Having never visited Rushall before I was looking forward to seeing a new ground as well as getting back to some live action after not getting to a game for almost 2 weeks. Dales Lane has the appearance of a proper, old-fashioned, non-league ground but was actually only opened in 1977. There is an ample car park which, even on a derby day like today, was big enough to accommodate the majority of cars. The facilities are all at the car park end of the ground. There are two turnstiles to get into the ground and these take you in behind the car park end goal. Also at this end of the ground are the players and officials facilities, toilets, club shop, club house and tea bar. Most of these buildings appear to have originally have been mobile style structures, in the mould of old mobile school classrooms, but over the years have been joined together into an all more fixed structure. There are plenty of covered areas around the ground, both standing and seating. At the far end of the ground from the entrance there is a covered standing area behind the goal, painted black and adorned with The Pics in yellow either side of the goal. To the left of the entrance there is a covered seating and standing area which runs for about two-thirds of the length of the pitch. Opposite this there are two smaller seating stands, the dugouts and a raised viewing area for the media.
The playing surface, view from the car park end, has a slight slope towards you and from left to right.
The ground has plenty of character with the fans all very close to the action.
The recent heavy rainfall had left the pitch looking heavy and pretty cut up in places and there was a deceptively strong wind blowing down the slope towards the car park end. It was Rushall who had the slope and the wind in their favour for the first half. They immediately looked to take advantage of this by playing balls over the top of the Stourbridge defence for former Glassboy Luke Benbow, Lavelle-Moore and Reid to run onto. Their cause was aided by what looked like an odd defensive setup from the Glassboys. Although playing a back four, left-back Brian Smikle was being pushed up in a wing-back style position, giving the Pics plenty of room to run in behind.
It was one such ball, in the 6th minute, that eluded Smikle's attempt to head clear and looped in for Benbow to take down the right-flank. This, in turn, dragged one of the Stourbridge central defenders out wide and when Benbow drilled in a cross the unmarked Lavelle-Moore was able to steer the ball under Price for the opening goal.
The Glassboys did not learn from this mistake and Smikle, not through his own fault, was getting caught out time and again by balls in to the gap behind him. At this point Rushall appeared to have control of the game and continued to pose a threat when they pushed forward. Stourbridge seemed to be having difficulty coping with the conditions and were struggling to string passes together.
Then, just before the 25 minute mark, the Glassboys finally managed to put togteher a passing move down their right side. Striker Karl Hawlet latched onto the ball out wide, beat a couple of Rushall defenders as laid the cross on a plate for Smikle to smash home the equaliser from 6 yards. For a few minutes the goal seemed to stir Stourbridge and they started to knock the ball around with some swagger. However, this did not last long and pretty soon Rushall had resumed control of the game, forcing Price into a few more saves before the end of the half and Smikle, who was having an action-packed half, to head one off the line.
So, at half-time, it was all square but Stourbridge would be the happier of the two and could count themselves lucky not to be behind by a couple of goals.
The second half was an all together different affair Maybe the wind and slope played more of a part in the game then first assumed but, all of a sudden, the threat of the ball over Smikle was gone, Stourbridge looked more assured on the ball and, from the restart, looked a more threatening side. Matt Dodd, in particular, was causing havoc down the right side drawing some hefty (and foul) challenges from the Rushall defence, most of which seemed to go unpunished by the officials especially the assistant on this side, who had a good view of most of these challenges.
On 64 minutes the same assistant was to play a part in the second Stourbridge goal. Another foray down the right saw the ball played into Hawley with his back to goal. His little flick inside for Richards to run onto was a great touch but Richards was marginally offside. However, no flag went up and Richards proceeded to smash the ball into the roof of the net. It was a superb finish from a tight angle.
A fine comeback from the Glassboys and the expected Rushall retaliation never really took off. In fact, of the two, it was Stourbridge who looked more likely to extend their lead with Broadhurst and Hawley both going close.
So, a third straight defeat for the Pics and a second straight derby win for the Glassboys.
Stourbridge host bottom club Ramsbottom on Saturday whilst Rushall make the trip North to take on Frickley Athletic.
Rushall Olympic - @rushallolympic
Stourbridge - @stourbridgefc