Ten Men Mickleover Make It Five In A Row
A valiant display from ten-man Mickleover made it five wins since the turn of the year with a hard-fought win over promotion chasing South Shields.
Kevin Phillips’ side came into the game off the back of a 2-1 victory against Atherton Collieries, but James Butler’s 15th minute header was enough to seal all three points despite a red card to captain Phil Watt early in the second half.
After an opening ten minutes with little to shout about for both teams, the game sprung into life just before the quarter hour mark, with Ben Radcliffe picking the ball up 30 yards from goal after a scuffed clearance before firing his effort goal bound only to be denied by Mariners goalkeeper Myles Boney.
The fine save produced a corner for the home side, which was powerfully headered into the top corner by Butler to give the Sports an early lead.
Minutes later, Sports pushed for a second. A goal mouth scramble saw Stuart Beavon try and prod the ball goal wards, before eventually teeing up flying full-back Jake Scott but he was unable to trouble the keeper with his powerful effort.
The away side grew into the game as the first half progressed, with Mitch Rose firing well over after a training ground free kick routine.
After a flurry of half chances, South Shields best chance of the first 45 fell to Rose once more, after good work down the right hand-side by Jordan Hunter saw him whip a delightful ball to the back post for Rose. However, the former Notts County man couldn’t direct his header goal bound giving McGrath’s side a deserved lead at the break.
Mickleover started the brighter of the two sides in the second half, and the first real chance fell to Andrew Wright in the 48th minute after brilliant work from Andy Dales saw him play a pinpoint ball into the feet of Wright at the far stick but his unfortunate first touch ran the ball out of play.
Both teams settled into the second period, before a sequence of events in the 55th minute swung the momentum into the visitors favour.
Frontman Beavon picked the ball up on the left-hand side, before being clattered into the advertising boards by Dillion Morse resulting in handbags between both sets of players.
Amongst the chaos, captain Watt was shown a straight red card, whilst Morse was only given a yellow for the original tackle on Beavon. The sending off forced boss McGrath to switch to a 4-4-1 formation, to try and weather the onslaught from Phillips’ side for the remaining 35 minutes of the encounter.
A handful of half chances came and went for the Mariners, but with their backs against the wall, Sports continued to counterattack and good work from George Milner saw the home side win a free kick in a dangerous area which was glanced narrowly wide by 37-year-old Beavon.
Shields had a five-minute spell from the 75th-80th minute where they really cranked up the pressure on the ten men. Their best chance came when full-back Hunter drilled a low ball across the face of the Mickleover goal, but none of the players in and around the six-yard box could divert the ball on target.
Rose was the next to try his luck once more, with a stinging effort from the edge of the box, but Sports keeper Jonathan Hedge was equal to the effort and parried the ball wide before Nathan Lowe volleyed the resulting cross past everyone and hit the base of the post and out to safety.
After riding out the South Shields storm for the majority of the second half with ten men, a hopeful long ball found its way to Beavon who beat a man before his fierce effort was tipped over for a corner.
McGrath’s men tried to hold the ball in the corner but were dispossessed and allowed for one more chance for the visitors. A free kick just inside Sports half allowed for everyone apart from keeper Boney to push forward, but their attempts came to no avail and the final whistle signalled a vital three points for McGrath’s ten men.