Sunday, 16 March 2014

Slow start and lack of cutting edge costs Town

By Ricky Butler at Nissan Sports Complex

Highlights of this match are available here

A DREADFUL start cost an under-strength Northallerton Town at the Nissan Sports Complex on Saturday as early goals from Chris Winn and Paul Kane saw them slip to a second defeat in four days.

While the Nissan Note is built in the factory next to the stadium, it is a lack of pound notes that is hampering Town's progress. As injuries have hit the already thread-bare squad, Peter Mulcaster has tried unsuccessfully to bring in new recruits, especially in the problem forward areas.

Meanwhile, Washington, with crowds you can count on the fingers of one hand, have managed to bring in two of the best strikers in this division, and on the day that proved decisive.

Winn, who scored over 40 goals last season for Ryhope CW, was on hand to tap the hosts ahead inside two minutes and when Kane then made it 2-0 six minutes later, Mulcaster's side faced an uphill task. Town did produce some nice moments in the first half but when Winn added his second just before the break, it was all over.

Mulcaster said: "It's a reversal of the last game where we played well for 75 minutes and the last 15 we were woeful. We lost this game in the first eight minutes.

"We played some good football to be fair, and their goalkeeper has made a good double save, but up front we are woefully short of someone to stick the ball in the net."

The Town boss, who celebrates a year back in charge next week, was forced into changes in defence. With Grant Hickman still unavailable and James Howlett injured, Mark Hemingway was moved to centre half with Ritchie Dacombe coming in at left back.

Elsewhere, Michael Gunnell was out with the ankle injury sustained at Tow Law in midweek so Chris Burton, who had scored from the bench on Tuesday, replaced him on the left side of midfield. Meanwhile, with striker Graham Caygill due to sign a professional contract with Philippine side Loyota Sparks this weekend, Martin Butterworth partnered Darren Kokes in attack.

But playing into the strong breeze in the first half, Town could not have got off to a worse start. Just two minutes had elapsed when Washington skipper Michael Coughlan drilled in a low cross from the right and Winn was on hand to tap home from close range.

Things soon got even worse when just six minutes later the Mechanics doubled their advantage. Winn broke clear from halfway and rounded Town goalkeeper Ryan Hodgson but Craig Perry got back to make a fine goal-line clearance. However, the ball fell to Kane who showed great composure to slot in into the far corner of the net from a tight angle.

But Mulcaster's side showed great character as they looked to find a route back into the match. Playing some of the best football they have for some time, Town were unfortunate as Butterworth headed narrowly wide before only a superb double save from Washington goalkeeper Neal Atkinson kept the score at 2-0.

Kokes' cross from the right found Burton at the far post but Atkinson pushed out his close range effort before recovering quickly to deny Butterworth's follow-up.

However, Town comeback hopes were over three minutes before the break. Perry misjudged a long ball in the wind and Winn was left one-on-one with Hodgson. The Washington striker never looked like missing as he confidently clipped the ball over the Town goalkeeper to make it 3-0 at half time.

With the wind in their favour in the second half, Town needed an early goal if they were to have any chance of salvaging something from the match, and they thought they had done so seven minutes after the restart.

Parkin's corner from the right found the head of Dale Elgie and when his effort was scrambled clear, Butterworth was on hand to force the ball home from close range. Referee Mark McKitterick, however, had already blown for a foul on Atkinson that only he saw, and Town's chance had gone.

Mulcaster said: "We asked the linesman who said there was nothing wrong with the goal, but that's the way it was.

"We had the wind in the second half and we tried to use it to our advantage but we didn't do it very well. I'm not sure if we are consistent or inconsistent as it is two wins, two draws and now two defeats.

"We had to have a makeshift back four so I'm out this week trying to get some players signed on. We tried to sign Johnny Alexander from Marske and the little kid from Brandon who did well against us, but it was a no-go."

After a tough few weeks, Town finally have a free midweek before a home meeting with promotion-chasing West Allotment Celtic next Saturday.

WASHINGTON - Atkinson, Roberts, McGuiness, Croft, Paxton, Cassidy, Fairley, Coughlan, Kane, Winn, Southern. SUBS - Davison, Johnson, Wardle, Catchside, Oliver.

TOWN - Hodgson - Has settled in well after the move from Stokesley. Had no chance with the goals that beat him and made one or two good saves. 7/10

Porritt - Has developed into a consistent and hard-working right back. 7/10

Dacombe - Up against the tricky James Fairley, Ritchie stuck to the task well and showed some nice touches. 7/10

Hemingway - In an unfamiliar centre back role, Mark found it tough against two of the best strikers in the league but never shirked the responsibility. 7/10

Perry - Suffered due to the early uncertainty at the back but recovered well to show his class. 7/10

Elgie - Neat and tidy in the middle of the park again but unable to really stamp his mark on the match. 7/10

McLachlan - Unable to repeat his wonder-goal from the reverse fixture and was afforded very few opportunities. 7/10

Parkin - Once again the skipper was the stand out Town performer. Tried to rally the troops after the disappointing start and pulled all the strings in midfield. 8/10

Butterworth - Unlucky not to open his account when his second half effort was harshly disallowed, and came close on one or two other occasions. 7/10

Kokes - Seems to be struggling to find his best form at the moment but no one can question his work rate. 7/10

Burton - Looked uncomfortable out wide on the left but was only denied another goal by a great save from the Washington 'keeper. 7/10

SUBS - Stevens - Replaced Dacombe in an unfamiliar left back role but should feel pleased with his performance. 7/10

Colman - Replaced Burton and showed some neat touches. Could he be the man to replace Graham in attack? 7/10

REFEREE - M. McKitterick


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