Saturday, 31 March 2018

31/03/18 Review: Walsall Phoenix vs Stone Dominoes

Walsall Phoenix 3-4 Stone Dominoes (Staffordshire County Senior League Premier)

Apologies in advance but this entry is likely to be a short one, despite the mass of goals and overall action throughout the game, as some of my regular followers may know I have taken on the role of Media Officer with the Dominoes and as I will be writing the Match Reports for them I shall be writing less for Pint of Football write-ups of games involving them. I've also decided not to write any sort of entries on my PoF Blog from home games, to resist things becoming very "samey" on my page.
Alas, a new ground is a new ground!
Even to this day my original trip to Wellbeing Park, the home of Stone Dominoes and Stone Old Alleynians amongst many of teams, is still my most viewed entry and it has been a pleasure to join them in 2018 for the remainder of their Staffs County League campaign in which they have sat in the lower realms of the table so far. Hopefully though with the restructuring of the Non-League pyramid in the Midlands and North West Counties, Stone Dominoes will be able to rejoin the NW Divisions as they have submitted a strong application to be accepted for promotion. In the meantime, both the Dominoes and today's Walsall based opposition had a battle on their hands and with the return fixture due this Wednesday it would be two groups of players who will become quite familiar with each other in a short space of time. Phoenix started the day in mid-table on 29 points whilst the League's lowest scoring Dominoes side were third bottom on 17 points, but that wouldn't necessarily mean anything at this level as half of the battle is whether the sides have all of their best players available to them. On this occasion, Dominoes had Ash Thompson available for the first time since a victory over Knypersley Victoria and that would be sure to be a big boost.

Pre-match game on Street Fighter, anyone?

Within the Staffs County League's Premier Division most of the 16 teams are located somewhere within Stoke-on-Trent or one of the surrounding towns, with most grounds sitting around 20 minutes away from each other. The two major exceptions are East Staffordshire's Ashbourne FC and Walsall Phoenix, meaning that today would see me making my longest journey with the Dominoes so far, but of course in comparison to a lot of my ventures it was still a virtual stone-throw away for me as I head down the M6 towards the Black Country. This would be my fourth ground inside of the Walsall district, having notched off Walsall's Bescot, Wood's Oak Park and Rushall's Dales Lane over the past couple of seasons and as I was representing the Dominoes on this occasion I held hope that we'd sneak at least a point in this outing- predicting a 2-2 draw beforehand. I arrived nice and early at the place simply labelled as "Stick" on the County League's site and after parking up I walked in to see that there would be a choice of two matches today. Whilst we would be on the main pitch this afternoon, there was also some Division One action taking place too and it would be between Phoenix's Reserve side and Shenstone Pathfinder over on the second pitch. There wasn't really much else to say about Stick- the pitch doesn't boast any sort of stands or seating area aside from a few benches behind the goal, but as the venue doubles up for Aldridge Cricket Club you can understand why. Darn Cricket, taking up valuable football field space!
At least the fans were up for it. Phoenix Ultras, assemble
Now, on to the football. The game started with Phoenix gaining an early penalty after the Dominoes keeper was judged to have clattered the attacker as he drove into the box. The dozen or so locals behind the Phoenix goal got to have the first big cheer of the day as the Walsall number 10 dusted himself down before slotting home the spot-kick and opened the goal-scoring within 5 minutes. Phoenix 1-0 Dominoes. From here on you could see the frustration on the visiting side's faces as they continued to make silly fouls and often looked like conceding again, but thankfully for them they were able to regroup and start to take the game to the hosts as the game settled down. On 22 minutes Dominoes won a free-kick just outside the box and it would be the left-footed Ash Thompson who took and scored the second set-piece goal of the game. Phoenix 1-1 Dominoes. Having now watched Stone Dominoes a total of five times, this was shaping up to be the best game I'd seen of there's and it would continue to flourish when a very eager Referee gave a penalty again, but this time to the visitors. Thompson was on hand to convert with ease and for the first time in the match it would be the Dominoes who took the lead. Phoenix 1-2 Dominoes. Astonishingly, this eventual goal-fest would not be the largest amount of goals I'd seen in a game this season and that title will perhaps forever remain with my most local ground in Stoke as I saw Redgate Clayton come down to Florence FC and give them a 3-9 hiding.

But to be fair, this one had a few more goals left. HT, 1-2
I popped in to the Clubhouse during the break to watch a bit of the far less entertaining United vs Swansea game, noting that there were far more folk glued to that screen than outside watching the two County Level matches. Either they're mad or I am! The second-half soon came around and with it came the fourth goal, an equaliser and second goal was prodded in for the number 10 in red. Phoenix 2-2 Dominoes. The game continued to be end-to-end and despite Dominoes somehow not scoring from numerous attempts during a two minute goal-line scramble at one end and Phoenix nodding their own bullet header over Stone's crossbar at the other, it seemed to be likely to go down to the wire. Ash Thompson was still pursuing his hat-trick and in the 76th minute he eventually got it, striking a 25-yarder which flew past the Phoenix keeper and sent the Dominoes bench into delight. Phoenix 2-3 Dominoes. If the reverse fixture on Wednesday is anything like the game today, the people in attendance will be in for a treat and the roller-coaster continues its course with 5 minutes to go as Stone won another penalty- the third of the afternoon. Not happy with just the three goals, Thompson stood forward again and grabbed his fourth to seemingly end the competition. Phoenix 2-4 Dominoes. However, in an attempt to keep everyone on their toes Phoenix had one last card to play and the substitute left-winger took advantage of a missed clearance from Dominoes and he slotted home deep into stoppage-time. Phoenix 3-4 Dominoes.

Game over, and what a game it was
The match over on the other pitch finished with a 2-7 win for Pathfinder so overall it was a double blow for Walsall Phoenix's clubs today, but also a cracking afternoon of football featuring 16 goals across two pitches. Not bad at all for the neutrals!

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