Thackley AFC secured their spot in the play-offs with a thrilling last-minute victory over Hallam FC, marking their third consecutive win.
Facing a formidable Hallam FC side, fresh from a 1-1 draw with high-flying Knaresborough Town, Thackley AFC exhibited remarkable resilience to clinch a hard-fought 3-2 win at Dennyfield. Goals from Claridge and Prata gave them a 2-0 advantage at half-time, but Hallam FC swiftly equalised early in the second half with strikes from Fearon and Bradbury. Claridge then sealed the triumph with his second goal in the 87th minute. The joint management team made three strategic substitutions, introducing Haigh, Parsons, and A. Mitchell. Due to the absence of regular captain J. Mitchell, Claridge took up the captain’s armband for the day.
Thackley AFC launched the game strongly, earning an early corner after a Wilson clearance was deflected out of play. Prata displayed skilful footwork, but clear-cut chances remained elusive. Hallam FC had a half chance in the ninth minute, taking advantage of a Thackley AFC dispossession near the halfway line. However, Billy intervened effectively, sending the ball out for a well-cleared corner.
In the 14th minute, Prata applied pressure in the Hallam FC midfield, successfully winning the ball from Patterson. Unfortunately, his shot from the edge of the area sailed over the bar. Just two minutes later, a Thackley AFC free-kick, delivered deep by Mitchell, caused a moment of confusion between Douglas and Beatson. Hudson had an opportunity on the edge of the area, but once again, the shot missed its mark.
Hallam retaliated immediately as Fearon delivered a low cross from the right. Wilson read the situation astutely, allowing the ball to run across the edge of his six-yard box. Although the ball seemed headed for the corner flag, Buttle kept it in play. His subsequent cross was deftly cleared by the Thackley AFC backline.
After 23 minutes, Hallam FC began to assert themselves. Hudson fought valiantly but was ultimately outnumbered 25 yards from the Thackley AFC goal. Mathews chipped the ball over the Thackley AFC defence for Watson, who controlled it brilliantly. Yet, Wilson stood tall and made a crucial save as the assistant’s flag was raised on the far side.
A period of relative quiet followed until Hallam won a free kick in a dangerous area after Fearon was fouled on the edge. However, the shot struck Claridge in the wall, and the subsequent attempt went harmlessly wide.
A moment of concern arose in the 33rd minute when a long ball caught the Thackley AFC defence off guard. Watson seized the opportunity, edging ahead of Wilson. Buttle seemed poised to slot the ball into the empty net from 18 yards out, but Wilson executed a superb sliding tackle, recovering admirably to make the save.
Capitalizing on this stroke of luck, Thackley AFC took the lead two minutes later. Claridge displayed skill on the left, delivering a cross that Douglas could only palm away. Parsons pursued the ball, sending a deep cross to the back post. There, Claridge rose brilliantly, heading the ball over the keeper into the side netting on the far side, marking his first goal of the game.
Thackley AFC continued their momentum, with Prata extending the lead in the 38th minute. Mitchell held off multiple Hallam defenders, laying off the ball to Prata, who struck powerfully into the bottom right corner, giving Thackley AFC firm control heading into half-time.
The second half began with Hallam FC responding strongly, launching an early chance that saw Fearon poised to head home. He appeared to duck under the ball, claiming he was pushed, but Billy cleared the danger convincingly. Disaster struck in the 51st minute as Parsons seemed to be fouled in midfield, leading to a visitor counterattack. Bradbury delivered the ball for Fearon to chase, and he finished expertly beyond the advancing Wilson, offering the visitors a foothold in the game.
Hallam FC swiftly levelled the score after Bradbury seized on a loose ball, driving it low into the far-left corner. The game stood at a tense 2-2.
Although Thackley AFC had a slow start to the half, a chance to reset and a change of formation, which saw Billy move into midfield, helped them regain their footing. In the 87th minute, Thackley won another corner, and a dangerous cross from Ellison-Tope was blocked. The corner was taken short to Ellison-Tope, who swiftly returned it to Green. A series of passes led to King, who had replaced Prata just five minutes earlier, creating a crossing opportunity. The ball eventually fell to Claridge on the edge of the area. He struck low into the near left corner, eluding Hallam’s debutant goalkeeper Douglas. The goal appeared to seal the victory for Thackley AFC, but there remained significant defending to be done.
Thackley AFC held out during the ten minutes of injury time and nearly extended their lead. Green initiated a counterattack, leaving the Hallam defence outnumbered. However, he was brought down by a retreating defender.
It was another strong performance from the Dennyboys, propelling Thackley AFC to 4th position in the league, albeit having played a couple of extra games compared to some other teams. With plenty of the season still ahead, there’s much to look forward to. Thackley AFC’s next match will be against Emley AFC on Tuesday, 26th September, due to Emley AFC’s involvement in the FA Vase, leading to the rescheduling of the game from Saturday, 23rd September.