Dudley Kingswinford FC play at Heathbrook, a multi-sport facility predominantly used by DK Rugby Club. It is also base of the DK Running club and now, DK FC too. There's a large car park at the club, which is just as well on days such as today when the rugby club have a home fixture too. It's very well marshalled from the entrance to parking spot. For access to the football ground they take your fee as you come in and give you a ticket that shows you have paid. The football pitch is situated behind the main rugby grandstand, accessed via a path between the stand and the clubhouse. Obviously, this is Step 8 football and the club is not yet well established. Therefore the football facilities are not up to the splendour of the rugby ground. There's not too much to talk about in the way of features. There are two metal-framed dugouts on the near side of the pitch, although neither has a roof yet and the seating is plastic chairs. There is a respect barrier on the far side where the spectators can congregate. There's no cover or hard-standing. The pitch looked a little on the heavy side, not that surprising given the time of year and recent heavy downpours. Although, in general, it looked in pretty good condition.
Prior to kick off The teams sat in tenth and fifth place respectively, having both played ten games. DK had yet to win a home game and had just 8 points. Punjab were nine points better off and only 8 points adrift of the leaders, Oldbury United.
Home points may have been in short supply for DK but there had certainly not been a dearth of entertainment and incident in their games. A total of 69 goals had been either scored or conceded by DK, 36 of which had come in five games at the rugby club. Their last game at home had been a 5-5 draw with Stourbridge Standard. DK had also seen 4 red cards already this season. However, Punjab could top that goal-scoring record. A total of 64 goals in their ten games, scoring 37 and conceding 27, including 46 goals scored or conceded in their six away games. Between them, the two sides also had two of the top there in the individual goal-scoring charts, Sam Hill for DK and Punjab's Elliot Penberthy.
The sides had already met at The Cottage ground back in October. Penberthy with a hat-trick and a goal from Mario Mendez had cancelled out Sam Hill's brace and Jack Hardeman's goal to give United a 403 win. Jake Broome saw red for DK
Sadly I haven't been able to get hold of team sheets, so I had to combine some detective work at the game with the FA Full-Time lists to attempt to match some names to shirt numbers. Of course, I will be happy to edit the blog at any point should I get a copy of the team sheets.
Punjab made the brighter start but there wasn't too much in it and neither team posed too much of a goal threat for the first 15 minutes or so. However, that was all to change later.
The first real sign of what was to come came in the 20th minute when Zach Lamb and Sam Hill combined brilliantly down the left to ultimately put Lamb in on goal. The winger made no mistake, drilling a low shot past the keeper into the far corner. 1-0. The goal came slightly against the general run of play but DK would not mind that. A minute later they almost doubled their lead as United appeared a little shell-shocked from the goal. A through ball saw the Punjab keeper racing off his line but it was Sam Hill who reacted quickest managing to get a strike off even though he was outside the box and out on the right side. Unfortunately for DK the ball struck the foot of the far post and rebounded away to safety. The goal, however, had noticeably altered the balance of play and it was now DK who were holding the upper hand. The link up play between Lamb and Hill was causing the Punjab defence all sorts of problems. However,, almost out of the blue, a long punt forward from Punjab saw the ball bouncing up inside the home penalty area. Two players plus the goalkeeper challenged for the loose ball with Punjab striker Elliott Penberthy seemingly getting a show in the back in the process. Penalty! David Meese stepped up to take it, scoring low to the keeper's right. 1-1.
Once again the momentum of the game swung. Punjab went from being on the ropes to pushing their hosts backwards and, on 35 minutes, they went in front. A corner from the right was met by the head of one of Punjab's central defenders. The effort was punched up in the air by the DK keeper but, as it dropped, Meese was on hand to slam a volley back past everyone into the net. Great finish. 1-2
The lead lasted no more than a minute as DK went straight back up the other end and conjured up a lovely equaliser. Zach Lamb was the architect and executioner, cutting in from the left, showing some very nifty footwork to wriggle into the box before sliding a shot under the keeper. 2-2
Three minutes later the fifth goal inside twenty breathless minutes went in and it was DK again, taking the lead for the second time in this topsy-turvy affair. A long ball left the Punjab defence appealing for offside but DK's number 8 had timed his run to perfection down the right. As the keeper came off his line to narrow the angle, 8 slipped the ball selflessly inside for Sam Hill to notch his second and DK's third of the day. 3-2
HT Dudley Kingswinford 3 Punjab United 2. A very quiet opening 20 minutes in terms of goal scoring opportunities, but then the game burst into life. A real see-saw half and, no doubt, more to come in the second 45 minutes.
Hill needn't have worried too much though. Four minutes later Gwilliam was at it again. Another inch-perfect through ball down the left and, when the ball was cut back, Sam Hill smashed it home to make it 4-2.
There was, however, no let up in the incidents. Just past the hour mark Punjab had not one, but two penalty shouts inside the space of ten seconds, the second of which the referee was about to give until he saw that the assistant's flag had already been raised for an earlier offside. It didn't deter United and with 23 minutes remaining they , once again, hit back. A tempting free-kick swung in from the left glanced off the head of Leon Owen-Salmon, looping over everyone into the far corner. 4-3.
Again it looked as if the momentum might swing. Punjab had their tails up. A minute after getting the goal back their number 8 fired a drive across the face of goal as they searched for an equaliser. Then their number 7 played in a lovely cross that Penberthy headed narrowly wide. It looked as if another equaliser might be coming United's way but SK had the perfect antidote. They went up the other end and restored their two goal lead. Punjab's keeper made a great initial save but, when the ball was hacked clear it only went as far as number 10 who returned it with a superb dipping trike that rattled the underside of the bar and bounced out, only as far as captain Gwilliam who was on hand to nod it home. 5-3
Game over? Well, not quite because Punjab weren't going to lay down that easily. With six minutes of normal time remaining they got the difference back to one again. A delightful lobbed ball over the defence from Mario Mendez set Elliot Penberthy free on goal. He calmly slotted the ball past the keeper to make it 5-4.
With nine goals already scored, I'm not sure anyone watching would have put money on the score remaining the same for the final 6 minutes plus added time, but that's what happened. DK shut up shop to claim their first home win of the season.
FT Dudley Kingswinford 5 Punjab United 4. I'm not sure that either coach would agree with me, but absolutely top notch entertainment in my book. Two fully committed sides who both went flat out to win the game. You can't ask for much more than that.
Dudley Kingswinford climb to ninth and put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three. Punjab drop to sixth after Wombourne All Stars won at Kidderminster Harriers Reserves.
Next weekend DK have no game but Punjab travel to Northfield Town in a Birmingham Vase match. Both sides are back in league action on the 25th. DK welcome Kidderminster harriers Reserves to Heathbrook, looking to make it two on the bounce at home. Punjab host 11th placed FC Premair, looking to bounce back into contention at the top end of the table.
Dudley Kingswinford (alphabetical): Barratt, 4.Batham, 3.Craddock, Crampton, 7.Gwilliam(c), 9.Hill, Hardeman, 11.Lamb, Wilks, 2.Hiscox, Parker. Subs: Bull, Edney
Punjab United (alphabetical): Hanson-Singh, Kular, 16.Meese, 8.Mendez, Singh Rai, Sangha, Sanghera, Shearer, Singh Cheema, 2.Walker, 10.Bhandal,17.Penberthy(c). Subs:Haughton, Morgan, Owen-Salmon, Singh Dosanjh
Ground Number: 387