s Ben Lund (9) and our Karl Gardner (8) go down in a heap on 36 minutes but Lund’s shot is on its way into our net via our post despite Matt Jones almost getting a hand to it; giving Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The Cradley attacks were largely ineffective and most of our midfield moves were brought to an end by a Smethwick side who literally threw their bodies at us at every opportunity.
Just before half-time Scott Stevenson sent a free-kick over their ‘wall’ arrowing to the top corner but their keeper did really well to tip it out for a corner. Then he took the corner-kick easily too.
The Smethwick keeper Amrick Virdee does well to tip away Scott Stevenson’s free-kick on 45 minutes so Cradley went in a goal down at half-time.
Our manager Mark Jones made a change at half-time bringing on our experienced defender Matt Aston but we were immediately stunned when Rangers went 2-0 up on 46 minutes. The Smethwick forward Babucar Suane put in a good leap to meet a long free-kick and his header was perfectly placed in to the top corner. A body-blow for us indeed.
An early blow for the Hammers in the second-half as Babucar Suane (10) heads Smethwick into a 2-0 lead on 46 minutes.
We knew if we got a goal back it could instigate a change of fortune but that goal never came. On 57 minutes Will Tibbetts found Aaron Lloyd in front of goal and Aaron got in a sharp snap shot but with defenders all around him it had to be quick and unluckily it was straight at the keeper.
Lewis Clarke (6), through on goal, is torpedoed by Smethwick’s audacious Joe Clarke on 91 minutes. No penalty though!
No matter how hard we tried we couldn’t mount a sustained challenge. The whistle went continually for hand-balls, high feet etc and we couldn’t get any sort of momentum going. Full marks to Smethwick but for Cradley it was a really bad day at the office. At least the many Albion fans amongst us were cheered up by the result at Villa Park! Also the Hammers were still top of the league.

Tue 15 Sep
The Hammers beat Casuals to make it six wins on the trot.


Cradley saw a two goal lead wiped out by half-time but snatched the winner and held on to take the three points.
Casuals had lost their previous two games but we knew we were in for a battle and so it proved. The nights are getting darker and colder but this was a cracker of a game to keep us well entertained. Our assistant manager Andy Mole was back with us after missing a few games due to a holiday on the Isle of Skye.
We’ve probably not fielded the same team twice this season but on Tuesday there was just one change from the Saturday with Michael Briscoe coming in in place of Luke Paskin in the back line. Richard Thomas-Robinson (holiday) and Jovan Blake-Walker (suspension) were also back with us after missing a game or two. Casuals, on the other hand, were without Craig Radford and Brad Lewis who were starting their suspensions after being sent off at Malvern Town a fortnight earlier.
The Hammers started off like a ‘house on fire’ going ahead after just 3 minutes when Aaron Lloyd spotted Scott Stevenson’s run and Scott took the ball on before cleverly chipping the ball over the keeper at his near post putting the Hammers 1-0 up.
The fleet-footed Scott Stevenson (11) makes a run and Aaron Lloyd (10) lays the ball into his path and Scott cleverly chips the ball over the Casuals keeper putting the Hammers 1-0 up after just 3 minutes.
Cradley were massively impressive in the opening stages of this game and we went further ahead on 11 minutes. We knocked a ball forward and Aaron Lloyd challenged their keeper for it and won, taking the ball onwards unchallenged before shooting into an empty net to give the Hammers a 2-0 lead. Casuals appealed for off-side but the goal stood.
Aaron Lloyd’s challenge leaves the Casuals keeper floundering and he goes on to stroke the ball home (just a little close to the near post??) putting Cradley 2-0 up after just 11 minutes at Brinsford Lane.
We continued to dominate and had a handful of chances to go further ahead but after the half-hour mark Casuals pluckily started to put us on the back foot. Their pressure paid off with a good goal on 39 minutes. Jordan Uppal made a good run down his right wing, catching us on the hop, and Jay Holdcroft met the cross cleanly to bring the score back to 2-1.
Jay Holdcroft (centre) reduces the Casuals deficit to 2-1 with this close-range goal on 39 minutes.
Casuals continued to press hard and were rewarded with another goal on 43 minutes. Lewis Clarke put in a strong sliding challenge in an attempt to stop the attack but Casuals won a corner kick. The kick evaded Matt Jones’ grasp and in the ensuing melee Lucan Spittle was able to force the ball over our line. It was quickly kicked back into play but to our dismay the lady assistant referee adjudged it to have crossed the line and a goal was awarded making the score 2-2. It was the correct decision because we didn’t protest and the lady said it was ‘loads’ over the line.
On 43 minutes Casuals made life difficult for us and forced the ball in 
from a corner-kick to equalise at 2-2.
The momentum seemed to be with the home side now and we were pretty disconsolate whilst partaking of our half-time refreshments in the boardroom.
We should have kept the faith though because we again dominated the first half hour of the second half. Aaron Lloyd shot narrowly over straight from the whistle and on 49 minutes Adam Meacham looked sure to chip the keeper as he had done for his opening goal at Malvern but two defenders threw themselves at him and got away with it as the ball went wide.
Adam was in a good position again on 52 minutes but the keeper made a good save. On 71 minutes however the keeper had no chance. Adam Meacham was yet again menacing the home defence, this time down the left wing, when he unselfishly laid the ball across to Scott Stevenson who was charging down the middle. The in-form Scott hit the ball first time and it flew past the keeper to give Cradley a 3-2 lead.
Scott Stevenson puts the Hammers 3-2 up on 71 minutes having been played in by Adam Meacham.
Adam Meacham set up Jovan Blake-Walker in similar fashion on 84 minutes but Jovan completely mis-kicked it and the chance was gone.
Jovan Blake-Walker failed to take this chance on 84 minutes at Casuals.
We wished that chance had gone in. It would have saved us more grey hairs and bitten finger nails as Casuals again came back at us strongly in the final ten minutes of the game.
Casuals forced a succession of free-kicks and corners. Matt Jones was barking out instructions about where his ‘wall’ should be and how many players should be in it. The tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
A terrific cross-shot from Ashley Evans clattered our cross-bar on 87 minutes and was cleared but not for long.
The scene seemed set for Casuals big man Mark Habbershaw to be a hero but free-kicks went high and wide, headers from corners went wide and when Habbo tried to make space for a shot with his back to goal defenders like Chris Charles refused to give him that space.
The minutes seemed like hours but we hung on grimly to take the three points and prolong our stay at the top of the table.

Sat 12 Sep
Cradley defeat Tipton Town 3-0.


Top v bottom but Tipton make the Hammers fight all the way.
It was a beautiful bright, sunny day and we thought we might enjoy an easy day against a rock-bottom Tipton Town but the plucky visitors made us fight all the way and they kept our defence at full stretch for the whole game.
We were quite relieved to open the scoring on 27 minutes to make the possibility of a shock result less likely. The goal, as is often the case, came when our defence cleared a Tipton free-kick and Adam Meacham and Aaron Lloyd set up Scott Stevenson one-on-one with the young Tipton keeper. Scott wrong-footed the keeper and arrowed the ball into the net from a narrowish angle putting Cradley 1-0 up. This was Scott’s first goal for the Hammers.
Scott Stevenson (left) advances on the Tipton Town goal, skilfully dribbles the ball past the keeper and fires home from a narrow angle putting the Hammers 1-0 up 
on 27 minutes.
Cradley then dominated the game for the remainder of the first-half but couldn’t find a way past the keeper Josh Morgan and his committed defenders.
Tipton Town started the second-half brightly and for almost ten minutes it was the away team who were forcing us to concede corners, and their shots and headers were going narrowly wide or being saved by Matt Jones. Were we really playing the division’s worst team?
Thankfully Chris Whittaker weaved a bit of his magic, advancing down our left-wing and putting over a great cross to the far post which Will Tibbetts headed in making the score 2-0 on 57 minutes.
Will Tibbetts (top photo right) sees his header beat the keeper at his near post giving Cradley a hard-earned 2-0 lead over Tipton Town on 57 minutes. Scott Stevenson applauds.
Cradley piled on the pressure. Aaron Lloyd made several attempts on goal seeing one header saved at full stretch by the keeper and having a ‘goal’ ruled out for a foul on the keeper.
Scott Stevenson was in shooting mood seeing some shots curl wide and another clipped the outside of the far post.
Adam Meacham had just the keeper to beat on one occasion but the keeper made a good save but five minutes later Adam scored. On 78 minutes a ball downfield was helped on by Lewis Clarke and Adam Meacham rifled a tremendous shot into the net making the final score 3-0.
Adam Meacham runs on to the ball and hits a screamer past the Tipton keeper putting Cradley 3-0 up on 78 minutes.
Our substitutes Joe Colley, Joe Lawley and Trevor Wassell came on in quick succession but Tipton nearly pulled a goal back when our former player Damion Jarrett fired a good shot just off-target.
All the patient Cradley substitutes made an appearance.
Our dead-ball specialist Joe Lawley, just returning from an ankle injury, let fly with a free-kick on 89 minutes which struck a member of the Tipton wall, Sandeep Singh, full in the face. Sandeep needed lengthy treatment from our physio Sam Cooksey and bravely tried to carry on but, probably concussed, he wisely agreed to come off.
Sam Cooksey treats the concussed Sandeep Singh who 
was struck by a Joe Lawley free-kick.
So it was another good perforrmance by the Cradley lads who should certainly all be at maximum fitness now with the continuation of midweek games. We look forward to the return game at Tipton next Saturday. We know it will not be easy!

Tue 8 Sep
A rare win for the Hammers at Malvern Town.


This emphatic 4-0 win over a battling Malvern Town side puts Cradley top of the table.
Ben Billingham (out with a tight hamstring) and the suspended Jovan Blake-Walker made the trip to Malvern to support the Hammers. Ben was also there to say farewell to his Cradley team-mates before returning to his parent club Stourbridge FC.
The Langland Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for Cradley in recent years and Malvern, second from bottom but buoyed by a 4-1 FA Vase win at Shifnal Town, looked like they were going to deny us any success there once again.
The home team looked sharp in the opening exchanges but gradually the Hammers began to apply some pressure. Michael Briscoe and Lewis Clarke went close with headers from corner-kicks before on-form Adam Meacham scored a great goal on 29 minutes.
A ball forward caught Malvern on the hop as Adam Meacham raced on to it with their centre-half doing his best to ease Adam off the ball. Somehow Adam managed to withstand this challenge before firing a peach of a dipping shot over the advancing keeper to give Cradley a 1-0 lead.
Adam Meacham (9) withstands Joe Endacott’s strong challenge to put Cradley 1-0 up with a superb dipping shot over the Malvern keeper on 
29 minutes.
Just three minutes later the Hammers added to their score. We were really in the groove now and our running off the ball was crucial as it is in any game. Cradley moved the ball forward down the right, brought it back again and then laid it off into the path of Lewis Clarke who had made a great run to receive the ball in front of the Malvern goal without a defender near him.
The keeper Chas Weaver came out and dived in feet first, almost dispossessing Lewis, but somehow Lewis sneaked the ball past him by the narrowest of margins putting Cradley Town 2-0 up on 32 minutes.
In these three photos above Lewis Clarke (6) leaves it until the last split second before shooting the Hammers into a 2-0 lead at Malvern Town on 32 minutes.
There’s usually a decent crowd at Malvern and a good atmosphere but, being a couple of goals down, the crowd and the Malvern management reckoned Cradley were getting away with some strong tackles which the match officials were missing and they made their feelings known.
In truth the young referee was letting all sorts of challenges, from both teams, go unpunished. It was quite bizarre at times as players were getting bounced off the ball by tackles from behind and suchlike. However it was definitely the same for both sides and there was never anything malicious in the game so there was no problem. Just two players got cautioned late on in the game, Lewis Clarke for Cradley (that got big cheers from the home crowd!) and Malvern’s Reece King.
It was amusing to see the Malvern management intercepting the officials as they left the field at half-time giving them an ‘earful’ of their perceived grievances.
Their protestations did them no good though and Malvern were stunned when just 30 seconds into the second-half the Hammers went 3-0 up. Left-back Chris Whittaker made another of his famous forays upfield and, when the ball came to him he hit it first time low and true through a ruck of players into the far corner of the net. Our photographer was happy but cursed all the same because he’d only just left the clubhouse after his half-time tea and biscuits and didn’t get the goal. Chris has now got 50% of his goals tally of last season.
Lewis Clarke nearly scored his second goal of this game on 54 minutes but his curling shot smacked high up against the far post with the keeper well beaten.
Malvern didn’t see the danger but Chris Whittaker was instrumental to us going further ahead after 55 minutes when, still way upfield, he closed down a defender blocking his attempted clearance and the rebound fell to the ever aware Adam Meacham who shot sweetly into the top corner giving us a 4-0 lead. Adam has now notched six goals this season and is joint fourth in the WMRL Golden Boot chart.
Adam Meacham moves on to the loose ball and shoots goal-wards and the ball is in the net putting Cradley 4-0 up at Malvern on 55 minutes.
On 75 minutes Adam Meacham almost got his hat-trick. He drew the keeper way out to the far edge of his area and slotted the ball past him from a very acute angle but the ball went across the goal and just wide of the far post.
Darren Whitley and his defenders were kept busy in the second-half maintaining a clean sheet but on 84 minutes he got forward and his shot went just the wrong side of the post.
Our keeper Matt Jones played with his hand strapped up after slipping down some stairs recently and was kept busy by a Malvern team who never gave up trying but didn’t really have on their shooting boots on the night.
After the final whistle the Cradley lads and supporters enjoy the satisfaction of winning four in a row and going top of the table.

Sat 5 Sep
Lockmen Hammered 2-1.


A second-half come back ensured all three points for Cradley against a strong Willenhall Town side.
With most WMRL clubs being involved in the FA Vase both Cradley and Willenhall knew a win here would propel them virtually to the top of the table. It was obviously going to be a game with some physicality about it and Willenhall’s Graham Ashton was booked after just 2 minutes for a crunching tackle on Lewis Clarke.
For the first 15 minutes the Hammers hardly got a look-in with Dorgan, Clarke and Robinson really buzzing for the Lockmen. Robinson in particular had our defenders in knots at times with his clever footwork. However it often seems to be the case that these clever, tricky players fade out of games after impressing in the opening minutes and that’s what happened to Kieran. Perhaps tiredness sets in?
Lewis Clarke was subjected to another crunching tackle, this time by Willenhall’s Matt Dorgan but Lewis has got great discipline as well as a massive work-ethic and he carried on with no fuss.
We looked certain to go behind on 7 minutes when Daz Whitley tried to head a long ball back to his keeper Dominic Hill but Michael Clarke intercepted and somehow it drifted inches wide of our far post when us and the Willenhall fans thought it was going in.
The Willenhall fans celebrate a Mikey Clarke ‘goal’ on 7 minutes but it didn’t go in and it was a big let-off for Cradley!!
After the first 15 minutes on the back-foot the Hammers got into attacking mode themselves and we caused Willenhall quite a few problems in the following 15 minutes but, against the run of play, we went 1-0 down on 29 minutes. Willenhall pushed forward and Cradley couldn’t clear the ball. Some slick Lockmen inter-passing set up Michael Clarke with a chance and he took it well with an excellent shot which beat Dom Hill and ripped high into our net.
Willenhall’s Mikey Clarke (10 ) puts them 1-0 up on 29 minutes with this excellent shot.
For the remainder of the first half it was nip and tuck. In an all-action game Cradley made several attacks but headers, shots and back-heels went wide of the target. When they were on-target the Willenhall keeper Tim Paterson was in good form to deny us.
At the other end Willenhall often had us at full stretch and we rode our luck at times and were still just one goal down at the interval.
Over the half-time committee tea and sandwiches the Willenhall folk were looking forward to taking the points which would elevate them to the top or at least the top three but the second-half was totally dominated by Cradley Town.
At half-time our keeper Dom Hill made the inspired decision to change from a grey jersey to a yellow one saying ‘ I’m really superstitious and we never seem to do well when I wear the grey top and I really wanted us to win. Changing to yellow seemed to work!’ Also the yellow top matched Dom’s boots and gloves so he looked really smart.
On 48 minutes Darren Whitley (on ground) blocks a shot from Willenhall’s Eddie Wilson (8) and Dominic Hill (now in lucky yellow) takes the ball.
To be honest Willenhall could have been three up just a few minutes into the second period. On 48 minutes (see above) Darren Whitley’s prone body blocked a close-range shot and on 50 minutes Mikey Clarke broke away but shot across our goal and beyond our far post.
Michael Clarke (right) shoots across our goal on 50 minutes. Phew!!
Some quick and intelligent thinking by the Cradley boys earned us an equaliser on 52 minutes. Will Tibbetts took a quick free-kick in his own half of the pitch and the ball was perfectly placed for Adam Meacham to run on to and nick it over the keeper with his foot to make it 1-1. A well deserved goal for the Hammers and a good one.
Adam Meacham (9) dinks the ball over the Willenhall keeper on 52 minutes 
to equalise for Cradley at 1-1.
We nearly went ahead on 55 minutes. An Aaron Lloyd header over their keeper was desperately cleared off the line back to Aaron but he fired over from close-range.
The ball is coming back to Aaron Lloyd after a goal-line block on 55 minutes but Aaron’s shot cleared the bar. Our striker told his nearest and dearest after the game ‘I should have had four!’ Luckily it didn’t matter in the end.
Throughout the second-half Cradley continued to press with left-back Chris Whittaker often helping out his forwards. On 81 minutes after Adam Meacham and the Willenhall keeper collided going for a 50/50 ball the referee didn’t blow his whistle and we rained in shots on the away goal but all were blocked. The keeper regained his feet before Adam who took a while to recover from the clash of bodies.
Ben Billingham has done well for us whilst regaining fitness after being out injured for a long time and he has done really well for us. He was renowned for his super goals for Stourbridge but we hadn’t really seen any great strikes from him in our colours. That was soon to change in this game though.
On 84 minutes a Ben Billingham free-kick hit the Willenhall post before being cleared and on 85 minutes he did even better when, from open play, he let fly from 25 yards and the ball flew through the air, beating everyone, and rattling into the back of the net to give the Hammers a 2-1 lead. It may have got a slight deflection on the way in but it was a strike which deserved to be a match-winner and so it proved.
The Cradley fans, quite vociferous on the day, went into raptures as we looked forward to nearing the top of the table. For Ben this was his parting shot as he is now due to return to Stourbridge. We wish him well.
On 85 minutes Ben Billingham’s perfect strike finds the back of the Willenhall Town net to earn the Hammers a well-deserved 2-1 win. 
Today he will be playing in the FA Cup for Stourbridge FC.
On 90 minutes Adam Meacham outran a couple of defenders and his shot looped up in the air off their keeper and was cleared off the line by the hard-working Matt Dove.
Matt Dove clears Adam Meacham’s deflected shot off the line on 90 minutes.
This was an absolute cracker of a game which was really enjoyed by all in the Cradley camp. Haughmond also won so Cradley ended the day second in the table.

Tue 1 Sep
Two early goals clinch the points at Stone Old Alleynians.


The Hammers began brightly but had to withstand a second-half Stone fight-back on our first visit to the impressive Wellbeing Park.
We made the journey up the M6 to play our first ever game against Stone Old Alleynians in the village of Yarnfield, Staffordshire.
Earlier in the season we might have been confident of a good result against newly-promoted Stone but their recent results had been much improved including a 2-1 win over much-fancied Gornal Athletic just three days ago. We knew we would need to play really well to get anything out of the game and so it proved.
With keepers Matt Jones and Dominic Hill both injured we signed up our old favourite Tim Beech to bridge the gap. Now 31 years old and with a hint of grey Tim didn’t let us down.
It’s an impressive set-up at Wellbeing Park with lots of different sized pitches and, under lights, the main pitch looked well-manicured and massive.
Cradley started the game in explosive fashion using every inch of the pitch to confuse the home defence and send them chasing hither and thither.
Lewis Clarke and Adam Meacham had already gone close when we opened the scoring after just 5 minutes. A Ben Billingham corner-kick was half-cleared to a perfectly positioned Adam Meacham beyond the far post and Adam executed a superb rising half-volley which somehow passed through a ruck of players on its way into the net putting the Hammers 1-0 up.
Adam Meacham (obscured by No.3) shoots goal-wards on 5 minutes and the ball’s in the Stone net putting Cradley Town 1-0 up. Great goal.
On 8 minutes Adam Meacham caught Dan Heard dwelling on the ball and poked it off his toe and against the Stone upright.
Adam Meacham (11) almost caught Stone napping with this poked shot against the upright on 8 minutes.
Just two minutes later on 10 minutes Ben Billingham produced some of the finest footwork we’ve ever seen bamboozling three defenders on our right wing before sending over a perfect cross for Aaron Lloyd to head home giving the keeper no chance at all and putting the Hammers 2-0 up.
Aaron Lloyd (left) brushes off the central defender to get to Ben Billingham’s cross……
…and the ball’s on its way into the net putting Cradley 2-0 up at Stone on 10 minutes. Another great goal!
We really thought we were going to run riot but we just could not add to our goals tally. We were mostly in control throughout the game until the closing period but, as they say, 2-0 is an uncomfortable lead, and we were biting our fingernails again at times.
Stone came close to getting a goal back on 20 minutes but fortunately Darren Whitley was there to hook the ball off the line. It was close and the Stone attackers were claiming it had crossed the line.
Darren Whitley (2) clears the ball off our line on 20 minutes.
Cradley went close to increasing their lead on several occasions but the extra goals we craved would not come.
Then on 86 minutes Stone were awarded a free-kick and the ball was lofted into a ruck of players near our goal-line. Stone’s Danny Heard at the far post headed it down back across our goal and into the net pulling the score back to 2-1.
Stone pulled a goal back on 86 minutes but Cradley ran out 2-1 winners.
Stone headed a chance over our bar on 88 minutes but Cradley hung on to take another three points which moved us up to 7th place in the table just two points behind the leaders.
We headed back home in a happy mood and hope we have not been added to the 7839 motorists who have been fined for exceeding the 50mph average speed limit on the M6. The problem is by the time you’ve seen the first 50mph sign it takes hundreds of yards to slow down from my usual 65mph especially with lorries behind you who think these speed limits don’t apply to them! Nothing in the post yet!

Sat 29 Aug
An eventually convincing win for the Hammers against Ellesmere.


A brace from debutant Jovan Blake-Walker moves Cradley up to mid-table.
This second consecutive home win moved Cradley up to 13th place in the table. We weren’t really on top form and the game didn’t have the intensity of the Bewdley game (few would!) but it was a satisfying win after playing second fiddle to Ellesmere in recent seasons.
The Hammers made all the early running and the visiting defence looked uncertain at times. On 5 minutes Adam Meacham, playing the centre-forward role, dispossessed their keeper but shot into the side netting from an acute angle.
On 6 minutes we went 1-0 up when Jovan Blake-Walker, who has been brought back from Pilkington XXX to replace the departed (only to Dudley Sports!) Luke Williams, fired us into the lead. A ball knocked forward was not cleared by the Ellesmere central-defender and Jovan (who has been earning man-of-the-match awards at Pilkington) neatly shot the ball just inside the near post.
Jovan Blake-Walker (obscured) shoots for goal on 6 minutes and wheels away confident the ball is on its way into the net putting Cradley 1-0 up against Ellesmere Rangers.
Ellesmere came back at us strongly and Jud Ellis whipped the ball off Ben Billingham’s toe and just past our upright on 8 minutes. This was typical of Ellesmere’s day, going close on several occasions but not having the rub of the green.
Lewis McPike, making his first start for the Hammers in the absence of Will Tibbetts, was spraying some good passes around and a ball to Jovan Blake-Walker on our right wing ended with the Ellesmere keeper deflecting a cross out for a Cradley corner- kick.
Scott Stevenson sent over a corner which eluded the away defence and Lewis Clarke bundled the ball over the line to give Cradley a 2-0 lead on 17 minutes. We are not quite sure if Jovan wants to claim this one too but Lewis says it is definitely his!!
On 17 minutes Scott Stevenson’s corner is missed (we think) by everyone at the near post. Lewis Clarke wins the battle with Jud Ellis (6) to nudge the ball over the line and Jovan Blake-Walker (left) looks particularly delighted to see - Cradley go 2-0 up.
For the following hour or so we Cradley fans watched uneasily as we failed to add to our score and Rangers created chances but always seemed to finish weakly. We still had memories of the opening game of the season when we went 2-0 up early against Bilston Town but allowed them back into the game and could only draw 2-2.
On 41 minutes we looked odds on to increase our lead when Lewis McPike put Adam Meacham through but the Ellesmere keeper Dan Pilkington did well to block Adam’s shot at the expense of a corner.
In the second half we lived dangerously at times and our defenders Chris Briscoe and Darren Whitley in particular got through a tremendous amount of work. On 75 minutes Darren Whitley typically got a block on a close range Jamie Haynes shot which flew just an inch or two over our bar.
Cradley were soon back on the attack however. On 79 minutes Scott Stevenson volleyed just wide and on 80 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker got behind the away defence but his shot struck the foot of the near post and there was no one following up to finish it off.
On 80 minutes Jovan Blake-Walker was unlucky to see this shot hit the foot of the Ellesmere near post before being cleared.
Jovan Blake-Walker was not to be denied though and on 85 minutes some good approach play set him up to run powerfully at the Ellesmere defenders and his on-target shot was helped in at the far post putting the Hammers 3-0 up. Now we fans could relax a little but not completely!
Jovan Blake-Walker (8) ends a powerful run with a shot to the far pos which a defender could only help over his line and Cradley were 3-0 up on 85 minutes.
Ellesmere never gave up but their shooting throughout was either weak or off-target. They did get in one fierce shot early in the first half which allowed Dominic Hill to make a picture postcard save but we didn’t get a photo of it. Sorry Dominic!
The three points were very welcome for us and it was a satisfying win all round. It ended a three match unbeaten run for Ellesmere, and it ended Cradley’s three match losing run against them.
Jovan Blake-Walker and Chris Charles (at left-back) made their Hammers debuts and did well.

Sat 22 Aug
Cradley held to a draw in sunny Bromyard.


The Hammers had far more possession but twice found themselves two goals behind. A late goal rescued a point on the day but it should have been more.
We made our first away journey of the season through the beautiful Herefordshire countryside to Bromyard probably feeling we had a good chance of winning despite making four changes to the team which beat Bewdley. In the event, on an afternoon of baking sunshine and short sharp showers, we had to settle for a draw.
We started the game off well putting in lots of crosses and shots but we weren’t really worrying the home keeper. Our central defender Hugh Sproston had to come off with an arm injury after a crushing collision on 18 minutes being replaced by Karl Gardner.
We surprisingly went behind on 27 minutes when their debut boy Danny Polan crossed for Dan Scheppel to fire home putting Bromyard 1-0 up. This was almost a carbon copy of Bewdley Town’s goal against us five days earlier.
Matt Jones flies through the air watched by Scott Stevenson (11) but has no chance of stopping Dan Scheppel’s shot on 27 minutes which gave Bromyard a 1-0 lead.
After going a goal down Cradley went back on the attack again. Numerous attacks but no end product again. Scott Stevenson’s clever footwork was something the home defence couldn’t deal with but his shots were placed rather than powerful and the big home keeper Dean Smith took them easily.
We could hardly believe it when we went 2-0 down on 38 minutes. We committed a foul in the middle of our own half of the pitch not far from the centre circle and Bromyard’s tall right-back Shane Shawcross got his head to the free-kick and did well to guide it past Matt Jones and into our net.
Shane Shawcross (left) heads Bromyard into a 2-0 lead on 38 minutes.
We were thinking it may not be our day after all but a strange occurrence on 39 minutes helped us back into the game.
The Bromyard Town keeper took possession of the ball but felt Ben Billingham (left) was challenging him over-vigorously and was kicking him.
The keeper was appealing to the assistant referee for action against Ben but the Amblecote official Charlie Dickens was having none of it and instead the keeper Dean Smith was penalised for hanging on to the ball too long.
Dean was not at all happy about this and clung on to the ball while Ben and Will Tibbetts tried to wrest it from his grasp (left).
Eventually on 40 minutes Scott Stevenson laid the free-kick off to Ben Billingham and his shot was deflected by Aaron Lloyd.
Luckily the deflection wrong-footed the keeper and his defenders as it bounced slowly into the net and we had reduced the deficit to 2-1.
Scott Stevenson (centre) prepares to pass the free-kick to Ben Billingham. Aaron Lloyd (far right) deflects the ball goal-wards and it bounces awkwardly past the Bromyard keeper to find the back of the net and reduce Cradley’s deficit to 2-1 on 40 minutes.
For the remaining few minutes of the first-half the Hammers pounded away at the home defence. Ben Billingham burst through on one occasion, one-on-one with the keeper, but he slipped at a vital moment and the chance was lost.
Towards the end of the first-half the over-worked home goalkeeper was continually on his haunches saying to all and sundry ‘I can’t breathe!’ It was very hot and the powerfully built man had done a lot of work and we were concerned for his health. At half-time we offered to get him a Ventolin inhaler out of the car and he took us up on the offer and kept the inhaler with him throughout the second-half. Did this cost us the game one wonders? However we all have a soft spot for goalkeepers and it would have been awful if he had suffered an asthmatic attack which may have proved serious.
Cradley started the second-half still in full attack mode. An early free-kick caused Bromyard problems and Luke Williams was only just wide with an overhead kick. Then Scott Stevenson shot over.
Then on 54 minutes, again completely against the run of play, Bromyard scored again! The home team took advantage of us pressing upfield to send a high ball to the edge of our box which was won by Bromyard’s key man Danny Polan and although Darren Whitley dived in to take the ball Polan regained possession and fired in a shot which Matt Jones tipped on to his cross-bar. The ball rebounded to Luke Molloy who coolly took time to bring it under control before knocking it into our net to put his team 3-1 up.
The Cradley skipper Darren Whitley (4) dives in on Bromyard’s Danny Polan (9) and scoops the ball off his toe but Danny regains possession and sees his shot tipped on to our bar by Matt Jones but Luke Molloy, challenged by Karl Gardner (12), knocks in the rebound to put Bromyard 3-1 up on 54 minutes.
The Hammers refused to be deflated by this setback and, helped by contributions from substitute R’mar Murray on his debut, took the fight to Bromyard again.
On 60 minutes Cradley hit back when a ball was knocked forward, possibly by Lewis Clarke, and Luke Williams beat the centre-half in a challenge for the ball and, with just the keeper to beat, fired home to reduce the deficit to 3-2.
Luke Williams (partly obscured) who had a terrific game reduces the deficit to 3-2 on 60 minutes at Bromyard. Sadly Luke has now left us to join Dudley Sports.
Bromyard brought on two substitutes who made life a little more difficult for Matt Jones and his defenders and on 80 minutes Karl Gardner was forced to concede a corner the ball missing his near post by millimetres!
That gave us a fright but in the main it was again Cradley who had by far the more possession and by far the more attacks. However time was passing and we were a bit frustrated when Bromyard were a little tardy in getting replacement balls on to the pitch.
Lewis McPike came on for Cradley and did well on our right wing. On 90 minutes in a downpour his cross found Will Tibbetts at the far post and Will shot in the equaliser making the final score 3-3.
The Bromyard players appeal for off-side but Will Tibbets (partly obscured) has knocked in the equaliser in the rain on 90 minutes and the final score is 3-3.
Will Tibbetts raced to retrieve the ball from the back of the net because we were going all out for the winner. The referee, who obviously sympathised with our claims that the home team were time-wasting, added six minutes play on at the end and in that time we rained in shots on the Bromyard goal but couldn’t snatch a winner.
In the photos on the left Karl Gardner (12) just fails to meet a Scott Stevenson free-kick on 92 minutes, and on 94 minutes the keeper saves from Lewis McPike (15) with his feet. At least we got something out of game.

Tue 18 Aug
The Hammers defeat high-flying Bewdley Town.



A humdinger of a game saw Cradley fight back to earn their first win of the season and Bewdley suffered their first loss. This was a fantastic game with a great result and it’s difficult to find words to give it justice. A big crowd, our first win of the season, and we had to come back from a goal down against the unbeaten league leaders to achieve our 4-1 victory.
Our manager Mark Jones made some changes after the 3-0 defeat to Black Country Rangers three days before bringing in Karl Edwards, Luke Paskin and Scott Stevenson for their Cradley debuts this season and Michael Briscoe returned from injury.
Luke Paskin lives a stone’s throw from our ground and has made one or two spasmodic appearances for us down the years usually failing to shine which is strange given his pedigree but this time he came up trumps defending well and scoring a goal which really upset Bewdley for some reason.
The Hammers started the game with one or two forays on the Bewdley goal but our visitors soon had us on the back foot and Matt Jones had to pull off a great close-range save on 14 minutes pushing away a Luke Morris header.
Matt Jones saves well from Bewdley’s Luke Morris on 14 minutes.
Bewdley were not to be denied however and went 1-0 up on 19 minutes when Tom Connolly shot Chris Seekings’ left wing cross low into our net.
Tom Connolly (9) gives Matt Jones no chance on 19 minutes putting Bewdley Town 1-0 up.
Cradley fought back well in determined fashion and when Bewdley failed to clear a ball Lewis Clarke laid the ball back for Adam Meacham to shoot low into the far corner of the net on 29 minutes equalising at 1-1.
We didn’t actually get a photo of our opening goal but this is the situation just a split second before as Lewis Clarke (6) is about to lay the ball back for Adam Meacham (third from left) to smash the ball low into the far corner equalising for Cradley at 1-1 on 29 minutes.
It got even better for the marauding Hammers just five minutes later when a good Will Tibbetts shot was awkwardly turned round the post by the Bewdley keeper and from the resultant corner kick Luke Paskin bundled the ball in at the far post to put Cradley 2-1 up on 34 minutes. Bewdley seemed more than ordinarily unhappy about this and there was a bout of pushing, shoving and confrontations before the game could re-start.
The corner that led to the goal. Will Tibbetts (obscured) has a shot awkwardly turned round the post by the Bewdley keeper on 34 minutes. On 40 minutes we were reminded not to rest on our laurels when Chris Seekings fired a good chance wide of our goal.
Chris Seekings (11) fires a good chance wide for Bewdley on 40 minutes.
The Hammers finished off the first-half strongly with a good free-kick from Adam Meacham and a super shot from Will Tibbetts which the young Bewdley keeper Keelan Monger did well to tip over his bar.
Will Tibbetts (7) sees his shot tipped over on 45 minutes.
Bewdley gave it everything they had in an effort to get back on terms with Connolly heading just inches wide on 47 minutes.
The Hammers landed a killer blow though on 66 minutes when a punt downfield from Matt Jones beat the Bewdley defence and Adam Meacham seized on the chance to fire low past the Bewdley keeper into the far corner putting Cradley 3-1 up.
The photos above show the ultra-talented Adam Meacham putting Cradley 3-1 up against Bewdley Town on 66 minutes.
Cradley made the game safe on 83 minutes when Adam Meacham helped the ball on to Aaron Lloyd and Aaron dinked his header over the advancing keeper. The ball bounced its way towards goal and the keeper gave chase but, frustratingly for him, the ball just outpaced him to the goal-line. Thus the Hammers won 4-1.
On 83 minutes Aaron Lloyd (15) dinks the ball over the Bewdley Town keeper and the ball beats the keeper to the line completing the scoring at 4-1.
After the frustrations of our two opening games of the season this was a welcome and well-deserved three points for the Hammers. We had to dig deep both mentally and physically against a talented and ferociously determined young Bewdley outfit who showed why they had won their first three games of the season.
Let’s hope we can start climbing the table now.

Sat 15 Aug
The Hammers lose to Rangers in a local derby.


Black Country Rangers took the lead on 40 minutes and the Hammers were chasing the game from then on.
We tried hard but our tenants were really keen to beat their landlords and we had nothing to show for our efforts at the end of the day. Rangers had the outstanding players of the game in Alex Hammond, Leigh Pardoe and Chadd Birch and they probably deserved to take the three points.
Chances for the Hammers were very hard to come by with the visiting defence making life hard for us but our best opportunity probably came after just 30 seconds. A superb through ball put skipper Aaron Lloyd in the clear but the shot was early and straight at the Black Country keeper.
After two minutes our gifted dead ball man Joe Lawley put in a quality free-kick which their keeper just got to at the foot of his post but he could only parry it away. Sadly we couldn’t get to the loose ball and Rangers had a let-off.
The Rangers keeper Ben Holden just manages to keep out Joe Lawley’s free-kick after just 2 minutes.
Black Country turned the screw for about twenty five minutes after this escape and put loads of pressure on us. Chadd Birch broke clear on 4 minutes but his shot was weak and well wide of the far post. He was a constant thorn in our side though and was set to do better later on in the game!
Chadd Birch (10) races clear on 4 minutes chased by Darren Whitley (5) and Matt Aston but he shot wide on this occasion. On 8 minutes Rangers’ Leigh Pardoe powered a header against our cross-bar from a well-flighted Hammond free kick.
A let-off for Cradley as a Pardoe header hits our bar on 8 minutes.
There was more Black Country pressure on 12 minutes as Darren Whitley and keeper Dom Hill felt the effects of a Sam Wilkinson challenge.
Darren Whitley and Dom Hill hit the deck after an aerial challenge from Rangers’ Sam Wilkinson on 12 minutes.
As time moved on in the first half Cradley made one or two attacking moves of their own with Ben Billingham featuring in most of them. With his reputation of being a star player at a higher level with Stourbridge Ben is always a target for some special attention from our opponents but he keeps getting in there. He is still gaining fitness after being out for a long time with an ankle injury and his efforts with head and boot are going just a little off target at the moment but the goals are sure to come.
On 39 minutes a Will Tibbetts pass was cleverly allowed to run on to Ben Billingham who had produced a good run through the Rangers defence and his shot beat the keeper but also went past the far post to much to Ben’s anguish.
A shot from Ben Billingham (10) goes just wide of the the Black Country Rangers far post on 39 minutes much to his anguish.
Less than a minute later on 40 minutes Rangers made the crucial break-through. A long ball beat us when our defence got a head to a ball but could only help it on towards our goal. Give credit to Chadd Birch who anticipated such a happening and took off towards our goal with Darren Whitley chasing in vain. Dominic Hill came out to challenge but Birch clinically slipped the ball past him to give Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Chadd Birch (10) puts Rangers 1-0 up on 40 minutes.
The Hammers valiantly fought back in the few minutes before half-time. On 45 minutes the Rangers keeper did very well to tip a Will Tibbetts shot over his cross-bar. Will Tibbetts is unlucky as the Rangers keeper tips his shot over the bar on 45 minutes. The Rangers right-back followed through on every occasion throughout this hard-fought local derby!
From the resultant Danny Ludlow corner Ben Billingham produced a near-post header under pressure which narrowly cleared the cross-bar. This Ben Billingham near-post header just cleared the Rangers cross-bar at the very end of the first-half.
For the first ten minutes of the second-half it was all Cradley with Joe Lawley putting a couple of shots over and an equaliser for the Hammers was looking likely.
Rangers missed a chance on 55 minutes when Birch was clear but he elected to pass to Jack Goodier who was off-side. Our experienced defender Matt Aston took the ball off Goodier as the flag went up and the Rangers defender fell awkwardly and had to go off injured to be replaced by the sturdy Kenrick Miller.
Matt Aston (4) and Richard Thomas-Robinson (2) challenge Rangers Jack Goodier on 55 minutes.
The Hammers were having to chase the game now and on 78 minutes we suffered a killer blow when Sam Wilkinson challenged our keeper for a very long Alex Hammond free-kick, got a touch on the ball with his head and it ended up in our net to give Black Country a 2-0 lead.
Ben Billingham rolled his ankle on 84 minutes and had to limp off to be replaced by Karl Gardner. Let’s hope it’s nothing too serious for Ben.
The game was really over for the Hammers when the impressive Chadd Birch was first to a Ben Holden goal-kick on 87 minutes and he got a foot to it before it could bounce to steer the ball over Dominic Hill and into our net to make the final score 3- 0.
Richard, Dominic and Darren see us go 3-0 down on 87 minutes. And so our quest for our first win of the season continues.