by Peter Scherer
Mickleover went into Saturday’s game at home to Telford Utd, top of the table on goal difference, but an early goal saw them fall to their first home defeat of the season.
Starting line-up: 1-Lewis Ridd 2-Jake Bennett 3-Rhys Dolan 4-Will Atkinson 5-Fin Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Andy Dales 8- Dan Bradley 9-Styart Beavon 10-Marcus Barnes 11-Oli Greaves. Subs: Will Trueman, Ben Sault, Leon Clarke, Matty Bowman, Fin Ryder.
Both sides showed their attacking intentions from the kick-off and after strong build up down the right between Bennett and Greaves, Dales put a shot just wide of the left hand post after eight minutes.
Telford then made their first real attack, with Bennett heading out Ellis Myles’ cross for a corner. As the ball came in from the right, Mickleover failed to clear and then ball fell to the visitors captain and centre back, who had opened the scoring when his effort went in off the far post. Ridd looked unprepared for the strike and stayed rooted to the centre of his goal, while the far post had been left undefended, 0-1 after 10 minutes.
Two minutes later it could have been a second for Telford, when Montel Gibson’s cross got past Ridd and the keeper then had to block a low shot from Nathan Fox.
Both Dolan and Bennett were doing their best to attack down the wings, but Mickleover were losing possession in midfield and after 18 minutes Telford went close again. Fox crossed from the right and Reece Styche’s shot struck the bar from the edge of the box.
But only a minute later Dales had a chance to equalise. Beavon had sent him clear, as he outpaced the defence and with keeper Brandon Hall out of position too, his shot was put well wide of the right-hand post.
Telford continued to make dangerous breaks, but on the whole Delap and Mann had them covered. But Dales tried his luck again after 22 minutes, having latched onto Bennett’s cross, his header lacked any power and was an easy catch for Hall.
Mann put a header over the bar from a Greaves free kick and then Dales, Bennett and Beavon combined to earn a corner. But with Mickleover continuing to play out from the back, Telford went for the longer ball and the break.
Greaves had a shot blocked just after the half hour mark and then a long ball from Mann saw Barnes latch on to it. He created space for a shot but his effort was over the bar again.
Styche then got a break at the other end, but the advancing Ridd forced him to shoot early and that was over the bar too.
But after 34 minutes there was another golden chance for Sports to equalise. Dales had brought the ball forward and as he cut inside he found Barnes and only a fingertip save at full stretch from Hall denied the equaliser.
For the final 10 minutes of the half, Mickleover were full on attack, with Dales firing an effort over the bar again from a 36th minute corner. Sam Whittall got a shot in for the visitors after Sports lost possession in midfield, he earned a corner and Kerr had another shot palmed away by Ridd.
The half ended with a cross or shot from Barnes which failed to trouble Hall, so it remained 0-1 as the whistle went.
Mickleover replaced Bradley with Sault for the second and there seemed to be immediate upsurge in pace from the home midfield. 46 minutes and Dales crossed from the left, but Greaves shot was blocked and then Sault ran down the middle, his shot was blocked too, but he earned a corner.
It led to a strong possession dominating spell from Mickleover, but with Telford’s defence and midfield well drilled, they remained solid.
Hall had to palm away a Dales curling shot after 53 minutes and Sports won a succession of corners. He tried again on the hour after a good build up, but the Telford defence continued to fend away the growing pressure from Mickleover.
Clarke replaced Beavon after 63 minutes, but Ellis Brown then made a break, fortunately Sault hunted him down and cleared the danger. But Ridd was then in action again, after Bennet lost out to Walker, tipping over the follow up header for a corner.
Greaves and Sault had started to push the midfield further forward for Sports, with Atkinson in support, but it was still the overlaps from Bennett and Dolan that looked the most dangerous.
In the 71st minute Bennett outpaced the defence on the right, placed a prefect cross to the far post but Clarke couldn’t put it in.
Delap then played a nice long ball, allowing Dales to collect and cut inside from the left again, but his shot was over as he came under challenge from a defender.
Shortly afterwards Sault tried his luck with a distance shot and then Dales broke through again after 77 minutes. He found Clarke, but the striker couldn’t make it count, after Whittall managed to block.
It was almost a 10-man defence by Telford, but time was running out for Mickleover, and despite the continuing advantage in possession, they couldn’t make it count.
Sault had a cross in the box after 82 minutes cleared and both Greaves and Dolan had more efforts blocked too, but Hall had one scare when defender Orrin Pendley almost deflected into his own net but the keeper came to his rescue.
Gibson had a chance to seal it for the visitors, but his rushed 86th minute effort sailed over the bar.
Ryder came on for Barnes for the closing minutes, and immediately impressed with his holding capabilities. Dales had another shot blocked two minutes later and in time added on Hall was able to catch another Dales strike, despite its deflection.
Kerr put another shot over the bar, but with Delap trying to stride out of defence too, Mickleover kept pushing right to the final whistle.
In the sixth minute of injury time Ricardo Dinanga wasted Telford’s final chance with a poor effort well wide, but time was up and it was a first home defeat of the season for Mickleover.
“We lost out to a bit f a freak early goal. We had the possession and dominated the second half, but just couldn’t score,” said Sports manager John McGrath.
“We should have put the game to bed after that early goal, but Mickleover play an open game and they had chances. We would have liked to have pressed more ourselves in the second half,” replied Telford boss Kevin Wilkin.