by Peter Scherer
Having been knocked out of the FA Cup by Nottinghamshire rivals Basford Utd, hopes of a revenge win and points to escape the NPL relegation area were high.
But sadly a second half goal in a fairly even game, resulted in all three points going back across the border.
Starting line-up: 1-Jonathan Hedge 2-Ben Radcliffe 3-Rhys Doran 4-Phil Watt 5-Pablo Mills 6-Kemy Agustien 7-Joe Bateman 8-George Milner 9-Andy Dales 10-Stuart Beavon 11-Mason Warren. Subs: Bobby Battisson, Roger Lee, Ethan Mann, Andrew Wright, Jahvan Davidson-Miller.
After the initial sort out from kick off, Basford had a free kick after five minutes, followed by a corner, from where Terry Hawkridge smashed the ball against the post in a lucky escape for Sports.
Gradually Mickleover began to pick up the pace and Dales had his first shot blocked after nine minutes.
It continued fairly even, but 14 minutes in and some good interplay between Milner, Dales and Beavon, ended with a shot blocked for a corner.
Some good build ups followed over the next few minutes, with the danger finally headed away when Sports struggled to get the space for a final shot.
Both Bateman and Warren managed to get shots in eventually, before Ryan Wilson cleared further danger for another corner.
As Basford starting to come out too, there was another break but Beavon was just a few feet short of collecting the final ball.
Warren was the instigator again after 20 minutes, when his telling cross was taking away from Dales head by some brave Basford defending.
The same duo combined again a minute later, but Dales was deemed fractionally offside.
Basford tried a speculative lob just after the half hour mark, it was close but failed to trouble Hedge, Mickleover’s debutant keeper.
Both Dolan and Radcliffe began to attack more on the wings, with Watt and Mills looking fairly solid at the back.
Agustien was spraying the ball around in central midfield, but Milner was having a rather subdued game as Warren and Bateman tended to make the play.
Dolan put in a cross tight to the Basford goal, but it was comfortably taken by Jordan Pierrepoint, before Bradley Gascoigne cleared.
Bateman’s 38th minute cross was just short of Dales, before Dolan burst out of defence again to find Beavon, who twisted and turned but couldn’t create the space as his final shot was blocked.
But Basford were on the break too, but the cross from the left found no one to collect in the middle.
Milner finally managed to get a run with five minutes left in the first half. He was in full flight after collecting a loose ball, heading for goal, when Owen Betts tripped him and was yellow carded.
Warren picked the ball up again after the free kick and floated in a nicely weighted ball that almost caught out the visitors defence.
42 minutes gone and another free kick was taken by Agustien. Mickleover skipper Watt then dared to challenge keeper Pierrepoint. They both ended up on the ground, from where Pierrepoint pushed Watt down again before the referee intervened.
Watt then received a lecture for having the audacity to challenge the keeper, and a free kick was awarded, even though the keeper did not have control of the ball at the time of the challenge.
So it was still 0-0 at half time with relatively few true chances created by either side. Neither side elected to make immediate changes, but at the least the first half rain had relented.
Only two minutes into the second half and Mickleover went close to breaking the deadlock, when Warren saw the keeper off his line, before seeing his opportune lob bounce off the Basford bar.
Watt was then booked after catching Marcus Marshall, but it was still stalemate.
Warren managed to create some space again and fired his shot over as we passed the hour mark and Dales put a ball through for Beavon to chase. Both he and the defender stretched for ball, but Beavon took a knock to the face and was booked for dissent too.
Hedge was looking fairly confident in the Mickleover goal and was quick of his line to intercept a Basford attack after 67 minutes.
But only a minute a later Agustien wanted too much time on the ball and the following challenge resulted in a corner for the visitors.
As the ball came in Gascoigne was relatively unchallenged as he placed his header, wide of Hedge and just inside the far post 0-1.
Only three minutes later Basford sub Kieran Wells had a shot tipped over by Hedge and Betts put in a low drive, which Kane Richards could have collected.
75 minutes and Davidson-Miller came on for Warren, as Mickleover tried to strike for the hope of an equaliser.
Milner was on the end of another good ball from Doran, but there was no one to finish. As Milner the chased for another ball, the defender was already going before any challenge was made.
With the referee fooled by the gamesmanship, Milner was booked too for highlighting it!
Into the final 10 minutes and Dales almost got Davidson-Miller through, but it was just out of reach and then Wright came on for Dales as Mickleover’s second sub.
Beavon tried a shot from Bateman’s pass, but the keeper took it comfortably and Basford then broke again, with Hedge saving.
Two minutes of normal time were left and Wells split Mills and Watt but his effort was wide, before Radcliffe responded with a tentative shot well wide as time was running out for Mickleover.
Wright had the final effort in injury time, but his long range effort failed to trouble Pierrepoint and it remained 0-1 as the hunt for points continues unrewarded.
by Peter Scherer
Mickleover went into their home game against Grantham Town in a must win situation, but after dominating the play, it was only two late goals that salvaged a draw after Grantham led 0-2.
Starting line-up: 1-Arlo Doherty 2-Ben Radcliffe 3-Jordie Gough 4-James Butler 5-Phil Watt 6-Kemy Agustien 7-Andy Dales 8-George Milner 9-Josh Scott 10-Stuart Beavon 11-Dempsey Arlott-John. Subs: Jahvan Davidson-Miller, Roger Lee, Pablo Mills, Dexter Walters, Rhys Dolan.
Mickleover started with strength and commitment, with Arlott-John firing the first shot of the game just wide after two minutes.
Grantham managed a retaliatory attack but failed to get a shot in, before Butler had another shot just wide of the left hand post after good work from Arlott-John.
But another run from the Sports striker was thwarted on the halfway line, giving Grantham a chance, before Smith missed the ball and it rolled out of play.
Both Radcliffe and Gough were pushing forward on the wings, with Milner’s runs as Mickleover sought the opening goal.
After 14 minutes Dales twisted and turned on the right to fire in a cross, with Scott connecting but shooting just wide again after a deflection.
Arlott-John and Beavon battled hard in the box but couldn’t get a clear shot in, before Dales was taken down on the edge of the box after 16 minutes.
Dales recovered to take the free kick, bringing out a spectacular diving save from Grantham keeper James Pollard, earning another corner.
Grantham had a slight foray at the Mickleover end, but Butler headed clear and the Sports attack was on again.
The chances continued to flow for Mickleover, as Radcliffe dropped a teasing cross into the box after 21 minutes, with Gough’s header just wide, but the wing back had taken a knock to his head.
Only a minute later Dales had a long run intercepted, before Beavon’s shot hit the post.
Beavon tried a chip from outside the box, saved by Pollard, before Grantham managed to take the lead against the run of play.
It started with a cross, which Doherty came out for but failed to collect. Miller put in a header just over, before sustained Grantham pressure saw Doherty make a partial save, before the ball was cleared off the line, only to fall at Smith’s feet who hit a powerful shot for 0-1 after 31 minutes.
Mickleover continued to try and push forward, but the midfield suddenly seem to collapse and left the defence looking very vulnerable.
Only three minutes after the opening goal, Gough was beaten on the left but the shot went high and wide.
The frustration was showing in attack as despite the dominance of play, Mickleover couldn’t find the net.
Arlott-John tried his luck again from outside the box, firing just wide to the right, but there was much worse to come.
Gough was beaten again and this time the low cross into the box, found Clark, who comfortably made it 0-2 as the first half came to a massively disappointing end.
Only minutes into the second half Milner had a shot just wide again, before Radcliffe’s cross found Dales unmarked, but his free header went over the bar.
The possession was still in Mickleover’s favour, with no real impact, but the capitulation of the midfield from the first half, had fortunately not re-occurred.
Dolan had come for his first team debut to replace Gough and Dales managed to put in a nice cross, but no one was in the box to receive it.
Two more substitutions followed just after the hour with Walters and Mills on for Arlott-John and Scott.
Dales then tried a long range shot which was over the bar and after 71 minutes he was on another run when he was hacked down on the left.
Walters free kick was well saved by Pollard, as the constant rain and wind intensified too.
Milner received a yellow car after pulling back a Grantham attack and despite the increasing push forward, there was still no sign of a goal for Mickleover.
Pollard’s confidence in the Grantham goal even saw him run well out of his area like an extra defender to thwart an attack. But with 10 minutes left on the clock his confidence was soon to be tested.
Walters fed in a tight corner after 81 minutes which the keeper managed to punch away, only for the visitors to make a break, before it was cleared following a scramble in the box.
Having impressed on his debut, Radcliffe was placed just right to volley between Pollard’s legs to make it 1-2 after 87 minutes, but there was more to come.
Straight from the kick off the next attack was on. It was headed away as the Grantham defence floundered and Milner found the ball at his feet and made no mistake in making it 2-2.
Grantham still scented a win, but the final attack of the game was comfortably cleared by Mickleover skipper Watt and it remained 2-2.