Late strike from Payne is enough to seal semi-final spot for Crown

Halifax Sunday League
Halifax Sunday League

There may have only been one Brighouse side to beat the weather in the first fixtures of 2016 in the Ziggys Metro Cars Halifax Sunday League, but Crown FC’s epic 4-3 cup victory over Halifax Rangers had enough action for a full fixture list.

Seven goals, a missed penalty, a red card and late drama on a sodden playing surface ensured that spectators were entertained despite the drab January weather.

In-form Crown started the brighter of the two sides, with Chris Payne’s early shot having to be tipped ove, signalling his side’s attacking intent.

And it wasn’t long before they deservedly found themselves ahead.

Chris Carter weaved into the left hand side of the Rangers area and managed to stab home despite last-gasp attempts to block his effort.

The Waring Green-based side should have had another shortly afterwards; a defensive mistake allowed Payne to burst clear and his clever reverse pass put Craig Gladwin through on goal. But the home side’s goalkeeper smothered well at his near post.

Having been let off the hook, Rangers went on to assert a period of pressure themselves, with long throw-in’s into the area a useful weapon.

The equaliser came from such a set-piece as a ball into the penalty area led to Lee McCallion stabbing the ball past his own goalkeeper.

Crown goalkeeper Kristian Ellis then had to be on fine form to twice deny the home side taking a lead.

He tipped over a headed opportunity, before gathering a powerful drive.

On this foundation the pendulum swung again approaching the interval and the visitors stole back the lead. Payne was slipped into the left channel and side footed past the keeper to make it 2-1.

With the pitch cutting up further, the second half became scrappy but with plenty of endeavour from both sides.

Chris Baird replaced Carter at half time for Crown and flicked narrowly wide from a Payne cross, while at the other end, Dean McDonald headed over from a set piece.

This sounded a warning that set-pieces would continue to be an important part of the Rangers arsenal and, sure enough, they restored parity again when a free-kick into the area glanced off a head and into the goal.

The game really burst into life in the last 20 minutes.

Joe Sykes improvised well and forced a save from the home goalkeeper before substitute Dave Phelan came close with a back-post header.

The same man was in the thick of it as he downed McDonald in the penalty area at the other end – but Rangers conspired to hit the woodwork from the ensuing spot-kick.

Back up the other end, Baird looked to have won it for Crown but more drama was to be squeezed into the dyeing embers of a cracking cup tie.

Matthew Tuite centred and Baird fired home smartly from close range, but his side then found themselves down to 10 men before conceding a late equaliser.

A long through ball bobbled over Ellis as he tried to clear allowing the Rangers substitute to walk the ball home and make it 3-3 with extra time looming.

One goalkeeper’s misery was soon to be matched at the other end, however.

A spilled ball fell to a wide-eyed and grateful Payne, who accepted the gift of scoring the winning goalto send himself and his delighted team-mates through to the semi-finals of the Springfield Camping League Cup.