Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division
Uttoxeter Town 1 Ball Haye Green 2
UTTOXETER Town suffered their first competitive defeat at Oldfields since entering the non-league pyramid 18 months ago.
The defeat tasted even more sour as it was second-placed Ball Haye Green who completed the smash and grab.
Town were unbeaten in 15 league games coming into the match and with another excellent crowd watching the league leaders were confident of grabbing all three points but after already tasting defeat this season to Green, they knew the task would be a difficult one.
Town started well enough in the opening five minutes, moving the ball around nicely but their counterparts were clearly in the mood to cause an upset and they grabbed the opener with 9 minutes on the clock.
It was a scrappy goal from the hosts point of view, a corner was headed well clear by Lee Bagley and a timid shot was returned on the volley by the unmarked Paul Callear. The ball somehow made its way through a crowd of players and nestled in the bottom corner past the unsighted Alex Langridge.
Town looked to force their way back into the match but were soon forced into a reshuffle when skipper Martin Gadsby was forced out of the game with a hamstring injury on 20 minutes.
His replacement Matty Redshaw had almost created the equaliser within minutes of coming on, the youngster crossed brilliantly to the far post where James Curley seemed set to nod the ball into the empty net but the striker saw his header directed straight at Greens keeper and pushed to safety.
Uttoxeter were beginning to turn the screw on the visitors as the half wore on and what seemed two stone wall penalty appeals were turned down by the referee twice in the space of two minutes.
Both appeared fouls on front man Tommy Smith, the first a sliding challenge from behind which missed the ball and the second a blatant shirt pull that dragged the forward to the floor when well placed to score.
With the referee and linesmen unmoved, Town felt hard done by and Ball Haye looked sharp on the break without ever really troubling Langridge again.
The second half continued with Uttoxeter pushing for the equaliser, but Green defended for their lives.
Firstly, a fine block denied Liam Sowter before a another penalty appeal was turned down on 60 minutes when Smiths goal bound effort appeared to be palmed away by the covering defender, the keeper then denied Smith by tipping his effort onto the bar and eventual safety before Jack Holley and Bagley got in each other's way for a simple back post header.
It was all Town as the game marched into the final 10 minutes and eventually the breakthrough came, Chris Richards bombed into the last third before delivering brilliantly for Nick Ward who rose highest to cushion home his header, to the delight of the 161 home fans.
Town went in search of the winner that would have given them daylight at the top of the Staffs County League and had Curley finished when well placed, it would have been all over but instead it turned out to be Green who grabbed the winner in a real smash-and-grab victory.
With seconds on the clock, another hopeful effort on the turn – this time from 25 yards by midfielder Dale Walters – took a huge deflection off Kyle Esplin and rolled agonisingly past the reach of Langridge.