ELLIS Blakemore struck a stoppage-time equaliser to keep Fairfield Villa’s unbeaten home league record intact after a dramatic finale in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Earlswood Town.
Villa defeated the visitors just a week previously in a comfortable 4-1 away win, but the return fixture proved to be a sterner test despite the advantage of home backing.
A big factor on proceedings was the exclusion of eight first-team players who were out of contention in the MFL Division 2 clash, forcing Fairfield to dip into their reserve team.
Connor Johnstone was handed a debut in Fairfield’s classic 4-3-3 system and came into the forward line – which ultimately didn’t perform to its usual standards in the game.
Dan Ludlow had an effort turned around the post by the Earlswood keeper, but it proved a rare opportunity for the hosts as they lacked in conviction when going forward.
The visitors on the other hand were spirited and had imposed themselves on the game, although they were unable to trouble the Fairfield goal in a contest short of chances.
With hopes of better football to come in the second half quickly erased, the substitution of Lewis Smith in place of Alex Dugmore helped get Villa moving forward in better fashion – but still proved unable to trouble Earlswood.
Josh Goddard was on hand to save an effort that was sent straight at him from a promising position, a warning sign that the visitors could strike at any moment.
And so they did, when in the 88th minute, a penalty was awarded to Earlswood after a cross was ruled to have been hand-balled by Peter Jenvey by the referee.
James Pyatt stepped up to take the spot-kick and found the net, with the pace of the ball beating Goddard despite getting his glove to it.
Fairfield’s unbeaten home record looked at serious risk of being ended – until Smith headed the ball on into the path of Blakemore, who fired home in the 94th minute to claim a point and keep their unbeaten streak going.
Villa will hope their record can withstand the visiting table-toppers Northfield Town tomorrow (3pm), and will be keen to avenge the 5-0 loss that was suffered at Shenley Lane.
Meanwhile, Fairfield have been drawn against Lye Town of the MFL Premier Division in the semi-final of the Smedley Crooke Cup – the club facing a fourth away tie in the competition this season.
The winners will face either Malvern Town, or the winners of Quorn/Enville Athletic in the final, should they progress.