by Peter Scherer
With some minor injuries and a couple of players away, it was a considerably weakened team that made the trip to visit Uttoxeter Town.
Starting line-up: 1-Fin Bowen 2-Elliott Walker 3-Rhys Wilson 4-George Atwal 5-James Butler 6-Ethan Mann 7-Ben Horleston 8-Mason Warren 9-Kai Moore 10-Elliott Reeves 11-Andy Dales. Subs: Joe Bateman, Stuart Beavon, Brandon Ferron.
In a fairly even start to the game in which Uttoxeter tried to push forward, the hosts won the first corner after four minutes, before Mickleover followed four minutes later.
It was the hosts that had the first shot too, with an attempt well off target in the ninth minute, before an Atwal break found Walker on the right, and Wilson had a shot over the bar.
As Sports began to push out of defence Mann tried a long shot, again just off target, before Horleston managed to split the home defence but the final ball was just too long for Walker.
Both Dales and Atwal had started the game well back, which allowed the continued push from the home side. Uttoxeter won a free kick in the 14th minute which went straight out of play, before Mickleover followed suit when Atwal found Warren who fired just wide.
A couple of minutes later the Uttoxeter left back gave the ball away and Moore picked it up. He broke towards goal and earned another corner.
Butler got his head to a free-kick after 22 minutes, but the angle was too tight to trouble the keeper and then Atwal gave away a free kick which the hosts put straight out of play again.
Uttoxeter were relying on the breaks and a left wing charge was partially cut off by Walker, before Bowen was forced to make his first save of the night after 24 minutes.
The Mickleover attack then seemed to spring into action for a while, with Horleston finding Reeves, who shot well over, before Warren and Wilson combined with the keeper tipping away the best shot of the night, as Walker just missed out on the rebound.
Dales then had a run down the left to find Moore in the middle, but the home keeper again had it covered.
Another break for the hosts saw a hasty shot well over, before Warren broke on the left and had his effort saved on the half hour.
Moore then connected with a long ball from Walker on the right and shortly afterwards Reeves got on the end of a goal mouth scramble but his shot was deflected out.
Bowen had to make another save after 37 minutes and finally an Atwal corner found Wilson, but his shot was just wide as the half time whistle blew at 0-0.
Sports brought on Beavon and Bateman for the second half, with Moore and Atwal making way.
It was Mickleover that started the stronger and an early Walker shot earned a corner, but it didn’t last long. Walker again tried to be the instigator but the home side had him covered, before Bateman cut off their retaliatory break.
Although Butler and Mann kept things tidy at the back, Uttoxeter continued to make some challenging breaks, before dales got away to find Reeves, whose shot was blocked again after 52 minutes.
There were a few minutes of sustained attacking with Wilson firing in another good effort, before Warren found Reeves on the left, then a well-timed cross just failed to connect with Beavon.
Beavon then set up another chance for Reeves as the hour mark approached and Sports brought on Ferron for Horleston.
The young Academy players pace was soon evident and he managed to get a cross in from the left, but no one collected.
Bateman had a shot blocked after 65 minutes but the deadlock looked set to be broken after 72 minutes when Dales was tripped just inside he box. But Warren stepped up to take the penalty, which he placed to the keeper’s right and it was well saved, so it remained 0-0.
For most of the final 15 minutes Mickleover were on top, but the ball just wasn’t falling for the strikers. Dales had another run but the ball got away before he shot, while Atwal and Moore came back on for the closing minutes for Walker and Warren.
With three minutes left Uttoxeter had a free-kick. It was cleared out of the box, but sent in again to find a relatively unmarked striker on the far post. His free header went wide however and the best chance of the match was lost.
It’s now off to NPL Division One Midlands Gresley Rovers on Saturday for the final pre-season game of the year. Rovers had a 1-1 with Hanley Town last Saturday, after going down 1-5 to Rugby Town.