MATCH REPORT: Grange Albion 2-2 Cardiff Corinthians
A late penalty from Nick Hooper meant that Grange Albion and Cardiff Corinthians shared the spoils in the early season all-Cardiff clash in the South Wales Alliance Premier Division.
The two sides played out an evenly-fought contest with both sides having opportunities to win the game when the game was level but it'll be the Corries who will be the most delighted in the draw after scoring late on to make sure they left Coronation Park with at least a point.
A brace from Corries' Nicky Hooper and goals from Nathan White and Jack Kane for Grange Albion added to what was a competitive spectacle of football.
The game started with a fast intensity and in the opening five minutes of the game it would be the home side who would open the scoring as Albion forward Nathan White would score from the rebound after Jonathan Homp's immaculate pass met James Grainger who delivered a low cross into the box from the left-flank and it deflected to White who slotted home past keeper Chris Vanos.
Unfortunately for White though that would be his last involvement in the game after being forced off with injury after an unfortunate slip which meant he was given lengthy treatment and was later replaced by Liam Beattie.
Albion though almost gave the Corries an immediate equaliser after play had resumed following White's injury as Anthony Brockway would header behind his goal, fortunately for the Albion for a corner-kick.
The home sides defence stood firm though and dealt with the initial pressure. Nick Hooper would have his first opportunity of the game though as he was in a crucial area to score in a goal-mouth scramble but Albion keeper David Chaplin managed to claim the ball with a tame shot.
Adrian Bartlett's men would go close again as Gareth Cawley would knock the ball past Lewis Bevan on the right-flank but for Albion though Craig Green would intercept and clear the ball out of danger.
Nizar Mhani who captained the former Welsh League side last night showcased his leadership qualities as he showed high levels of determination to get involved into the game and wasn't afraid to get into a tackle.
Albion who were playing their first competitive fixture of the season had the chance to double their lead but Jack Kane's effort from outside of the box was blazed over the bar.
On the left-hand side of the pitch, Corries wideman Iwan Withers was causing problem for the defence after being played in by Zaki Misbah and they could have leveled the match as Misbah tried to adjust himself to pull off a worthwhile effort but the Albion defence had time to clear.
From the attack, Albion would go up the other end and but for a superb instinctive right-handed save from Corries keeper Chris Vanos who was making his debut for the Radyr side, then Grange would have gone 2-0 up through a Liam Beattie strike.
Last season, many Premier Division defences will have been aware of the long-throw trait that Corries man Gavin Robins has in his locker and his giant-throw caused problems once again, forcing David Chaplin to tip the ball to safety before Bevan cleared.
Corries keeper Vanos would be forced into another fine save as Matthew Phillips would fire his shot towards goal after more good build-up play between Jonathan Homp and James Grainger. Phillip's shot would rebound out and fall at the feet of Kieran Francombe but his shot would be dragged just wide of the goal.
Francombe himself would almost provide the second goal of the game as his cross was hit by a delicate header from James Grainger but the Corries keeper saved the shot initially and then clutched it to his chest.
GOAL Grange Albion 1-1 Cardiff Corinthians – Nicky Hooper
Grange's rearguard would be undone though as Cardiff Corinthians' had a free-kick on the left-hand flank and James Cadman's free-kick would be swung in and Nick Hooper would score Corrie's equaliser after getting on the end of the free-kick.
They would almost take the lead just before the break as well as Iwan Withers showed great determination to dispossess the Albion full-back and crossed the ball to Zaki Misbah whose shot was blocked.
The referee would bring the first half to a close in a half which Albion edged as they had the better of the chances but Corries' goal just before half-time stung Albion.
HALF TIME: Grange Albion 1-1 Cardiff Corinthians – Nathan White (GA) and Nicky Hooper (CC)
The Corries would get the game back underway after the half-time interval and they had the first real chance of the half as Withers would hit a cross-hit shot with Chaplin parrying the ball across the goal.
Misbah would also go close as his free-kick would go just over the bar after Nicky Hooper's arms were pulled, leading to a free-kick outside the box.
Iwan Withers was proving to be Corries' bright spark and he almost earned his side a penalty after using his pace and trickery he was brought down but the referee deemed it to be a fair timed tackle.
GOAL Grange Albion 2-1 Cardiff Corinthians – Jack Kane
At half time Aaron Harris was introduced to the game and his introduction was a vital one as he crossed the ball across goal and Jack Kane would bundle the ball into the net to make it 2-1 to the home side.
After scoring the second goal, the attempts to double their lead didn't stop as they tried to restrict the Corries' a way back into the game and Craig Green had a glorious opportunity after getting a slice of luck, he was through on goal but was stopped in his tracks at the last minute.
But the Corries were looking to claw their way back into the game and Zaki Misbah's effort down at the other end was headed off the line by influential attacker Aaron Harris who showcased his defensive qualities in this case.
Harris was causing multiple problems for the former Welsh League sides' defence and was finding himself unlucky as he tried to catch the Corries defence on the breakaway but was judged to be offside.
As well as Gavin Robins timing his slide tackle to perfection on Harris in a last-ditch tackle, they went up the other end of the pitch and Withers was unlucky not to score with a well-swung cross which Chaplin saved and on the follow up Hooper's shot was blocked.
The Corries were chasing the game with ten minutes to go and they introduced Jordan Cooper to the game to try and make the most of tiring legs and his fancy foot-work and determination was providing to be a handful for defenders and his cross went just over the bar.
Relentless pressure for the home side forced Lewis Bevan to head away from James Cadman's free-kick as Corries threw whatever they had as they sent up the tall defenders for set-pieces.
Iwan Withers would make the most of the second wind that he had and through that he charged his way into the box and in the dying embers of the game he went down and the referee pointed to the spot.
Step forward Nicky Hooper who already had one goal to his name for the evening who would be given the responsibility to bring the game level.
And step forward he did… Hooper coolly placed his penalty to the right-hand corner of the goal, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, much to the delight of the travelling side.
GOAL Grange Albion 2-2 Cardiff Corinthians – Nicky Hooper penalty
There would be little time for a side to chase a winner but the Corries almost scored as James Cadman's free-kick was played to Rhys Withers and his low cross was saved by the Albion keeper.
Jonathan Homp sent over a lofted ball to Aaron Harris to chase but the all evaded him and the Corries' keeper Vanos collected.
That would be the last action of the match as the referee would bring the game to a close in what was an even-affair.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kieran Francombe (Grange Albion)
For a player that hasn't had much experience as such as a right-wing back and being one of the smaller players on the pitch, the young Albion man dealt with the physical presence of the Corries' attack well and was unlucky not to add an assist to his name last night.