AFC Bridgnorth rebounded from their dismal weekend performance to record their first home league victory of the season with another entertaining midweek encounter at Crown Meadow, defeating an energetic and hard-working Wolverhampton Sporting Community 4-2. Sporting put Bridgnorth under significant pressure throughout but sprinkles of magic in the goals from Chris Sterling and Luke Morris, plus a brilliant late brace from Mark Danks gave Bridgnorth a deserved three points. The win sees Bridgnorth jump from 17th to 10th in a tightly congested table, leapfrogging Sporting on goal difference.
Bridgnorth had to withstand some early pressure from Sporting, goalkeeper Stephen Groome lucky not to give away a foul on the edge of the box when a Sporting player opted not to go down when there was clearly contact. A superb Danks freekick delivered from the right into the box was then flicked home by Sterling to give Bridgnorth an eleventh minute lead. Sporting then had a couple of freekicks of their own in quick succession; the first scrambled away in the box and the second pushed over by Groome. Bridgnorth were not keeping the ball well enough during this period and Sporting pressure was building, as Groome saved another shot from a tight angle with his feet. Sporting were awarded a penalty in the 26th minute, Harry Walker unlucky to bring down a Sporting forward with his arm as he turned to get back at his man during a 1-on-1 in the box. Groome required treatment for a knock sustained earlier in the move but the referee denied him attention until after the penalty was taken and dispatched – a clear error by the official, undermining player safety and upsetting the Bridgnorth bench and supporters. Bridgnorth responded well to the Sporting equaliser however, Danks having a shot from the edge of the box saved and Sterling firing over a couple of minutes later. Morris then gave Bridgnorth the lead for a second time with a brilliant header, dropping off his man in the box and redirecting a delicious Will Reid cross from the left back across the goal, the ball looping into the net. Ryan Bradshaw was proving a steadying influence at the back for Bridgnorth, clearing a dangerous low cross in the final minute before another Danks freekick into the box was headed down into a dangerous area by Walker but the ball was cleared in the nick of time. HT 2-1 AFC Bridgnorth.
A calf injury to Sterling forced Bridgnorth into a halftime change, debutant Callum Head introduced as his replacement. Matt Dean broke free down the right early in the half, getting into the box with the chance to perhaps shoot across goal but he opted to cross and the ball was intercepted and cleared. Sporting curled a shot wide from just inside the box in the 52nd minute before Danks was harshly sent to the sin bin for dissent three minutes later. Bridgnorth dug in even more strongly, Charlie Swingwood and Bailey Storey giving everything in the midfield engine room to screen the obdurate defence of Brett Taylor, Bradshaw and Walker. The game then entered a 25 minute period of few clear chances as Sporting could not produce a piece of quality sufficient to trouble Groome. As the game entered the final ten minutes Sporting pushed extra men forward, leaving them more vulnerable on the counter, Morris shooting over on one such occasion. Sporting then had a looping header over the bar before Groome was off his line sharply to block with his face in the box a minute later, the crowd showing their appreciation for his valiant effort as he battled through his injury. Sporting shot wide again in the 89th minute before Bridgnorth struck on the break in the final minute of normal time, an excellent decoy run by Morris creating extra space for Danks to strike the ball into the net from about 25 yards, leaving the ‘keeper no chance. The goal sparked enthusiastic celebrations from the Bridgnorth contingent, before the referee indicated an additional nine minutes of added time, giving Sporting the opportunity to set Bridgnorth nerves jangling with a close range finish in the 93rd minute. Danks would have the final say however, drilling another low shot from inside the box past the unsighted Sporting ‘keeper after some neat play on the right from a throw-in involving Dean and substitutes Head and Elliott Lee. FT 4-2 AFC Bridgnorth.
Attention now turns to a busy Bank Holiday Weekend, beginning with a tough away draw to face Worcester City in the Qualifying Round of the FA Vase on Saturday 26th August followed by a quick turnaround into the away league fixture at Heather St. Johns on Monday 28th August.