FOOTBALL: Johnson wants more from table-toppers Horncastle Town

Michael Harness battles with the Cleethorpes keeper at Thje Wong on Saturday
Michael Harness battles with the Cleethorpes keeper at Thje Wong on Saturday

Horncastle Town boss Paul Johnson piled the praise on his players after they climbed to the top of the Sills and Betteridge League.

Town eased to a 3-0 win against Cleethorpes Town at The Wong last Saturday to register an 11th consecutive win in all competitions.

The success saw Town replace defending champions Skegness Town in pole position.

Although delighted with the points, Johnson admitted his side will have to improve to hold on to top spot.

Johnson said: “I didn’t think we were ever in any trouble against Cleethorpes and I was always confident we’d win.

“It was solid rather than spectacular and we know we’ll have to improve to beat the top sides.

“We’ve some big games to come but the lads will be up for them. They know what’s at stake.”

Town are two points clear of Skegness, but the big threat is likely to come from Hykeham. They are seven points behind Town but have three games in hand.

Crucially, the two sides still have to meet twice in the league.

Johnson’s assessment of last Saturday’s clash was pretty accurate with a strong wind and bumpy pitch making life difficult for his side.

Cleethorpes proved to be difficult opponents, although only the referee can explain how they finished with 10 men.

Town created a number of chances and could have had the points sewn up by half time.

As it was, they had to settle for a 1-0 lead thanks to Mickey Stones’ 27th minute header.

Gareth Melia should have given Town the lead inside the first five minutes but he headed straight at the ‘keeper.

Town did have a let off when Andrew Shinn, the victim of two horrendous tackles, miss-timed a clearance. The ball fell to a rival striker who had an open goal, but ‘keeper Lewis Burchnall produced a superb one-handed save.

Stones and Michael Harness both went close before Town took the lead as Ollie Johnson floated in an inch-perfect free kick and Stones climbed above the defence to head home.

Town could have doubled their advantage within seconds of the re-start, but leading scorer Harness was denied by the ‘keeper and then somehow stuck the re-bound wide when it was easier to score.

With Richard Jackson an increasingly effective figure in midfield, Town battled on and the crucial second goal arrived in the 63rd minute.

Stones flicked on a corner and skipper Chris Johnson - up from centre half - swept the ball home in style from just outside the six-yard box.

The impressive Tony Edwards and sub’ Scott Lowman were off target before Town wrapped it up with 10 minutes to go, Harness squaring the ball to Tom Sargeant, whose blistering finish almost broke the back of the net.

Arguably, Town should have scored more goals but there weren’t many complaints from their fans as the prospect of the title edged ever closer.

Town: Burchnall: Lovett, C Johnson, Brown, Shinn (Sargeant, 65); Edwards (Lowman 65), Jackson, O Johnson (Rawdon, 77), Melia; Harness Stones.