MALVERN Town boosted their chances of claiming a top five league finish after producing one of their best results of the season after a fine 2-1 victory over Cradley Town
Goals from Ben Hayes and Bryan Craven ensured the Hillsiders walked away with all three points, lifting them up to seventh in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division table, two points off FA Cup qualification with nine games to go.
Going into the game off the back of a 1-0 defeat to Dudley Sports last weekend, Malvern started the game the brighter of the two sides and probably should have taken the lead after three minutes.
When the ball was played back to Cradley keeper Shaun Edwards, it bounced away from him allowing Luke Corbett to nick in before squaring to Hayes who could only chip his effort into the arms of a grateful Edwards.
Five minutes later, Malvern’s Chas Weaver pulled off a wonderful save to deny Chris Bladen after he had ran half the length of the pitch before getting a shot off.
Following his earlier miss, Hayes made amends in the 23rd minute as his wonderful volley from the left went over the head of Edwards and into the back of the net to put the Hillsiders 1-0 up.
Weaver pulled off another fine save 10 minutes from the end, this time denying Jovan Blake-Walker with the follow-up from R’mar Murray going just wide.
After the break, it took four minutes for Malvern to double their advantage as Dave Reynolds turned his man to find Corbett whose cross was headed home by Craven.
In the 55th minute, three saves in quick succession by Edwards kept Cradley in the contest.
Firstly denying a Reynolds volley before tipping over Corbett’s header from the resulting corner.
Craven took the next corner and it was met by Corbett again at the back post but Edwards forced the ball over the bar.
Despite Malvern creating a host of chances, Cradley got back into the game on the hour mark when substitute Kieron Bennett ran down the left before crossing to the in-form Blake-Walker who glanced the ball home to set up a nervy finish.
Malvern continued to push forward with Hayes wasting another opportunity to kill the game off after firing wide from Corbett’s knock-on.
Five minutes from the end, another good save from Weaver ensured the Hillsiders claimed an important victory, saving the initial shot with his legs before gathering the second.
Malvern’s next game sees them welcome promotion chasing and second placed AFC Bridgnorth to the HDAnywhere Community Stadium on Saturday.