Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Bottesford Town 2 v AFC Mansfield 1 - NCEL Prem

Wednesday 17th August 2016
Toolstation NCEL Premier Division
Bottesford Town (1) 2
Daniel Boulton 5
Josh Nichol 84
AFC Mansfield (1) 1
Ollie Fearon 19
Admission £5. Programme £1. Attendance 87
Left click image to enlarge
Bottesford swept Barton Town Old Boys away by a margin of 5-1, in their opening league game at Birch Park on Saturday, a week after a Martin Pembleton goal had been enough to squeak past Radford in the FA Cup Extra-Preliminary Round.
The Bulls had won three from three starts so far, prior to tonight; beating Liversedge at home and Harrogate Railway Athletic away in the league and impressively seeing off Shepshed Dynamo 4-0, away from home, in their FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie.
AFC Mansfield won automatic promotion to the NCEL Premier Division at the end of last season, by virtue of finishing second behind runaway Hemsworth Miners Welfare in Division One... and the Poachers joined them a week or so later via the play offs, after beating both Hallam and AFC Emley (after a dramatic penalty shoot out) in the inaugural NCEL play offs.
The Nottinghamshire side won both of the games between these two sides last season, by the same scoreline: 2-0.
Ironically, when I watched the play off final at Bottesford last season, I was sat with the AFC Mansfield stalwart Pete Craggs, while his chairman was at the other end of the ground, schmoozing up to his fellow NCEL committee men and getting himself featured on the front cover of the first issue of the Bootiful Game, (a newly established tome dedicated to this, the greatest league in the world) into the bargain.
Issue one is currently available from all NCEL with a third of the cover price going to whichever NCEL club you buy it from.
There are a couple of pages (and photos) by this humble scribe in the current edition, but other than that it's a decent publication and worth tracking down if you haven't already had the pleasure.
A win for Rudy Funk's side tonight would have seen them leapfrog over the league leaders, who ironically are Hemsworth Miners Welfare, at this current moment in time, to go two points clear at the top, but in the event, Bottesford are now in joint second place, along with Handsworth Parramore, who have also won both of their opening games.
In all honesty, the Bulls never looked liked winning tonight though, as the home side deservedly took all three points.
Danny Boulton opened the scoring after just five minutes, taking advantage of the space afforded to him when Chris Timons backed off a yard, to tuck the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net beyond the despairing reach of Jason White, having opted to go for precision as opposed to power.
"Me and...
The live-wire Boulton proved to be a handful for the visitors all night, until he was substituted late in the game, to generous and highly deserved acclaim from the home crowd.
Ollie Fearon looked to get Mansfield straight back into the game, but having run from in his own half and into the Poachers goalmouth, through the left channel, he underhit his pass to John D'Laryea and Danny Gibbons was on hand to make a clearance.
Bottesford attacked again and Reece Newell played the ball to Boulton twenty five yards out, who saw off three challenges but lost his footing before managed to shoot.
Josh Nicholl threatened to double the Poachers lead, but Matt Plummer got the ball away from White's goal at the expense of a corner. Pembleton picked out Gareth Barlow with the resulting kick, but he squandered the chance in spite of being unmarked.
... my shadoooow!
Slightly against the run of play, the Bulls were on level terms after nineteen minutes, when Ryan Williams picked up the ball out on the right from Newell's attempted clearance and crossed to Fearon, who diverted a looping header over Aaron Busby to make it 1-1
The home side, broke forward quickly from the restart and Boulton led the cavalry charge, but was denied as White saved his twenty yard effort.
Bottesford came again and while trying to clear Pembleton's through ball, Plummer inadvertently nudged the ball into the path of Boulton who saw his close range effort thwarted by White who twisted and managed to tip the ball over his bar.
Jack Cross, out on the right flank, delivered the ball to the back post, where Pembleton knocked it back across the face of White's goal to Boulton, who netted from six yards... but the flag was up and the goal was ruled out.
Brad Wilson's long free kick bounced up awkwardly in front of Craig Mitchell, who couldn't make a proper contact with the ball, but Busby still had to move quickly to keep the improvised effort out by his upright.
The Bulls were almost presented with a gift of a goal, when a miscued clearance landed in front of Fearon, but he rushed his unexpected chance and shot wide from twelve yards.
White was in action again, reacting well to keep out Pembleton's free kick from just outside the left hand side of the area.
The visitors attacked on the break but Williams cross was headed clear by Ollie Donald and Bottesford picked up the momentum again, but when Pembleton set up a half chance for Scott Matthews, he scuffed his shot.
Plummer picked up possession in the middle of the park, but instead of looking to bring his forwards into the game, he opted to shoot from all of forty five yards, but didn't get enough power behind his shot to trouble Busby.
Bottesford finished the first half with Matthews and Pembleton chipping away at the visitors down the left flank, but in spite of the the North East Lincolnshire side having the lions portion of chances thus far, it was still all square with everything to play for at the interval
HT: 1-1
"Bloody Mansfield! One shot on target, one goal!" Joked a local of my acquaintance, through gritted teeth, as the teams left the field at half time.
I decided not to correct him; but, for the record: the Bulls hadn't actually had any shots on target yet and Fearon had scored with a deftly placed header.
Pembleton had put in a great shift during the first half and he came charging out of the blocks like a Usain Bolt of lightning and almost got to the ball as Plummer under-hit a back pass to White; but the Mansfield goalkeeper wrong footed the Poachers play maker, by executing a 'Joanne' Cruyff turn to evade his opponent, before clearing the ball. 
White likes to venture from his area and join in as an outfield player from time to time... and more often than not, he frightens the live out of me whenever he does ;-)
Boulton had been causing the Bulls problems all night, as Chris Timons gamely tracked his every move... and ten minutes after the restart, as he broke forward through a crowded defence, Kieron Salmons, the match referee, must've been the only person in the ground who didn't see that he was quite blatantly scythed down.
That was definitely a penalty, but the match official thought otherwise and that was that.
The visitors goal area was under siege, but they have a solid defensive line up and they were keeping the Poachers at bay.
As if to illustrate my earlier point, White dashed off of his line and ran forward with the ball and was quite lucky that the Bottesford players were on the back foot preparing to deal with his long clearance when he stumbled and fell to the ground, before re-composing himself and launching another long ball for Terry Barwick to head aweay.
A bout of posturing, squaring up and finger wagging broke out in front of the stand. But it blew over fairly quickly and Mr Salmons booked both of the players who had scored in the first half, while the real guilty parties sneaked off and attempted to look all innocent.
But Fearon doesn't just score goals and get booked unnecessarily... and moments later he was blocking Boulton's attempted strike on goal after he'd advanced into the last third from Matthews' throw in.
Having been under the cosh for most of the first half, Mansfield actually began to retain the ball really well and knocked it around, just outside the home sides penalty area.
It was aesthetically pleasing but the final ball was lacking, as Barwick and his defence showed their collective mettle... a bit like heavy petting without actually getting it on, I suppose you could say, if you were that way inclined... or huffing and puffing without blowing the Poachers house down, if you're a bit prudish.
But as the Bulls horns drooped, that man Boulton took the initiative and mounted yet another attack. Plummer got across his path and blocked the Poachers strikers run, but as the two of them tangled for the ball, Boulton poked a shot narrowly over the bar from eight yards.
The ball sat up nicely for Jimmy Ghaichem on the edge of Busby's area, but having only just come on from the bench, he was probably a touch too keen to make an impact and force his claims for a starting place at the weekend and he spanked the ball high and wide of the target.
Matt Steeper was flagged offside as he got onto the end of Boulton's defence splitting pass. Those of us in line with the incident thought he had actually timed his run perfectly and was unfortunate to have been pulled up. Either way, the visitors defence had switched off momentarily and Boulton unlocked them again with another precision pass into the path of Josh Nicholl, who unlike Steeper had wandered several yards offside and was rightly halted in his tracks.
Have you nodded off over there John Rudkin?
Bottesford were pushing on as the clock ticked down, looking to maintain their 100% win record for the season and thwart their visitors bid to end the night at the top of the table.
Elliott Broughton, who has put in some eye catching performances when we've watched him previously, showed the Bulls defence a clean pair of heels and chipped the ball into the six yard box, but Plummer got up well and headed the ball away to safety.
But moments later, Bottesford were back and Josh Nicholl squeezed his way through the tightest of gaps and drilled the ball into the roof of White's net from 12 yards out.
Boulton took the applause from the crowd for his efforts as John Corbett reshuffled his pack to see the game out. I joined in, it was the very least he deserved, the boy done good!
Matt Steeper had the opportunity late on to bang the final nail into Mansfield's aspirations, but the ball sat up as he was about to shoot and he could only lob it straight into White's hands.
Danny Naylor almost grabbed an equaliser right at the end, but his effort from twelve yards deflected wide.
To be fair to the home side, it would have been unfair if they had lost all three points after putting in so much graft over the ninety plus minutes and they thoroughly deserved the win tonight.
Truth be told, AFC Mansfield probably got what they deserved too, given the balance of play, even though the final score doesn't really reflect the full story.
FT: Bottesford Town 2 v AFC Mansfield 1
Good luck to both teams in the FA Cup Preliminary Round on Saturday, when South Normanton Athletic travel to Forest Town to take on the Bulls, while Kirby Muxloe visit Birch Park, where they will face a lively and difficult test on tonight's evidence.
Footnote: Thanks to the guys from Mansfield and the small crowd of locals who came to my rescue before the game, when I was involved in a particularly crappy incident involving my car.
The insurance company have paid up and I will be roadworthy and on my travels again by Friday.
And I don't want to hear another effing word about it... not ever!