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03 May 2008 POF Team Bath 2-1 Halesowen Town PDF Print E-mail

Play-Off Final - British Gas Business Football League Premier Division – Saturday, 3rd May 2008

Team Bath 2 Halesowen Town 1

Heartbroken Halesowen missed out on promotion right at the end of a superb season when league-leading scorer Sean Canham struck an 89th minute winner in the play-off final at Twerton Park.

With an even contest heading into extra-time, a long ball out of defence found substitute Josh Llewellyn and he drew two Yeltz defenders before threading the ball on for unmarked Sean Canham to slot home his 41st but most vital goal of the season from close range and clinch promotion to the Blue Square South.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for never-say-die Halesowen who defied any weariness from their gruelling and bruising semi-final victory on the previous Thursday evening to bounce back into the game thanks to Dean Brennan’s 22nd goal of the season.

Ten-game unbeaten Halesowen had already beaten the Students twice in convincing style earlier in the season but the first half was understandably a cagey, edgy affair with only a few half chances and little to choose between the 2nd and 3rd placed teams.

Matt Cooper’s 2nd minute effort looped out for an early corner before Halesowen broke away through midfield maestros Andy Hall and Jay Denny after 4 minutes but Ikechi Anya just failed to find Brennan. Brennan was then free on the right to find Eldon Maquemba in the 12th minute and the ball almost rebounded to Denny in front of goal. Anya’s low shot was then collected by home goalkeeper Jake Meredith and Maquemba hit an overhead kick high over the bar from Alex Cowley’s long throw-in. Full-back Shaun Lamb lost out to Hall in the 17th minute but he crossed over the bar. Lively Hall then burst into the penalty area but was denied by Sami El-Abd’s tackle just a minute later. Team Bath’s wide man Takumi Ake drove wide and on 21 minutes Matt Cooper’s shot was blocked by Dennis Pearce. As Halesowen began to gain the upper hand, Halesowen’s Anya crossed straight at Meredith and Darren Caskey’s free-kick was headed behind for a corner.

Matt Cooper could only glance his header wide from just five yards following Steve Abbott’s 24th minute cross and home captain Gary Warren headed wide from a 29th minute free-kick.

Halesowen received four yellow cards in a frustrating spell late in the first half and on 34 minutes Pearce nodded back Caskey’s free-kick to Denny but his shot was blocked. Davion Hamilton hit a 39th minute long range shot just wide and just before the interval Stuart Pierpoint made a good saving tackle to deny Sean Canham.

At the start of an all-action second period Halesowen made a superb break to catch out Team Bath when Brennan played the ball out to Maquemba and he played the ball inside to Hall but he hit his 15 yard shot narrowly wide.

But the Students snatched a 50th minute lead when Matt Lock crossed from the right and Abbott was allowed to head on with goalkeeper Mark Osborn staying on his line and the ball fell invitingly for Matt COOPER to fire home from six yards out.

Last season’s beaten finalists then missed a great opportunity to seal the game three minutes later when Matt Cooper was put through and went down when trying to round goalkeeper Osborn. With the penalty appeal denied, Lock played the ball back to Cooper and his shot was cleared off the line by Pearce with Sean Canham blasting the rebound high over the bar in front of an empty net. Halesowen responded with Anya crossing for Hall to hit his half-volley over the bar on 55 minutes.

The defiant Yeltz then equalised in the 59th minute when Maquemba was pulled down by Warren and BRENNAN smashed home into the corner of the net from the penalty spot.

Zema Abbey replaced Anya and Stuart Maynard replaced Caskey as the game entered the final twenty minutes with both teams looking for the vital second goal. Ake cut in from the left to fire straight at Osborn and Osborn made a good 74th minute save from El-Abd following Lock’s free-kick.

As brave Halesowen gave their all, Breenan set up Maynard but he drove wide from the edge of the area in the 81st minute. In end-to-end play Sean Canham struck an effort straight at Osborn with six minutes remaining.

But the season ended in tears for Halesowen with just 90 seconds remaining when Team Bath found the unlikely killer goal from midfield play when Sean CANHAM pounced from close range to secure promotion. There was simply no time for a massive final push from Halesowen in the four minutes of added time and the referee ended the game to prompt huge home celebrations.

After the whistle, Brennan was shown the red card for his second bookable offence of dissent and several Yeltz players slumped to the ground in the heartache of the brave, brave effort - watched by outgoing Chairman Nigel Pitt.

Halesowen manager Morell Maison was understandably unavailable for comment immediately after the game and made a swift departure from Twerton Park. But Team Bath manager Ged Roddy was in exuberant mood. “I’m delighted after all the hard work of the players and my coach Andy (Tillson) this season. We are a young side with average age of 21 but we played like real men today”.

“I thought we had a decent shout for a penalty but we let them back into the game before finishing strongly in the last ten minutes – but that’s typical of us! We’ve only been in existence for 9 years and have achieved our original target of reaching Conference football within 10 seasons.”

I asked Roddy if he had a message for the Yeltz after he also experienced defeat in the play-off final last season and whether he felt it was fair that Halesowen were forced to play a gruelling semi-final on Thursday – and I found Roddy full of praise for the beaten opposition.

“Halesowen are an outstanding team; the best footballing side in the league and the form team in the second part of the season. They conducted themselves with credit and have superb support. The game was played in the right spirit. They must just keep it together for next season. Halesowen’s tough game on Thursday gave us a huge advantage, they’ve beaten us twice, so we knew we just had to stay in the game as long as possible and we were able to end the game more strongly.”

Team Bath: Meredith; Lock, Lamb, Abbott, Warren, El-Abd, Wring (Perrott 78), M. Canham, M. Cooper (Llewellyn 71), S. Canham, Ake (Thomson 88). Unused Subs: Smith, S. Cooper.

Halesowen Town: Osborn; Cowley, Hamilton, Pearce, Pierpoint, Denny, Hall, Caskey (Maynard 72), Brennan, Maquemba, Anya (Abbey 62). Unused Subs: Amos, Lycett, Dormand.

Referee: I. Crouch (New Eltham)

Attendance: 838

Booked: Pierpoint (29), Maquemba (33), Brennan (35), Caskey (45), Warren (58), Abbey (64).

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