Nantwich Town returned to winning ways, picking up their first points of 2017 as they beat Mickleover Sports 1-0 at the Dom Amott Arena. In cold, wet and murky conditions, the Dabbers had numerous chances in the first half to grab a goal, but found Mickleover keeper Jake Eastwood in fine form, as he denied Matt Bell and Josh Hancock on several occasions. The game swung in the Dabbers favour when Mickleover’s Ben Turner was sent off 3 minutes before half time.
In the 2nd half, Nantwich turned the screw looking for a goal and finally got one on 71 minutes when Ben Harrison fired home from inside the area. Despite some late pressure and a Hancock shot hitting the bar, there were no further goals as the Dabbers emerged victorious for their 8th away league win of the season.
Phil Parkinson rang the changes for the game, with 5 players coming into the starting XI. Their were 2nd debuts for Dan Gyollai and Sam Madeley on the wing, whilst fellow loan signing Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls was on the bench. Joel Stair replaced the injured Andy White whilst Wayne Riley and Josh Hancock earned recalls. The Dabbers boasted a strong bench containing Osebi Abadaki, Joe Mwasile and Steve Jones, along with Oli Finney and Bailey-Nicholls.
Mickleover were hit with the news that hot shot striker Conor Hall had left the club and signed for Woking on a permanent deal. In his place came the experienced Clinton Morrison. Veteran Player-Manager John McGrath was also in the team, as were goal scorers from the reverse fixture Andy Dales, Jack Broadhead and Adam Baskerville.
The game started at a fast pace, with both teams looking to make the most of their technical ability and get the ball down. McGrath was perhaps fortunate to avoid an early booking for clipping Hancock as he looked to break. The first chance came on 6 minutes as Matt Bell forced Eastwood into a smart save.
Sam Hall and Madeley then had chances that the Sports defence had to deal with. Bell again tested Eastwood from distance, with the rebound being cleared. The Dabbers were enjoying all the chances and Hancock make an excellent turn in the box, which left 2 Mickleover defenders in his wake. Eastwood had to make another excellent save to keep him out.
The game was interspersed with niggly fouls and the ref had to have a word with players from both sides. The chances petered out as both sides probed for the first goal, but the players were still endeavouring to pass the ball on a greasy surface. McGrath belied his age as he skipped through several Dabbers challenges and laid in fellow veteran Morrison. The striker could only sky the ball over the stand.
5 minutes before half time, the ball fell to Joel Stair from a corner. He tried to place his shot, but it went a yard wide of the goal with Eastwood covering. On 42 minutes, the game exploded when Ben Turner went in forcefully on Riley near the half way line. The ref gave himself some thinking time and consulted his linesman before handing out the red card to the Sports left back.
A Hancock shot well over ended the half with both sides frustrated at the opening 45 minutes. The Dabbers emerged for the 2nd half looking for that elusive opener, with Hall once again shooting over. Madeley was withdrawn after 51 minutes for Steve Jones. The Dabbers were turning up the pressure, using their extra man to control possession.
A scramble in the Sports box was turned away for a corner, whilst Hall again shot over from distance. The Dabbers continued to dominate the ball, but found themselves meeting some stubborn Mickleover resistance. On 65 minutes, Parky made his 2nd change, bringing on Abadaki for Riley.
After barely 5 minutes on the pitch, Abadaki was involved in a clash with Mickleover right back Jake Scott. Abadaki felt he had been blocked by the defender and confronted him. Scott went down theatrically in the coming together. With some confusion over what exactly had gone on, the referee decided to issue a yellow to both players.
With just under 20 minutes to go, the Dabbers finally got the breakthrough their determination had deserved. A ball into the box bounced around before falling to Ben Harrison. The centre back showed great composure and technique to drill the ball low into the corner past the diving Eastwood.
Mickleover looked to immediately hit back, with Gyollai having to tip a low shot around the post. Dales then put a shot just wide. Touray went into the book for a foul on Scott before McGrath put a free kick just over the bar. The Dabbers were starting to play on the counter, with Steve Jones shooting straight at Eastwood.
With time winding down, Brooke made way for debutant Bailey-Nicholls. Sports were throwing bodies forward looking for a leveller, but the Dabbers were holding them at bay. Whilst the home side were looking for a goal, it was the Dabbers who went close to finishing the game. Hancock picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and hit the bar with a fierce strike.
Sports couldn’t create a final opportunity despite a late free kick, as the Dabbers closed the game out to emerge victorious in murky conditions to return to winning ways.
Mickleover Sports: Jake Eastwood, Jake Scott, Ben Turner, John McGrath, Pablo Mills, Tom Burgin(c), Andy Dales, Danny Schofield, Adam Baskerville(Elliott Ptak, 45), Clinton Morrison(Jake Dickinson, 53), Jack Broadhead
Subs not used: Albert Lansdown, Lewis Belgrave, William Norcross
Booking: Scott (70)
Sent Off: Turner(42)
Nantwich Town: Dan Gyollai, Joel Stair, Ibou Touray, Ben Harrison, Curtis Jones, Sam Hall(c), Josh Hancock, Wayne Riley(Osebi Abadaki, 65), Ryan Brooke(Khaellem Bailey-Nicholls, 82), Matt Bell, Sam Madeley(Steve Jones, 51)
Subs not used: Joe Mwasile, Oliver Finney
Bookings: Abadaki(70), Touray(78)
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