TEENAGE striker Keanu Cooper scored one of the most important goals of his young career, securing AFC Ludlow what could be the point that helps them the West Midlands League Division Two title.
The mid-week 2-2 draw at Wolverhampton Sporting Community Reserves sent AFC top on goal difference, with one game left to play – a showdown last night (Wednesday) at second-placed Team Dudley.
And AFC boss Dave Cooper warned that he was not afraid to be ruthless when it comes to selection ahead of the big game.
“I made some hard choices last year to win the league, and I’ll do it again.
“Last week some of the players weren’t at it.
“It’s all about AFC – we’ll have a chat with the boys on Tuesday night and go into the game with a clear mind.”
Cooper will look to draw on the belief and character that the squad has developed since going on a nine-match winning run after Christmas.
The run came to an end last week with a hard-fought draw that, Cooper said, came against all odds.
His team – counting just one player over 25 – completed just 80 minutes due to a lack of floodlights at Wolverhampton, and lost right back Gavin Podmore early as the side were not given time to warm up.
And their opposition, much-changed since a 10-0 defeat at the Showtime Stadium, were made up from players that would not have been out of place in Wolverhampton’s first team.
“It was a joke,” said Cooper. “They had two of the players that came to us - but you can’t buy team spirit."
Dale Hodge took the lead early for the away side, heading in from a Liam Hicks free kick, but, just before the half-time whistle, a defensive lapse in concentration let in Wolves to equalise.
Cooper jnr came up with a moment of magic to put his side back in front, flicking the ball over a defender before smashing it home, before a AFC fell victim to a dubious goal with eight to play.
Before the light went out Hodge twice rattled the woodwork and Wolves were forced to scramble a clearance off their line.
While the result was not what Cooper wanted, he hopes the adversity will help further shape some of his young squad, who now have the kind of do-or-die match-up against Dudley that few will have experienced.
He said: “Keanu and Liam have done me proud this year.
“All the lads in the changing room were gutted – we don’t need motivation."
To read about last night's crunch game for AFC Ludlow, go to: ludlowadvertiser.co.uk