FOOTBALL: Ice-cool Ollie’s on the spot as Town go top

Goal-den guy: Leading scorer Michael Harness might have missed out at Sleaford on Saturday but he still helped Town pick up three precious points
Goal-den guy: Leading scorer Michael Harness might have missed out at Sleaford on Saturday but he still helped Town pick up three precious points

Horncastle Town battled to the top of the Sills and Betteridge League table thanks to a last-gasp penalty from super-sub Ollie Johnson.

Johnson kept his cool to slot home an injury time spot kick that earned Town a 2-1 victory at Sleaford Town Reserves on Saturday.

Tony Edwards was brought down in the box and Johnson was the coolest man in the stadium to secure an incredible ninth win in a row for Town.

Boss Paul Johnson’s side now lead the title battle on goal difference from defending champions Skegness Town.

However, at least three other sides are still in the title race in what promises to be a thrilling end to the season.

Town’s management, though, will be more than happy to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s late, late show.

It was a clash between the second and fourth placed sides in the table but proved to be a scrappy, ill-tempered affair which rarely lived up to its billing given the recent form of both sides.

Town will feel that they did just enough to edge proceedings over the 90 minutes, although Sleaford finished with just nine men after two late red cards.

The first half was a very tight affair with neither team really gaining the initiative. The midfield area was very congested and goal scoring chances were at a premium.

Leading scorer Michael Harness caused the home defence problems with his movement and his far post cross just eluded Mickey Stones.

Richard Jackson then saw his free-kick saved after Stones had been fouled and minutes later, Steve Lovett linked well with Edwards but fired straight at the ‘keeper.

Town’s defence looked solid, but a long ball forward caught them out, Sleaford’s striker blazed the ball wide.

However, the hosts then took the lead in controversial style when the referee waved play on after his assistant had flagged for offside. As Town switched off, Sleaford’s centre forward ran through unopposed to score.

After that setback, Town’s centre back pairing of Steve Brown and skipper Chris Johnson gave little away and after the interval, ‘keeper Lewis Burchnall was rarely troubled.

Town started the second half with more purpose and Richard Jackson was seeing more of the ball further forward.

Harness - looking to score for the fifth game in a row - headed just wide after a Chris Johnson cross and Tony Edwards also went close after making a determined run.

Town’s efforts paid off just after the hour when Scott Lowman was fouled just outside the box and Jackson rifled in the free kick to level the scores.

Town were in control, but ill discipline from the home side saw them reduced to nine men within five minutes.

First, their centre forward was dismissed for stamping on Edwards and then their midfielder followed shortly afterwards for a foul on Lowman.

Despite their numerical advantage, Town struggled to play with any fluency as the home side put everyone behind the ball.

Lowman fired over and Stones hit the side netting with a shot on the turn as Town pushed forward, but all too often they relied on long balls trying to pick out target-man Stones.

Ollie Johnson and Carl Smith were introduced in place of Melia and Lowman as Town looked to play through midfield more and they made a difference as the game entered the final minutes.

Smith played in Andrew Shinn but his cross was cleared and on 90 minutes, a Harness overhead kick dropped onto the top of the net.

With Town getting increasingly frustrated, the game seemed to be heading for a draw but then came that late drama.

Jackson’s peach of a pass inside the left-back found Edwards, who used his pace to get to the ball just ahead of the defender and a penalty was the inevitable result.

Ollie Johnson stepped forward and held his nerve to strike the ball firmly into the net and secure a precious victory.

Town: Burchnall, Lovett (Rawdon), Shinn, Brown, C. Johnson, Lowman (Smith), Edwards, Jackson, Stones, Harness, Melia (O. Johnson).