THREE goals in the last 16 minutes saw Lye Town snatch an unlikely derby win against Dudley Town.
The visitors took an early lead when Niki Faux pounced on an error by Lee Dimmock to score.
But after Dudley had missed a host of chances to extend the advantage, Damian Whitcombe’s controversial penalty levelled the scores.
Whitcombe then put Lye ahead with a wonderful free-kick before Richard Anslow added a third in stoppage time.
Anslow’s goal came just seconds after Geoff Hill had blazed over from ten yards out at the other end, the last of numerous chances squandered by the visitors against the West Midlands League leaders.
Dreniz Bala was a serial offender, missing the target twice when put clean through and firing straight at Lye keeper Charlie Price.
The misses proved costly, though it should be noted Lye’s comeback owed a great deal to referee Richard Gardner. His decision to point to the spot when Kalum Evitts corner was delivered into the box mystified both sides but handed the hosts a vital lifeline, which they didn’t hesitate to take.
Dudley will deservedly feel hard done by but for Lye the result, which keeps them top of the table, was all important. If the cliché is to be believed, it’s the sign of a good side to win when playing badly. Tonight they certainly did that.
Faux’s opener on 12 minutes was the first real chance of note and owed everything to poor defending. Dimmock attempted to head a crossfield ball back to Price but hugely undersold his keeper, allowing Faux to nip in and force the ball home at the second attempt.
Anslow was denied a great chance to level almost immediately by a brilliant Richard Langford tackle and instead it was Dudley who should have doubled the lead, only for Bala to miss the target after being sent through by Whitcombe’s poor back header.
Anslow continued to look the hosts biggest threat and was denied twice by Dudley keeper Aaron O’Malley in quick succession.
But it was a largely disjointed performance from the league leaders, who were relieved to see referee Gardner show Robin Sheffield only a yellow card after a rash challenge on Dudley’s Dan Cresswell.
Dudley by contrast looked threatening with every attack and Bala should really have done better than shoot straight at Price from 12 yards out, after a neat exchange with Hill.
The striker was in the thick of the action early in the second period as Dudley threatened to run away with it.
First he saw an effort saved by Price after his initial attempted cross was blocked, before firing against the post having been played in by Faux. In between, Hill just failed to steer Langford’s free-kick home as the Robins dominated.
However, the visitors were perhaps fortunate to keep 11 men on the field after skipper Danny Ludlow clashed with Sheffield as tempers threatened to boil over. Ludlow stuck his face in Sheffield’s and while the Lye man’s theatrical reaction bested Jennifer Lawrence for funniest fall of the week, by the letter of the law the Dudley player should have walked and referee Gardner’s decision to flash just a yellow card was yet another puzzling decision.
The incident did little to fire the hosts as Dudley continued to carve out chances, with Hill twice shooting just wide.
But gradually Lye began to exert some pressure. Steve Weaver finally forced O’Malley into his first meaningful save with a curling effort before the hosts drew level in controversial circumstances.
Evitts’ corner was challenged by a host of players at the near post and the sound of referee Gardner’s whistle left many assuming he had awarded a free-kick. But gradually it became apparent he had given a penalty and Whitcombe shut out the Dudley protestations to fire his side level.
Suddenly Lye had new life and both Sheffield and Anslow had chances before the hosts did take the lead thanks to a special moment from Whitcombe, who blasted a 25 yard free-kick into the top corner, giving O’Malley no chance.
Stunned Dudley looked to fight back but Bala again failed to make clean contact from the edge of the box, before Hill blasted over from ten yards out three minutes into stoppage time after Tom Gadd’s shot was deflected invitingly into his path.
Seconds later Anslow broke clear at the other end and finished past O’Malley to cap a noteworthy comeback.
LYE: Price, Brown (Hadley 56), Dimmock, Whitcombe (Ward 90), Sheffield, Pugh (Greenaway 37), Evitts, Millward, Weaver, Anson, Jevons Subs not used: Shilvock, Watson.
Goals: Whitcombe 74pen 84, Anslow 90+4.
DUDLEY: O’Malley, Edmunds, Watkins, Langford, Whitley, Cresswell, Faux (Gadd 67), McGilligan, Hill, Bala, Ludlow (c) Subs not used: Joshua, Perry, Love, Taylor.
Goal: Faux 12.