LUKE EDWARDS cropped up in the fifth minute of second half stoppage time to fire home a dramatic winner for Bromsgrove Sporting against Heath Hayes.
With the game looking as though it was headed for a 1-1 draw, a long throw in by Daniel Morris was flicked on by Luke Shorthouse into the path of Edwards who lashed the ball into the back of the net to give the Midland League Division One leaders all three points.
Sporting’s performance was far from polished as they fell behind after just four minutes when Ryan Burns curled home from 25 yards to put Hayes 1-0 up.
It took until the 41st minute for the Rouslers to conjure up some magic to get the equaliser as a quickly taken corner was collected by Reece Hewitt who drilled in a low cross to Jason Cowley to send a stooping header into the bottom corner.
That was as good as it got for the hosts until right at the death when they managed to scrape what could be an important three points in the hunt for promotion.
EDWARDS’ LATE WINNER – video courtesy of Danny Carter
Sporting, who were looking to extend their unbeaten league run to 24 games, got off to the worst possible start in front of 944 fans at the Victoria Ground as they fell behind inside the opening five minutes.
A poor clearance from skipper Craig Jones made its way to Burns who took little time to hit an instant shot which Rouslers keeper Jon Brown watched fly into the top right-hand corner.
It took an age for the hosts to settle but they should have been level at the quarter hour mark but Hewitt could only volley over at the back post from Chris Lloyd’s pin-point cross from the right.
The visitors looked very comfortable and were looking very threatening on the break but numerous offside flags prevented Kyle Minto and Kory Burke from adding to Hayes’ tally.
Cowley then headed over a Wills free kick after 24 minutes before the latter saw a corner 12 minutes later almost nestle into the far corner after the ball skimmed off the head of a Hayes player on its way into the box.
The woodwork was rattling with seven minutes of the first half remaining as Robbie Bunn’s shot inside the area clipped the bar before a flying save from Brown prevented Burke’s speculative effort from distance finding the top corner.
Even though Sporting were as far from their best, they eventually drew level in the 41st minute when Cowley got his head onto Hewitt’s cross from a quick corner routine to level things up.
And Cowley should have sent the league leaders into the break 2-1 up as a loose ball came his way after pinballing around the box but he could only skew wide from just a few yards out.
Immediately after the interval Bunn was involved once again as he lashed over before Cowley and Wills also saw efforts blocked and go wide respectively prior to the hour mark.
By this point, both sides were lacking tempo and Hayes’ first meaningful shot on goal saw Minto header straight at Brown before Burke lashed over from distance with 15 minutes remaining.
Try as they might, Sporting looked as though their luck was not going to be on their side as Bunn saw a piledriver deflect narrowly wide a minute later before substitute Andy Nicol almost scored what would have been goal of the game as his thunderous volley from about 25 yards out landed on the roof of the net.
Fine margins is a phrase which would define the game for Sporting as fellow substitute Ahmed Ali saw a header desperately cleared off the line with just five minutes to go.
And after referee Ricky Brookes signalled there was five minutes of stoppage time to come, the Rouslers still struggled to break down a defiant Hayes outfit.
But following some sustained attacking pressure, Paul Smith’s men proved they had one last ounce of fuel left to find a dramatic winner.
In the fifth minute of injury time, Morris launched a long throw-in into the box where Shorthouse outmuscled his marker to provide a deft flick across goal to Edwards who was primed and ready to arrow home with his left foot to send the roof off of the Shed End.