Nantwich Town made it 14 league games unbeaten as they drew 2-2 at home to league leaders Blyth Spartans. They went into the game knowing only a win would see them keep alive any hopes of reaching top spot, with Blyth holding a 10 point advantage over them.
They started brightly and had a number of half chances, but Blyth looked dangerous. The away side eventually got the first goal, as Luke Armstrong got in down the left and bent a superb shot into the bottom corner. The Dabbers hit back and were level 6 minutes later, as Josh Hancock scored a stunning overhead kick from just inside the penalty area.
Lifted by the goal, the Dabbers then went ahead early in the 2nd half as John Johnston twisted his man inside and out before curling low into the bottom corner. The home sides lead was immediately under threat and Blyth equalised 13 minutes later, with Armstrong rounding Gyollai and rolling in his 2nd of the game.
Despite both sides throwing bodies forward looking for a winner, there were no more goals and the teams had to settle for a point from what had been a superb game of football.
Phil Parkinson made 2 changes from the side that started against Ilkeston on Saturday. Sean Cooke returned to the starting XI, replacing Wayne Riley. Josh Hancock also was recalled ahead of Joe Mwasile, who missed out through illness. Curtis Jones returned to the squad on the bench. The Spartans were missing legendary striker Robbie Dale, who was out with a knock he picked up on Saturday.
The game started at a fast pace, as both sides looking to get forward quickly and get on the front foot. The Dabbers shaded the opening stages, as Cooke went close after 5 minutes, putting a shot just wide of the far post after being set up by Johnston.
Andy White then tried his luck from range, but his shot was over the bar. Blyth were looking a threat themselves and almost went ahead when Armstrong found Danny Maguire. His attempt to bundle home was blocked by the Dabbers defence and eventually cleared. Maguire then had another opening as he found some space just inside the penalty area. His goal bound shot was bravely blocked by Ben Harrison.
White had the Dabbers first effort on target as he shot on goal from distance. His effort was well saved by Spartans keeper Paul Woolston. Blyth had 2 more half chances, as first Richard Pell and then Maguire had efforts straight at Gyollai.
After what had been an even first 30 minutes, Blyth took the lead. Armstrong beat the Dabbers defence down the left and advanced into the penalty area. He then bent in a low finish into the far corner from a tight angle to put the Spartans ahead.
The Dabbers weren’t behind for long however and equalised 6 minutes later. A free kick into the box found its way to Hancock. He showed great technique and improvisation to volley a stunning overhead kick past a startled Woolston to bring the scores level. That saw the sides go in at half time all square.
The goal had clearly lifted the home side and they were ahead 3 minutes after the restart. A ball forward picked out Johnston and he twisted his man inside and out before curling low past Woolston to put the Dabbers in front. It was his 4th for the club and his first since extending his loan from Salford until the end of the season.
The Dabbers went in search of a 3rd to really put themselves in control. A strong run and cross from Matt Bell couldn’t pick out a team mate. The Dabbers then had a great chance on 55 minutes when they broke with numbers. The ball eventually fell to Hancock, with just Woolston to beat. The keeper to his credit closed the Dabbers forward down quickly and made a smart save.
That forced action from the Spartans bench, as FA Cup hero Jarrett Rivers came on. The move seemed to have the desired effect as Maguire turned in from close range after Gyollai had parried a shot. The offside flag was up to rule the goal out though.
Blyth weren’t behind for much longer though and levelled through a superb bit of play. Maguire played Armstrong in behind the Dabbers defence and the latter showed great composure to calmly round Gyollai and slot home his 2nd of the game to once again level things up.
The Dabbers made 2 subs, as Vinny Mukendi came on for his first game since rejoining the club late last week. He replaced the hard working Tom Peers upfront. Curtis Jones also came on, replacing Ben Harrison who came into the game nursing the effects of a sickness bug.
Rivers had the next chance in the game as he drove a shot just wide of the near post following some good build up play on the left. Steve Jones was the final Dabbers change as he replaced Josh Hancock. Johnston had a half chance as he broke down the left and cut inside, but his shot was dragged well wide of goal.
Mukendi looked to have broken in on goal as the game ticked towards full time, but Dave McTiernan chopped the Dabbers striker down and picked up a yellow for his troubles. The resulting free kick was hit into the wall by Cooke.
The Dabbers then almost snatched the lead late on when Cooke picked out the run of White into the penalty area with a perfect cross. White was unable to turn the ball home and ended up hand balling for a free kick to Blyth. Sam Hall picked up a yellow for a foul on Spartans sub Adam Wrightson as the game wound down.
Neither team could find that final chance to snatch all 3 points and the match ended in a draw. It was a fair result for both teams, who had put on a great show and deserved a point for their efforts.
Nantwich Town: Dan Gyollai, Andy White, Ibou Touray, Joel Stair, Ben Harrison(Curtis Jones, 69), Sam Hall(c), John Johnston, Matt Bell, Tom Peers(Vinny Mukendi, 65), Sean Cooke, Josh Hancock(Steve Jones, 74)
Unused subs: Wayne Riley, Ryan Brooke
Goalscorers: Hancock(39), Johnston(48)
Blyth Spartans: Paul Woolston, Andrew Cartwright, Michael Liddle, Richard Pell(c), Ryan Hutchinson, Jordan Watson(Jarrett Rivers, 58), Jordan Laidler(Adam Wrightson, 75), David McTiernan, Danny Maguire, Luke Armstrong, Sean Reid
Unused subs: Matty Pattison, Nathan Buddle, Chris Bell
Bookings: Cartwright, McTiernan
Goalscorer: Armstrong(33, 61)
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