FOOTBALL: Late winner keeps Horncastle in title hunt

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Horncastle Town 3-2 CGB Humbertherm

Despite dominating the game for long periods, it took a dramatic late winner from the impressive Mickey Stones to secure Town a deserved three points.

With time running out, Tony Edwards outstripped the full back down Town’s right before delivering a perfect ball into the box which Mickey guided just inside the far post to elevate Town to second in the table.

Manager Paul Johnson was able to recall Steve Brown to the centre of defence with Steve Lovett reverting to right back in place of Nathan Rawdon, who was only fit enough for a place on the bench.

The only other change from last week saw the return of leading scorer Michael Harness and he justified his selection as he gave Town a deserved lead after 15 minutes.

Town had started brightly with Richard Jackson and Ollie Johnson controlling midfield and when Lewis Burchnall’s well directed clearance was flicked on by Stones, Michael ran clear of the final defender before finishing calmly.

This should have been the first of many in the first half as Town dominated proceedings, but a mixture of profligate finishing and outstanding goalkeeping kept the visitors in the game.

The ‘keeper’s only error came midway through the half when he was deceived by a high bounce and as Michael Harness looked to convert the loose ball he was brought down from behind. The offending player was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card but the ‘keeper atoned for his error by diving to his right to save Ollie Johnson’s penalty kick.

Moments later Harness controlled a Tony Edwards cross superbly but again the ‘keeper dived to his right to pull off an outstanding save. Defender Scott Lowman then broke forward from the back before firing just wide of the upright and Richard Jackson saw his close range effort charged down.

Town were playing some fine football with Tony Edwards and Carl Smith prominent in wide areas, but when Michael Harness misplaced a pass in midfield, the visitors broke quickly and Lewis Burchnall did well to dent their centre forward with his legs. The same player was lucky to stay on the pitch after his elbow caught Scott Lowman in the face but he went on to have a fine game and his battle with Steve Brown was one of the games highlights.

Town continued to press and the ‘keeper again did well to deny Jackson with a diving save. Jacko and Michael Harness both fired over from close range as Town continued to create numerous opportunities, but they had to wait until just before the break to add a second goal. Mickey Stones had seen an excellent effort turned away superbly by the ‘keeper after he had been well found by Ollie Johnson, but moments later the same two players combined again and this time Mickey headed Ollie’s near post cross firmly into the net.

Town were confident of building on the two goal lead in the second half, but with barely 10 minutes gone the visitors reduced the deficit. When Town failed to clear the ball just outside their penalty area, a low shot from Humbertherm’s centre forward went in off the far post to bring them back into the game.

Town responded positively as they looked to restore their two goal cushion and it took an outstanding double save from the visitors ‘keeper to deny Harness a second goal. Having dived full length to his right to parry a Richard Jackson drive, the ‘keeper somehow got up off the ground to divert Michael’s close range follow-up over the bar.

The away side took full advantage to draw level with 15 minutes remaining. Lewis Burchnall had pulled off an outstanding save to turn away a well struck shot that seemed destined for the top corner, but when the resulting corner was only half cleared a half hit shot seemed to take several deflections on its way into the net.

Gareth Melia had been brought on at left back in place of Andrew Shinn, who had played well after being ill all week, and Chris Johnson replaced his namesake Ollie as Town looked to regain the initiative.

Chris settled in quickly and after exchanging passes with Edwards, his cross drifted just wide of the far post. He then saw his well struck shot blocked after good work from Stones inside the penalty area. Scott Lowman headed a Carl Smith a corner wide and Jackson fired past the upright as Town continued to press, but when a draw seemed inevitable, Stones headed the winner which his and Town’s performance deserved.

There was still a nervy finish as the referee played a lot of added time but having been reduced to ten men with the teams level, the visitors were unable to take a share of the spoils.

This coming Saturday Town are at home again when the visitors to The Wong are Market Rasen. Goals from Tony Edwards and Carl Smith brought Town a hard fought three points at Rase Park earlier this season but three successive victories for Rasen in recent weeks means that Town can expect another tough encounter - kick off on The Wong is at 3pm.