It’s Tough At The Top

by Peter Scherer

Without a win in the last four league games, hopes were high of three points on the visit to managerless Kettering Town. But two second half goals for the hosts sent Mickleover home pointless, on a disappointing evening.

Starting line-up: 1-Oliver Bosworth 2-Jake Bennett 3-Matty Bowman 4-Will Atkinson 5-Fin Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Andy Dales 8-Ben Sault 9-Stuart Beavon 10-Marcus Barnes 11-Oli Greaves. Subs: Fin Ryder, Kian Ryley, Dan Bradley, Will Trueman, Brandon Ferron.

Mickleover made a bright start and in the opening minute a Dales cross from the left was just a whisker away from connecting with Barnes head.

Six minutes later and some good work from Dales again on the left, saw his path blocked, before the ball ran free to Bennett who had his shot saved by keeper Johnson.

After Mickleover had dominated the opening 10 minutes, Kettering started to look for opportunities to break out of their own half, but with Bowman overlapping on the right, Dales put a header just wide after 12 minutes.

Beavon was then fouled just outside the box, with Greaves’ free kick beating the wall and the keeper before hitting the bar.

15 minutes in and Greaves was almost through again, but was caught out by the bounce and shot just wide, as Mickleover continued to dominate possession.

Bennett tried his look a couple of minutes later, with his effort landing on top of the net, before Dales earned a sequence of corners. Sault picked up on one corner, but his chip was well over the bar. 

The ball was in for Mickleover after 20 minutes after a defensive error, but the offside flag was waving, then Atkinson burst forward after 26 minutes, found Dales, then Sault, before Beavon’s shot on the rebound was saved.

Beavon had taken a knock when his shot was blocked and was replaced by Ryder, but the action briefly moved to the other end of the pitch just after the half hour mark.

Kettering had a corner on the left, it was initially cleared, but Bosworth had to dive to his left to keep out the follow up shot and there was another corner.

As we went into the final 10 minutes of the first half, Kettering pressed more and went close again with a 36th minute free kick.

But Sports went close again too after 37 minutes, when Dales shot, the keeper failed to hold the ball and it almost fell to Bennett who was following up.

Dales jinked through again in time added on, but his cross found no one waiting and despite Mickleover dominating the possession, it remained 0-0.

Only two minutes into the second half the hosts broke the deadlock, when play down the Mickleover left, saw the ball sent over, meeting Huw Dawson’s head and it was 0-1.

The solidity of the Mickleover defence continued to look more vulnerable, with Delap and Mann under pressure, as Kettering gained confidence.

Dales continued to try and push forward, with a cross just out of play after 50 minutes, before he was fouled a minute later, with Greaves’ following free-kick straight into the keepers hands.

The pressure continued to be on the Sports defence and after another sequence of corners, which finally resulted in a second goal for our hosts after 54 minutes, as Ben Toseland headed home, 0-2.

Greaves then got onto the end of break, but a push in the back as he was about to shoot, saw his effort run wide.

Scott was looking for a Kettering third a few minutes later, but his powerful shot was palmed away by Bosworth. Then a cross from the right went across the face of the Mickleover goal, keeping Bosworth on his toes again.

Miller then had another shot saved by Bosworth, before Sports began to up their pace again and worked hard to move forward. Atkinson led one charge again and found Greaves in the box. His path was blocked however with some solid home defending.

Just past the hour mark Sault was close to breaking through, but stopped by a last ditch tackle, before he was substituted to make way for Trueman.

The last 20 minutes became a real dog fight, as Mickleover were back with the majority of the possession, but the Kettering defence seemed to take everything that was thrown at them.

Riley came on for Barnes for the last 15 minutes and went desperately close to pulling a goal back. His shot went through the keepers hands, but Langmead was stood behind him and cleared off the line.

A couple of minutes later Riley went close again with a header, but time finally ran out and Sports recorded their second league defeat of the season and are now without a win in the last five games. 

So now we look forward to Saturday, when Nuneaton visit the Don Amott Arena.

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