Second Half Goals Put Sports Back On Top

by Peter Scherer

After a fairly scrappy first half at the Don Amott Arena, Mickleover took charge in the second half with two goals, returning them to top of the table, on alphabetical order!

It was revenge time for Mickleover, as the Glassboys from Stourbridge knocked them out of the FA Cup earlier this season.

Starting line-up: 1-Lewis Ridd 2-Matty Bowman 3-Rhys Dolan 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: Dan Bradley, Will Trueman, Leon Clarke, Jake Bennet, Fin Ryder.

Stourbridge managed to earn a free kick in the first minute, but it came to nought. But it was Mickleover that went closest first, when a 10th minute cross from the right by Barnes, just missed connecting with an unmarked Beavon.

It was a fairly scrappy start to the game, with both sides sending passes awry. A through ball from Atkinson almost found Barnes after 15 minutes, but that was intercepted, while two minutes later Mann lost possession and the ball fell free to Brendon Daniels. His shot was straight at Ridd, who palmed it away for a corner.

Beavon went close to opening the scoring after 21 minutes, but his powerful long-range shot was tipped over by keeper Charlie Price.

Bowman and Dolan were doing their best to push forward down the wings, but Greaves and Sault were failing to make their usual impression as the game continued to ebb and flow.

Barnes crossed from the left 29 minutes in, but a combination of deflection and saving tackle on Dales left the Stourbridge defence intact still.

Beavon was wrestled to ground after 36 minutes, it was in the box, and although penalties have been given for less, play carried on.

But three minutes later and Sports had the ball in the net, after Dales broke free and chipped the advancing keeper. It was given offside, despite the visitors Brad Bood appearing to play him onside.

As half time approached Stourbridge had a series of corner, but failed to create anything as a consequence and then Dales dispossessed Joel Kettle, only for Barnes’ following chase to be intercepted.

With the whistle poised on the 45-minute mark another Dales and Barnes combination saw the ball come in from the right. The keeper and defence were beaten, but the ball ran agonisingly across the face of the goal, with no contact as it rolled clear and it remained 0-0.

Mickleover started the second half with verve and determination and only four minutes in to the second period, a good break down the left from Greaves, saw Dales cut in and force a good save from Price.

The pressure was on and the visitors were pegged back in their own half, with Greaves forcing another finger tip save from Price after 53 minutes.

It was just as the hour mark was approaching that the deadlock was finally broken, when Beavon received the ball in the box, made a lovely swift turn and fired it home to make it 1-0 after 59 minutes.

Daniels tried a wild long distance shot for the visitors shortly afterwards, before Mickleover came surging forward again. Dales was almost through but his shot was deflected out and then Beavon went down in the box after a goal mouth scramble, but looks for a penalty were ignored.

The push for a second goal continued, with Mann and Delap joining in too from the back. But it finally came after 67 minutes, after a positive run down the left from Dolan. As the ball came in, Beavon stepped aside and Barnes hit it firmly into the back of the net, 2-0.

Atkinson and Greaves then combined as the barrage continued and although Beavon was ready to receive in the box again, his path was blocked.

Stourbridge managed to make the occasional break but rarely challenged Ridd in the Sports goal. New signing Kobe Arthur managed to earn them a corner after 73 minutes, but that was easily cleared.

Dales, Greaves, Sault and Dolan were all teasing the defence with direct jinking runs and after 79 minutes it was a Dales and Dolan move earning another corner.

With 10 minutes on the clock Dales broke through again, but a last-minute tackle as he was about to shoot cleared the danger.

Clarke came on for Beavon and Trueman for Barnes, but  some late and dubious offside decisions went against the Mickleover strike force, after encouragement from and over vociferous Price in the Stourbridge goal.

With two minutes of normal time left there was a shoulder on shoulder challenge just inside the Mickleover box, but Connor Stanley went down as if hit by a sniper and the referee fell for his dramatics.

Daniels stepped up to score the penalty, 2-1 and in the final seconds Arthur had another chance which sailed over the bar.

“It’s been the same story, starting poorly, but we gave them a rollicking at half time,” said gaffer John McGrath, after a dominant second half show.

So with Needham Market’s game against Redditch postponed only minutes before kick off due, Mickleover are back on top, but equal on both points and goal difference.

We now look forward to visiting Berkhamsted on Saturday.

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