A late Sean Cooke penalty secured Nantwich Town a 1-1 draw with Marine in the club’s first match in front of supporters at the Weaver Stadium for 165 days.

Cooke himself was brought down in the 88th minute, shortly after Marine’s Josh Hmami was shown a straight red card for an incident with Nantwich’s Josh Green.

The visitors had taken the lead immediately into the second half through Neil Kengni.

There was a heart-stopping moment after 10 minutes as a Marine free kick was sliced horribly by Joe Malkin towards his own goal, but fortunately for the Dabbers Greg Hall was alert and claimed it.

In a half where the defences were very much on top, Jacob Farleigh and Malkin played a smart 1-2 on the Nantwich right, but Malkin was just not able to get to the return ball and the Marine keeper collected.

A typically determined run by Luke Walsh resulted in a free kick about 30 yards out. Walsh later had to be substituted with what seemed to be a slight injury.

The free kick was taken by Josh Green but was straight at the Marine triallist keeper.

There was a good ongoing battle between Malkin and Marine’s similarly tall centre back Anthony Miley, with both sharing the aerial spoils, a Malkin header straight at the keeper the main result in the first 45.

After a quiet first half, the game burst into life immediately after the referee blew to start the second, the ball coming through to Neil Kengni who finished past Hall within the first 20 seconds, catching out some supporters who were still in a socially-distanced queue for refreshments.

Marine’s full backs were an attacking threat throughout, and with the visitors piling more bodies into attacking areas and pressing harder, created more chances.

Right-back Josh Solomon-Davies ran powerfully to the byline, cutting back to Kenneth Strickland who curled an effort just over.

Green played much further up the pitch for the Dabbers, making him an attacking threat as he hit a shot that was cleared off the line on the hour with the goalkeeper in no-mans-land.

Marine had chances to add to their lead, James Barrigan was played in behind but Hall blocked bravely with his head.

Troy Bourne made a last-ditch but vital challenge on Solomon-Davies as he marauded towards the Dabbers goal in the final 15 minutes.

Then, on 76 minutes, Hmami saw red. Green was fouled by a different Marine player but Hmami inexplicably caught Green on the head while he was on the floor. It was deemed violent conduct, and he was off.

The Dabbers did capitalise on the man advantage, substitute Cooke clipping in a cross that fellow sub Callum Saunders just couldn’t get enough curl on with his header, after some silky play from Josh Langley in the build-up.

It was some magical skill from Cooke that earned the Nantwich penalty. Picking the ball up on the left edge of the box, he weaved his way past two defenders and was brought down for the spot-kick he took himself, firing almost through the Marine keeper for 1-1.

There was a serious late scare for the Dabbers, as George Hassall was found in acres of space directly from a goal kick. Clean through, Hall brilliantly read where the substitute was going to put his shot and palmed it around the post to seal the draw on a day that was more about having supporters safely back in the stadium than the performance or result.

 

Teams

Nantwich Town : Hall, Koral, Green, Stair (Harrison, 46), Bourne, Jones (Burns, 78), Haywood, Farleigh (Heath, 46), Malkin (Cooke, 46), Walsh (Lawrie, 31), Mwasile (Saunders, 46)

Goals: Cooke, 88 (pen)

Marine: Triallist, Solomon-Davies, Joyce (Ellison, 88), Strickland, Miley, Triallist, Howard (Cummins, 66), Devine, Kengni (Hassall, 83), Hmami, Barrigan

Goals: Kengni, 46

Red cards: Hmami, 76