by Peter Scherer
In what proved to be the toughest test so far this season, Mickleover came away from AFC Telford with another three points, to make it eight successive wins.
Goals in each half from Andy Dales and Andre Wright now gives Sports an eight–point lead at the top of the table.
Starting line-up: 1-Oliver Bosworth 2-Jake Bennett 3-Ryan Wilson 4-Will Atkinson 5-Fin Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Andy Dales 8-Dan Bradley 9-Andre Wright 10-Oli Greaves 11-Marcus Barnes. Subs: George Nunn, Jim Pollard, Ben Sault, Stuart Beavon, Joe Bateman.
The hosts earned a corner in the opening minute, which was safely headed away by Delap. But Mickleover soon began to settle on a drizzly night and Dales went on his first run, cutting inside from the right wing, but under pressure from Dinanga, his crossfield ball failed to make progress.
Telford were seeking out leading scorer Gibson at every opportunity, but a long ball after eight minutes then saw his cross cleared before reaching the target.
Dales then found himself with space down the right, cut in to outpace the defence, firing past keeper Hall’s left to make it 1-0. Only a minute later Dales was in the box again, but on this occasion his effort was headed away.
With confidence visibly growing for Mickleover, Wright went close after 13 minutes, with a deflected header just wide of the right hand upright, but no corner was given.
Gibson had a half chance for Telford a minute later, but he was successfully challenged before getting his shot in, butthen Walker managed to dispossess Bradley in the middle, passing to Mitford, whose cross earned a corner.
From the corner Telford seemed to work backwards, as Sports closed ranks with both defence and midfield pushing forward.
Bradley and Atkinson’s solidity in midfield was allowing both Greaves and Dales to make positive breaks, which the home defence seemed to struggle with. Greaves had a 20th minute effort from outside the box blocked and then Dales found Barnes on the right. He couldn’t get any space, but kept possession.
Wright then beat the defence down the left, but his cross just missed everyone’s heads.
Myles tried a long speculative shot for Telford after 22 minutes, but his effort was well wide of Bosworth’s left–hand post.
Barnes was then brought down on the edge of the box, but as Wilson and Greaves stood over the ball for the free kick, Dales had a crack, but straight at keeper Hall.
Wilson was then penalised for bringing down Myles, with Dinanga picking up the rebound from Myles’ initial shot, his effort just wide of Bosworth’s left–hand post.
Telford were trying to force Mickleover back, but it wasn’t working and Greaves got on the end of another break, but his effort was easily held by keeper Hall, as the hosts began to have more possession.
Myles put in a couple of good crosses as Telford pushed for the equaliser, but the best result proved to be a 38th minute header over the bar by Gibson.
Greaves then burst out for another charge. Wright put the ball into the middle and Barnes effort was cleared off the line after bouncing up and hitting the bar. “How did that ball bounce so high,” said Barnes.
Telford had another couple of attacks before half time, but with Delap and Mann showing aerial domination, they failed to trouble the Mickleover goal, but with two minutes left of the 45, Barnes cut in from the right, Greaves followed up and shot just wide of the left–hand post, so it remained 1-0 as the whistle went.
As the second half got underway Telford had an early shot, easily taken by Bosworth, but then a loose ball by the hosts defence was picked up by Dales, earning another corner.
But 50 minutes in and Delap was pulled up for a foul just outside the right–hand edge of the box, Mitford stepped up to blast home the equaliser into the far corner, giving Bosworth little chance.
It wasn’t level for long however, as a strong attack down the left saw the ball arrive into a crowded goal month, with Wright getting the decisive touch to make it 2-1.
Appeals for a penalty were waved away after Telford claimed the prone Bradley had handled, but followed up with another shot blocked by the Mickleover defence.
Barnes had another good effort blocked, but the hosts were throwing everything into attack as we approached the hour mark.
Hodgkiss and Dinanga both had shots blocked, but the Mickleover back four continued to look solid and repelled each attack, well supported by Atkinson and Bradley,
There was a bit of a scramble on the Mickleover line after 74 minutes which was eventually cleared and seemed to act as a wake–up call for the final 15 minutes.
Bosworth made a couple of saves, but despite the increase in possession, Telford weren’t creating many chances.
Sault, Beavon and Bateman came on as subs for Mickleover, with Barnes, Wright and Dales making way, as all 11 players closed ranks for a fight to the end of the game.
Gibson had a great chance in the final minutes, but his toe poke went over the bar, while a 94th minute corner even brought keeper Hall into the Mickleover box, where he joined the other 21 players!
But the ball was hooked out of defence, heading for the empty Telford goal, but just a couple of feet wide as the final whistle blew.
We now have a break from league action until AFC Sudbury at home on the 23rd, as its FA Cup time this weekend, welcoming Spalding Utd to the Don Amott Arena.