Sunday, 23 February 2014

Town's promotion dream in tatters after controversial Chester defeat

By Ricky Butler at Moor Park

Highlights of this match are available here

NORTHALLERTON TOWN'S fading promotion hopes suffered a potentially fatal blow on Saturday as they slipped to defeat in a controversial match at Moor Park.

In an incident-packed encounter which saw two penalties, two red cards and numerous other controversial incidents, this is a game that will long in the memory, although one which Town will quickly want to forget.

Things appeared to be going the way of the Peter Mulcaster's men when Colin Anderson gave them a first half lead from the penalty spot in an incident which saw Chester defender Kevin Dixon controversially dismissed.

But the hosts were level by the break with the first of a fine hat-trick from Damian Stevens and Town were reduced to 10 men themselves within minutes of the restart when James Howlett was sent off for an alleged professional foul on Stevens.

Stand-in Town goalkeeper Mike Colman saved Craig Marron's resulting spot kick but Stevens scored twice more in quick succession to put the Cestrians in control, before substitute Tony Healer headed a fourth. Town rallied with a late Darren Kokes goal but it was not enough to prevent a second defeat in three days.

"We were poor again," said a disappointed Mulcaster at the whistle. "We haven't turned up as a team. It was a silly sending off. The referee said it was a great tackle but he pulled him [Stevens] back, although we didn't see that, but I thought Chester were the better side anyway."

Mulcaster made several changes to the team that had been beaten by North Shields in midweek. With no recognised goalkeeper once again, and with midweek hero Grant Hickman unavailable, Colman was thrown in at the deep end between the sticks.

Elsewhere Mark Hemingway, Dale Elgie, Graham Caygill and new signing Martin Butterworth were all in the starting XI while Stephen Banks was making his final appearance for the club.

Playing with the strong breeze at their backs in the first half, Town started slowly. However, a fairly uneventful match sprung to life in the 35th minute. A corner from the right by Gav Parkin found the head of Anderson but the ball was cleared off the line by defender Dixon with a mixture of head and hand.

After consulting with his assistant, referee Chris Keighley pointed to the spot and produced a red card for the unfortunate Chester defender. Anderson brushed aside the controversy to coolly send goalkeeper Chris Rookes the wrong way from the spot and give Town the lead.

But rather than going on to take control, Mulcaster's side became sloppy and allowed the hosts to equalise right on the stroke of half time. Some static defending saw Stevens given far too much time and space inside the area to easily beat Colman from 10 yards.

The second half was less than a minute old when the match took another turn. Stevens got on the wrong side of Howlett and bared down on goal but the Town defender recovered superbly to deny him with a fine tackle. However, referee Keighley consulted with his assistant again and not only awarded Chester a penalty but produced a red card for the stunned Town defender. A case of evening things up, perhaps.

The drama was not quite over either as Colman marked his first appearance in goal for the club with a wonderful save down to his left to keep out Marron's penalty, although it was all downhill for Town after that.

Just three minutes later Stevens again got clear, and with the Northallerton defence appealing in vain for offside, the Chester front man lobbed the ball over the stranded Colman from the edge of the area.

Town were rocked back on their haunches now and Stevens completed a classy hat-trick moments later with another fine finish from 20 yards.

Mulcaster rang the changes - replacing Butterworth, Kyle Swankie and Graham Caygill with Kokes, Danny McLachlan and Chris Burton - but any hope of a comeback was over 16 minutes from time. Colman failed to hold a corner from the left and Chester substitute Healer nodded home from close range.

The big striker rather spoilt the moment by needlessly goading the Town 'keeper who reacted by pushing him to the floor. Once again Keighley consulted with his assistant but this time his cards stayed firmly in his pocket and it remained 10 vs. 10.

Town did rally with a goal nine minutes from time as substitute Kokes fired home from close range via a slight deflection off defender Daniel Hepplewhite but the game was long over by then.

Mulcaster said: "We've said in the changing room we will sit down and look at what's happened in the last two games. It is not the end of the world and what we do now is take it out on the next team we play, which is [Birtley] on Monday night.

"Everybody was positive in the dressing room. They all had the chance to say what they wanted to say about it and we are all in agreement. We were poor, it's not good enough and we've got to put it right."

Monday's night trip to Birtley, who sit one place and one point above Town in the table, now has a must-win feel to it.

CHESTER-LE-STREET -  Rookes, Dixon, Draper, Marron, Grant-Soulsby, Hepplewhite (D), Hamblin, Duggan, Hepplewhite (M), Stevens, Stafford. SUBS - Surrey, Honour, Graves, Telford, Healer.

Colman - Took over in goal at the last minute and made a superb penalty save. After spending most of the season on the bench he certainly seemed to enjoy his moment in the spotlight and did not let anyone down. Man of the match. 8/10.

Porritt - Like the rest of his team-mates he was below par. Worked hard but not a game he will look back on with any great fondness. 6/10

Hemingway - Returned to side but like so many others, looked a little off the pace. 6/10

Banks - Not the way he would have wanted his final game to finish, but he was one of the better performers on the day in an unfamiliar centre-back role. 7/10

Howlett - After a great goal in midweek he suffered a very unfortunate red card here. 6/10

Elgie - Worked hard in the frantic midfield battle but was unable to really influence proceedings. 7/10

Anderson - Town's most lively attacking player but that is not saying very much. 6/10

Parkin - Cut a frustrated figure for much of the match as the game began to go against his team. 6/10

Butterworth - After a bright start on his return to the club, Martin struggled to make an impact and was substituted in the second half. 6/10

Caygill - Looked desperate to make a mark on a rare start but it was not to be his day. 6/10

Swankie - Another who failed to shine in a below-par team performance. 6/10

Kokes - Added some spark to the attack in the closing stages and scored the late consolation. 7/10

McLachlan - Unlucky not to start and worked hard when brought on. 7/10

Burton - Not on for long enough to have much of an impact. 6/10

Dacombe, Stevens - unused.

REFEREE - C. Keighley


No comments:

Post a Comment