Jimmy pounces

Stockport Express - - Sport - VA­NARAMA NA­TIONAL LEAGUE NORTH BOS­TON UNITED ............ 2 COUNTY ............................ 2 SAM BYRNE

COUNTY mid­fielder Jimmy Ball was the Hat­ters’ saviour in a 2-2 draw at strug­glers Bos­ton United on Satur­day, head­ing home a 97th-minute lev­eller as Jim Gan­non’s men fought back from 2-0 down at the Jake­man’s Sta­dium.

Big tar­get man Gregg Smith had given the hosts a first-half lead in bit­ter con­di­tions in Lin­colnshire, be­fore winger Ash­ley Hem­mings dou­bled the lead mid­way through the sec­ond half – with both of the Pil­grims’ goals com­ing from the enor­mous throw of full­back Sam Muggleton, which con­tin­u­ally caused havoc in the County penalty area.

But the in-form Matty War­bur­ton curled home a won­der­ful free-kick with twenty min­utes to play, be­fore Ball dra­mat­i­cally pow­ered home from a Scott Duxbury cross – with 97 min­utes on the clock.

Hat­ters boss Gan­non was forced into a soli­tary change from the side which had bested neigh­bours FC United in the Na­tional League North a week ear­lier, with winger Kal­lum Man­tack com­ing in as a straight swap for the in­jured Ben McKenna, who had suf­fered a cut to his foot which re­quired glue­ing to­gether dur­ing mid­week train­ing.

De­spite the like-for-like change, Gan­non opted to con­tinue with the same 4-2-3-1 for­ma­tion which had yielded a 4-1 vic­tory over the Red Rebels last Satur­day – with Bo­han Dixon grad­u­ally re­turn­ing to form in his favoured num­ber ten po­si­tion.

Dar­ren Stephen­son, who’s en­dured a tor­rid time since his sum­mer move to Edge­ley Park, con­tin­ued on his come­back trail with a place on an at­tack­ing bench.

Gan­non had pin­pointed the dan­ger­ous throw of Muggleton – son of for­mer Hat­ters’ goal­keeper Carl – as a threat for the lowly Pil­grims, now un­der the stew­ard­ship of for­mer Foot­ball League striker Karl Haw­ley as the for­mer play-off con­tenders look to stave off a rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle in the sixth tier.

And, in truth, Muggleton’s thun­der­ous throws into the Hat­ters penalty area were United’s main source of chances through­out the scrappy af­fair, with County twice suc­cumb­ing to goals which came di­rectly from Muggleton throw-ins.

But it was County who reg­is­tered the first strike on tar­get, with the Dixon burst­ing into the area and cut­ting back for the pacey Man­tack to find space and fire straight at stop­per Ge­orge Wil­lis.

De­spite the pace and trick­ery of wingers Hem­mings and Jay Rollins ei­ther side of the large frame of Smith, Bos­ton had failed to test County ‘keeper Ben Hinch­liffe up un­til the open­ing goal fif­teen min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val.

The vis­i­tors, led su­perbly be cap­tain Michael Clarke who re­peat­edly got his head to the ma­jor­ity of the home side’s pumped balls into the box, had be­gun play­ing a num­ber of stray passes out of play un­der lit­tle pres­sure – gift­ing their hosts the op­por­tu­nity for Muggleton to launch the ball to­wards goal from the side­lines; and The Hat­ters’ re­sis­tance soon crum­bled.

Af­ter yet an­other gift for Haw­ley’s side, Muggleton hurled a throw into the six yard box, where Smith over­came three men in the white of County to power his close-range header high past a help­less Hinch­liffe.

Bos­ton, who had failed to win at home in two months even be­fore the visit of County, clearly County knew the im­por­tance of three points and be­gun killing time im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the open­ing goal – with a tac­tic which would later come back to haunt the hosts.

The game con­tin­ued in


●●Dan Cowan weaves his way through mid­field


●●Jimmy Ball heads County’s last-gasp lev­eller at Bos­ton United on Satur­day and, in­set, cel­e­brates his goal

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