12:00pm Wednesday 23rd May 2001
STOURPORT SWIFTS 1 Oadby Town 1
All champions need their fair share of luck and if Monday night was anything to go by, Stourport Swifts are certainly not lacking that valuable commodity.
Swifts may have dominated many games this season but the visit of Oadby Town could have left them trailing by more than one goal at half-time.
And that would have as good as ended their hopes of winning the Midland Alliance title - defeat was completely out of the question.
However, Oadby's generosity in front of goal and a headed equaliser from reliable top-scorer Lee Booth left the half-time score at 1-1.
There was no change in the second half so Swifts must win by two goals at Bloxwich tonight to gain promotion to the Dr Martens League Western Division.
Rod Brown's men were thanking their lucky stars within the first few minutes when fourth-placed Oadby had a great chance to open the scoring.
The creative Richard Swingler dispossessed Adrian Cooper inside the Swifts half and released Jamie Johnson but his finish was well off-target.
Stourport's league record this year has been phenomenal but they often struggled to get to grips with their opponents in the first 45 minutes.
They retaliated with a brief spell of pressure and Cooper misfired after Booth had caused problems from a gigantic Alex Cowley throw.
But the woodwork was a friend to Swifts, none more so than in the 23rd minute when Johnson ghosted in behind defender Jan Mulders and lifted a delicate lob on top of the bar.
However, the visitors were ahead four minutes later when Steve Ulfig failed to deal with Chris Smith's through-ball and Richard Walker dinked a fine finish over a hesitant Rob Clarke.
The goal shocked Swifts and they could have been dead and buried in the next six minutes.
Swingler struck the bar with a fine 20-yard first-time effort before the hapless Johnson was guilty of a terrible double miss.
Clarke did well to advance and block his initial effort but the ball ran loose and the striker had a big sight of goal.
Fortunately for Swifts, Johnson suffered a crisis of confidence and blazed over.
An entertaining game saw a dazed Swifts beat the count-out and cause problems from another set-piece on 34 minutes.
Quick-thinking Oadby keeper Darren Heard saved brilliantly from team-mate Rob Goode after Jan Mulders headed Lea Shaw's free-kick into the danger area.
The home side continued to force the pressure and had a handball appeal turned down as shots from Cooper and Paul Moore were blocked.
But it was the inventive Moore who helped pull Swifts level, gliding a perfect left-wing cross into the box for Booth to powerfully head home his 39th league goal.
The crucial equaliser arrived moments before half-time and it was just as well as Swifts struggled to convert a large amount of second-half possession.
Cowley had perhaps the two best chances, seizing on a poor back-header on 65 minutes only for Heard to block and then wasting a chance after taking too much time over a shot close to the end.
Oadby, meanwhile, were always capable of landing a sucker punch on the break - and they so nearly did on 77 minutes.
Clarke's legs denied Johnson yet the nail-biting moments continued for the Swifts fans in a good crowd.
Walker hit the post from the edge of the area with two minutes left and then a tremendous Ulfig tackle denied Johnson a clear sight of goal.
There was still a twist in the tale of a fascinating end-of-season clash as Cooper's swerving drive was beaten away by Heard.
But even if Cooper had scored, Swifts would still have needed a win at Bloxwich due to goal difference.
Their destiny still lies in their own hands as they tackle the biggest match in their history tonight.
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