By Ryan Batty:
Despite going a goal down after twenty-five minutes, Nantwich Town showed superb resilience to come from behind and beat a strong Hyde United team on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon at Ewen Fields.
The win ensures Nantwich will sit at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier Division at Christmas, a phenomenal achievement for Dave Cooke’s men.
Manager Cooke made two changes to the side that drew with South Shields last weekend, as Danny Glover and Callum Saunders started on the bench, while Joe Malkin and Caspar Hughes returned to the starting eleven, the latter making his first start after an extended period on the sidelines with injury.
Nantwich began the game strongly, Sean Cooke earning an early free-kick after two minutes that saw a floated cross go over the head of Joe Malkin. However, Hyde were quick to establish themselves, having a chance soon after that was scuffed by Janni Lipka.
After thirteen minutes, Jamie Morgan and Joe Mwasile linked up that saw the full-back have an effort that narrowly missed the near post of Peter Crook.
The first half was extremely cagey, with both sides aiming to feel each other out and adapt to work in the conditions, where bullets of raindrops fell sideways, and swirling wind saw balls moving all over the field.
However, Hyde took the lead after nineteen minutes, which was slightly against the run of play, though only a slither. The ball was crossed towards the back post by Connor Simpson, and Grant Roberts was on-hand to head a looping one over the head of Will Jaaskelainen and into the roof of the net.
The Dabbers recovered fairly well from going a goal behind and had a number of chances down towards the Hyde goal, but it looked like Nantwich would be going into the interval down by a goal.
Sean Cooke, however, had other ideas. The attacking midfielder picked up the ball on the left side of the eighteen-yard box and a trip saw referee Mr Jamie Rhodes point to the spot for a Nantwich penalty.
Despite recent club form from the spot, Cooke stepped up and smashed it to the left of the net, sending Crook the wrong way and ensuring the two sides went into the break on level terms.
After the break, Tom Pratt was played through, though the Dabbers were able to deal well with the chance.
Morgan should have scored soon after, as his dipped effort from outside the box looked to be going in, but it was a phenomenal save from Crook that prevented Hyde going behind.
Joe Malkin could have scored a moment later as well, as Morgan’s cross into the box found the young striker, but his header was just over the bar.
Nantwich wouldn’t have to wait long for the winner however, as Sean Cooke bent one in from the far side that took a deflection, Jordan Fagbola turning it in to put the men in yellow in the lead.
Malkin may have added a third with twenty-five minutes to go, as he bundled home Morgan’s cross, but the assistant flagged for offside.
Sean Cooke had plenty of chances to add a third to his tally (as he was credited with the second goal), none more clear than when a low ball into the area saw his shot smack off the post. A scuffle developed a moment later between Fagbola and Bell that saw both players put in the book.
With a few minutes remaining, Joe Malkin had an effort from distance that looked initially to be going over the bar, but the shot dipped and was extremely close to going in, but was pure inches from going in.
In the ninetieth minute, floodlight failure on the far side called for some optimistic home supporters to shout for an abandonment, though the result would have stood if the game was called off.
However, that was all she wrote from Ewen Fields and Nantwich claimed all three points to secure their top-of-the-table position for Christmas Day, an early present for fans who made the trip up to Hyde.
The Dabbers move onto next weekend, as Nantwich host Basford United in Evo-Stik Premier Division action, for a 3.00pm kick-off. It is also Christmas Jumper Day, with prizes for the best jumpers, as well as Christmas Hampers being up for grabs thanks to the NTISA. It is certainly not one to be missed!
Hyde United: Crook, Smalley, Brownhill, Daly, McCombe, Fagbola (C), Roberts (Olerewaju 81′), Lipka, Simpson (Chilaka 70′) , Platt (Wright 65′), Pratt
Subs not used: O’Connor, Harrison
Nantwich Town: Jaaskelainen, Morgan, Barnes, Stair, Mullarkey, Bell, Mwasile (Saunders 85′), Hughes (C) (Cotterell 81′), Malkin, Cooke, Lawrie
Subs not used: Bourne, Jones
Referee: Mr J Rhodes
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