Written by Adam Bateman
Nantwich Town came from a goal down to defeat Hanley Town 3-1 at Potteries Park.
On a perfect evening for football with the sun just about setting, and a good pitch, Hanley Town and Nantwich Town faced off in the latest friendly between the sides.
Dabbers Manager Dave Cooke picked a strong side for this clash ahead of the start of the season, to get some more much needed minutes in the players’ legs.
Right from the kick-off both sides set their respective stalls out, as Nantwich looked to strike early, as just after 30 seconds Dan Cockerline was unlucky not to score with an effort that was saved by the home goalkeeper.
Joel Stair was next to try his luck from a corner with a header, but was adjudged to have been just offside, and there was a similar situation a few minutes later, as Stair this time scored with a header, but he was judged by the referee to have fouled his man in doing so.
This was a very open game, with both sides having chances, however Hanley were dominating the possession, with the Dabbers looking to strike on the break.
This was the case with the first goal of the evening, which went tot the home side, they struck with a lovely through ball, and a slight hesitation by Louis Gray allowed the on-rushing Reece Jones to calmly lob the ball over him, and into the empty net, to the delight of the home fans.
Nantwich had to find a way back into the game, and with each passing minute they looked to do so, and it started with Sean Cooke almost finding the equaliser with a wonderful curling effort, that just went wide of the post.
From there, Dan Cockerline and Joel Grant were both unfortunate not to get on the score sheet with chances.
What happened next was a true sight to behold, a lovely one touch move by Nantwich, involving at least 5 players, saw the ball come to AJ Leitch-Smith, whose first time effort went straight into the top corner.
So the sides went in at half time level, and that was just about justified.
The second half was very different to the first, the stamina and the extra substitutes that were available and used by Dave Cooke’s side paid dividends, as they were the side that were most dominant, they found a lot of space as the home side tired.
It was this dominance that led to the second Nantwich goal, which was another lovely passing move, and which saw Joel Stair marching confidently forward to put in a very good cross which found Dan Cockerline in space to head home.
After this, it was just seemingly a case of how many more did the Dabbers wish to score, Leitch-Smith was next to try his luck, but the home keeper bravely came out and blocked his shot with his legs.
Substitute Connor Heath found himself hitting the bar from close range, as Nantwich grew in confidence, and belief, with Heath’s own self confidence very much in evidence throughout this pre-season, and indeed he played a huge role in the third goal for the away side, as he managed to evade the Hanley left back, before playing in a very dangerous low ball into the box, which was turned into the Hanley net by an outstretched defensive leg to give the Dabbers a much deserved third goal on the night.
One bright spark for Hanley no doubt on the night was the wide player Jones, whose pace caused the Nantwich defence all kinds of havoc.
Hanley had a golden chance to get one goal back after a defensive mix up, but thankfully for Dave Cooke, the chance went just wide of Gray’s goal.
Connor Heath looks like a new man, and a man determined to make his mark this season, as he had a couple more chances in this game to really ramp up the goal total.
However the game finished with a win for Nantwich, by three goals to Hanley’s one, a really good work out for the Dabbers.
Nantwich Town: Louis Gray, Joel Stair, Troy Bourne, Ritchie Sutton (Jacob Edwards, 27), Jon Moran, Jack Sherratt (Caspar Hughes, 46), AJ Leitch-Smith (Connor Heath, 60), Joe Robbins, Dan Cockerline (Joe Mwasile, 70), Sean Cooke (Matt Bell, 70), Joel Grant (Shaun Miller, 70)
Hanley: Jones (17)
Nantwich: Leitch-Smith (43), Cockerline (55), Own goal (62)