MALVERN Town’s hopes of clinching a top five league finish and a place in next season’s FA Cup took a huge dent after succumbing to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Dudley Sports.
In a game which saw three red cards, the Hillsiders slipped to their third defeat in four games as Shepherd Machinguata’s 82nd minute strike was enough to seal the points for the visitors.
Defeat for Malvern saw them drop to ninth in the West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division table, five points off fifth place Cradley Town with ten fixtures remaining.
With both teams vying for a top five finish which would secure FA Cup qualification, the opening exchanges proved scrappy with the first 20 minutes seeing no clear-cut chances on goal.
Dudley Sports carved out the game’s first real opportunity on the 22nd minute but a superb save by Chas Weaver kept out Josh Taylor.
After 40 minutes, Dene Whittal-Williams got Malvern’s first chance of the game but his header from a free kick went wide.
Three minutes later, in-form striker Luke Corbett was denied from getting on the scoresheet by Sports keeper Joseph Sidaway as his low effort was saved well.
A lacklustre 45 minutes came to end after Machinguata headed wide the final chance of the half.
Following the break, both teams cancelled each other out and it was not until the 66th minute when Malvern had the chance to take the lead but from Reynolds’ cross, Corbett failed to keep his show on target.
Three minutes later, Dudley’s Jamie Parker brought down Reynolds who reacted angrily to the challenge. The incident resulted in both players receiving red cards by referee Dan Stokes.
The resultant free kick from Bryan Craven was met by Corbett who knocked the ball back to Matthew Turner who blazed over.
Turner again had the chance to put Malvern in front in the 78th minute but after weaving past two defenders, he dragged his shot just wide of the post.
Another chance went a begging for Turner a minute later as he once again shot wide after collecting Aaron Richards’ cross from the right.
Failure to capitalise on the numerous chances came back to haunt the Hillsiders as eight minutes from time, a long ball from the back fell to Machingauta who ran into the box before firing home to put Sports 1-0 up.
Machingauta was given his marching orders near the end when he was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in a bid to run the clock down.
Malvern will be hoping to return to winning ways on Saturday when they make the trip to Cradley Town.
Picture – Malvern Town’s Matt Turner in action by Cliff Williams