Midland League, Division Two
Earlswood Town 5
Coventry Alvis 4
A DRAMATIC stoppage-time winner from Jordan McKenzie gave ten-man Earlswood Town a narrow victory over visiting Coventry Alvis in their season opener on Saturday.
With the crowd at The Pavilions boosted by a healthy contingent of Solihull Moors fans looking for a football fix, those in attendance were treated to a nine-goal thriller.
After a tentative opening where both teams were finding their feet after six months without football, it was the visitors who struck first.
With 15 minutes played, Earls failed to clear an Alvis corner and the ball eventually found its way to Adam Bourne, who made no mistake from inside the box.
The hosts reacted immediately, with new signing Joe Wright getting down the right channel and crossing for McKenzie to head home at the back post.
This gave the Earls some impetus and McKenzie and strike partner Joel Hughes were both looking dangerous, carrying their pre-season form into the new Midland League campaign.
On 35 minutes it was the latter who gave Earlswood the lead for the first time.
Wright was again involved, this time earning a free-kick on the right-hand side which he himself whipped into the box.
When Alvis failed to clear, the ball fell to Hughes who calmly slotted home.
The score looked like it was going to stay at 2-1 as half-time approached, but there was to be a third goal for the Earls.
McKenzie caused the Alvis defenders a torrid time again as he skipped past challenges to find Harry Street who then slipped in Hughes.
The big striker cut inside the last man before lofting a strike out of reach of the stranded keeper to make it 3-1 at half-time.
Alvis made a double change at the break as they chased the game and were back in it after ten minutes of play.
A low corner found its way through a cluster of players to find striker Dildale Linton, who made no mistake.
Within quick succession an equaliser arrived as some lacklustre defending from a cross saw substitute Kier Mallen make it 3-3.
In an end-to-end second half it wasn’t long before the Earls were back in front.
A header from Hughes was tipped onto the bar, but Street was on hand to knock the ball over the line.
Just when Earls manager Tom Reynolds was looking for his side to remain calm and take the sting out of the game they were reduced to ten men.
Debutant Wright received a second yellow for a late challenge, putting an early end to his day.
Minutes later it went from bad to worse as another Alvis substitute in Nathan Stoute headed an equaliser from six yards out.
Alvis pushed for what had seemed like an unlikely winner and the hosts, despite being down to ten, did the same.
It could have gone either way late on, with Earls defender Cameron Knight deflecting the ball onto his own post.
But then, in the first of five minutes of stoppage time, the Earls were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal.
The angle seemed against a shot, but high on confidence McKenzie took it on and his blistering strike found the top corner to hand Earlswood the three points.
Earlswood are back in action on Saturday when they travel to 2019 champions Northfield Town (3pm kick-off).