Congleton Athletic 2 v 3 Uttoxeter Town
UTTOXETER Town’s 100 per cent start to their Staffordshire County Senior League season continued after twice coming from behind in a five-goal thriller at Congleton Athletic.
Town travelled to Cheshire without the unavailable Lee Bagley, Neil Jenkins and Mark Thompson, and the injured Chris Richards.
Manager Mark Grimley handed a first start of the season to Dom Ward, with Tom Harvey making his Town debut alongside top scorer Tommy Smith in attack.
The opening exchanges made it look as though Town could be in for a comfortable afternoon as marauding full-back Steve Caswell stung the goalkeeper’s hands with only seconds on the clock.
However, any thoughts of simple victory were dispelled on five minutes when a routine clearance left Congleton’s number nine clean through, and the marksman made no mistake, burying the ball past Alex Langridge to give the hosts the advantage.
The goal knocked the visitors out of their stride and the next 20 minutes saw Congleton dominate possession as Town lost their rhythm, but with the half hour approaching, Smith grabbed his fourth goal of the season with an inventive finish.
Harvey and Smith both competed for Beardsley’s cross and when the ball sat up 18 yards out, Town’s striker headed brilliantly over the advancing keeper to restore parity.
The interval approached with only two more chances coming Uttoxeter's way, Martin Gadsby latching onto a Smith though ball before seeing his shot well saved.
Smith himself then brought the best out of the Congleton stopper at the near post.
The half time whistle saw the end to a scrappy first period, and seconds after the restart some more lax defending gave Athletic the opportunity to restore their lead.
A half-cleared cross was again worked to the host’s lone striker, and the wily frontman drew a tackle from Ward that saw the referee point to the spot.
Langridge was left with no chance from the spot kick and Town were again facing an uphill task.
It seemed as though an immediate response was on the cards when Harvey was hauled down in the box, but Smith saw his penalty crash against the bar and rebound to safety as Town pressed forward.
Uttoxeter’s perfect start to the season looked even more perilous on 65 minutes when Smith injured his ankle in a typically robust tackle, but a tactical masterstroke from the management team of Grimley and Andy O'Connor transformed the match.
Ryan Metcalfe, Jack Holley and Lee Poxon were introduced with Town moving to a 4-3-3 formation.
The introduction of Metcalfe to centre midfield gave Esplin and Gadsby freedom to roam, and with the front three moving the hosts around, the equaliser was not long away.
It came on 73 minutes when Gadsby's burst was halted 20 yards out, and when Holly's curled free-kick was tipped onto the post, debutant Poxon was on hand to crash home from six yards.
Town were now in the ascendancy and their superior fitness came to the fore as Athletic struggled to cope with the visitors tempo and the winner came with eight minutes left on the clock.
Poxon was again involved, challenging for Esplins cross before the ball fell to Caswell in space.
The defender brilliantly picked out Harvey at the back post and the young striker clinically headed home from four yards.
It was a fine victory for Town who will be hoping to extend their winning run at Redgate Clayton next Saturday.
GOALS: Smith 28, Poxon 73, Harvey 82.
TOWN: Langridge, Caswell, Ede, Beardsley, Ward, Sowter (Metcalfe 65), Gadsby, Esplin, Smith (Holly 65), Harvey, Collins (Poxon 65).
INFINITY IT MAN OF THE MATCH: Martin Gadsby.