Griffiths Sets Derby Alight with Worldie Winner
By Ashley Davies
Gornal ran out 3-2 winners at The Beeches against high flying Wrens Nest
The odds were somewhat against Gornal Athletic with four players pulling out on the match day. Ash Causer was forced to rethink his team ahead of a derby at Tividale against high flying, in form Wrens Nest FC.
Causer recalled Ash Green and Oliver Hartland back into the XI with both suffering injuries in recent weeks, a welcome return for the pair to the Gornal kit.
Gornal started well but we're nearly undone by counter attacks, first Ethan Delaney paced through and struck one onto the crossbar and over. The second was through Connor Lawrence, the young winger cutting inside and bending an effort wide of Ash Green's far post.
12 minutes in and Wrens Nest had their lead, somewhat fortuitously as the referee adjudged Halwest Wahab to have handled the ball, a harsh decision, as Gornal protested the home side took the free kick, straight through the middle of the central defenders and to former Gornal Athletic forward Stuart Hillman who expertly chipped Green.
The reaction from Gornal was superb and were back on level terms just eight minutes later as Geoff Hill worked well down the right he set Halwest Wahab for the cross onto the head of Oliver Hartland, the returning midfielder nodded past Callum Stokes and suddenly the Gornal confidence grew.
Soon after Nathan Griffiths showed Nathan Guest a clean pair of heels but attempted a strike at the near post when a cross to Geoff Hill was possibly a better option.
Oli Hartland was showing some lovely moves in the midfield on his return and he got clear and from 29 yards drove a shot just wide.
Ash Green was then called into action with a low stop with his feet, as he jumped on the loose ball. He then had to take to the skies to deny a long range effort from Wrens Nest. The keeper had wind and strong rain against him but Gornal showed the character they possess to go in level with elements against them with every attempted clearance blown back at them.
The second half started well for the yellow and green with Ozzy Aigbe at the back post sending a header low but straight at Callum Stokes.
53' played and Geoff Hill gave Gornal the lead, trickery to get past his defender, left him one on one with Stokes, he rolled it past the keeper calm as you like, Gornal now had something to hold onto.
Two minutes later they had that all important cushion as Geoff released Nathan Griffiths, a combination that worked regularly, the move was only bettered by the first time strike from Griffiths, laces, hard, bending away from the keeper and smashing the top corner. A goal of the season contender at a huge moment.
The game then went a little scrappy, Lewis Clarke, Joe Drake Cervantes, Chris Hill all battling superbly as the temperature dropped the Gornal heart grew.
On the counter the speed of Aigbe got him in, cutting inside he shot just wide of the far post as Gornal threatened a fourth.
Geoff Hill then turned former Dudley Town defender Luke Brookes inside out and saw his shot at the near post pushed away from Callum Stokes. Ryan Steadman couldn't quite connect with the corner at the back post.
Connor Lawrence showed Wrens Nest the way finding space in between the away defenders and strode through but his low drive rolled wide of the far post.
Ethan Delaney set up the grandstand finish with a similar move but centrally he rolled it past Ash Green to give Wrens Nest the hope they so desperately wanted.
The Wrens Nest kitchen sink was expected but Chris Hill won and cleared many balls, like captain, like team, Gornal stood firm.
Alex Harvey-Beach was sent off for a second billable offence, no complaints from Gornal as the young left back made one rash tackle too many with four plus added to go.
Wrens Nest then out a cross in at the near post that was touched just wide on the turn by Jamie Hunt.
In added they when had three consecutive shots blocked by Gornal bodies as Ash Causer's men fought to hold onto the previous lead.
On the whistle Connor Lawrence had one last chance but caught his shot all wrong and sent it well wide to allow Gornal Athletic to breathe the sigh of relief and roar in celebration for a mammoth effort.
Man of the Match: Joe Drake Cervantes
Next Up: Willenhall Town (A), 3pm KO, Saturday 15th December.