Thursday, 20 February 2014

Town have no answer as leaders march on

By Dan Pinder at the Calvert Stadium
Additional reporting and player ratings by Ricky Butler

Highlights of this match are available here

GRANT HICKMAN'S heroics in goal could not prevent Northallerton Town losing to league leaders North Shields last night in what was a disappointing overall performance from Peter Mulcaster's side.
Heavy rainfall had waterlogged the pitch in recent weeks and this fixture was Town's first at home in 2014 and their first game anywhere since 18 January.

Things could not have got off to a worse start when goalkeeper James Howarth pulled out of the squad meaning Hickman would start in goal for Town; not be the first time the defender had played between the sticks.
Mulcaster was left with a depleted squad, missing key players Dale Elgie, Mark Hemingway and Stephen Banks. The defence had a new look to it with Craig Perry making his first start for the club, while Andrew Porritt came back in to the starting line-up. Richie Dacombe returned from injury and took Hemingway’s left back spot.

Mulcaster said: “We missed [Dale] Elgie and [Steve] Banks but no excuses, that’s what happened. 3-1 and we will go from there.

“Craig Perry came in tonight and did a great job and Jagger [James Howlett] had a good game but there were too many players out of it tonight.

“Overall, first half we were excellent; second half we were second best.”

Town could be pleased with their first half performance despite not creating a lot of chances. They were solid at the back and kept a clean sheet in the first half against the league’s leading scorers.

Hickman was tested after just three minutes when Daniel Smart saw his 30-yard effort saved comfortably by the stand-in keeper who looked at ease in an unfamiliar role.

Referee Scott Henry blew his whistle for many fouls and the game had a stop start feel to it. However he turned down a penalty appeal from Town after 10 minutes when Kyle Swankie appeared to have been fouled inside the penalty area.

Captain Gav Parkin came closest for Town in the first half when his effort from just outside the box curled wide of the right hand post after 25 minutes.

North Shields nearly took the lead after Gareth Bainbridge’s cross was deflected on to the post by Perry. Bainbridge then came close to putting the away side ahead just before the break but Hickman was there again to deny the striker.

However, it was Shields defender Joe Elliott who grabbed the all-important first goal of the game after 52 minutes. Hickman produced two outstanding saves with his legs to deny Dean Walker and Elliott but he could not prevent the third effort going in from 10 yards out.

Chris Burton, who had a quiet game, was replaced by Graham Caygill up front for Town while Swankie was replaced by Michael Stevens. Unfortunately neither seemed to be able to get into the game in what was a poor overall performance in the second half from Town.

Twelve minutes from time it looked like Elliott had put the game to bed when the defender got his second goal of the game firing in to the top corner from close range.

However a late fight back from Town saw Howlett grab a goal back from just outside of the box with two minutes left - his first goal for the club - which gave Town a little bit of hope in grabbing a late equaliser.

It just was not meant to be though as sloppy play from the defence saw the ball fall to Ben Richardson and his 25-yard effort looped and dipped in to the top corner in added time.

Mulcaster was full of praise for North Shields after the game. He said: “They are a good side, that’s why they will win the league, and that’s why they will do well.”

He then added: “The next three games, no disrespect to them but we have got a chance. Chester-le Street, who beat us here, we were poor against so we have got something to prove there. Birtley on Monday; we beat them 3-1 here so that will be tough. Then it is Brandon who have picked up in recent weeks.

“It is not over by any means. We will regroup again, we have got [Martin] Butterworth back in the squad, he will be there on Saturday, so we will be far, far stronger than we were today.”

Defender Porritt said: “We gave a goal away, a daft goal away,  Grant's made a good couple of saves to be fair to him. But obviously we were up against it at 2-0 down”

Speaking after the game, Dacombe said: “I think we tired near the end, we had heavy legs and I think that told in the end.

“They were very quick on the break and that was difficult to defend against.”

Porritt added: “We worked hard; we just did not have quite enough against a team like that.

“We haven’t had a game for six weeks, legs were tired towards the end but that’s no excuse really.”

It was evident that the lack of games this year due to waterlogged pitches played a factor in Town's defeat as fitness levels dropped midway through the second half.

Speaking about the club, new signing Perry said: “The club is a lovely club, the changing room is really good and the lads get on well together so it is absolutely great.”

Next up for Town is an away trip to Chester-le-Street this Saturday as they look to get three points and put their push for promotion back on track.

Hickman - Thrown in at the deep in just before kick off, Grant produced a superb display of goalkeeping. Man of the match. 9/10.

Porritt - Back in the starting line-up and produced a solid display at right back. 7/10 

Dacombe - Looked accomplished at left back although like many of his team mates, tired towards the end. 8/10

Perry - Excellent debut at the back. Was strong and looked comfortable on the ball. 8/10 

Howlett - Just gets better and better with every game. Pushed Grant all the way for man of the match and capped a fine display with a wonderful late goal. 9/10

Parkin - Battled hard in the centre of the park. 7/10

Anderson - Never really got going and came up against the only full back this season who has been able to keep him quiet. 6/10 

Kokes - Worked hard to stem the tide in the second half. 7/10  

Burton - A difficult night for the front men as they were starved of service for long periods. 6/10 

McLachlan - Worked his socks off for very little reward. 7/10

Swankie - Lively start in which he should have won a penalty but faded and was substituted after the break. 7/10

SUBS: Stevens - Replaced Swankie but had little influence on proceedings. 6/10

Caygill - Looked lively after replacing Burton. 7/10

Colman - Unused.

NORTH SHIELDS: Ball, Elliott, Grey, Richardson, Parker, Hughes, Scope, Wrightson, Bainbridge, Smart, Walker. SUBS: Hook, Forster, McKeown, Robinson, Holmes.



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