Robert Gill stepped off the substitutes bench to head home a late winner against Loughborough Dynamo as Carlton town extended their lead at the top of the First Division South.
The defeat was harsh on a Loughborough side who started slowly but more then matched the Millers for most of the game but, with the three sides immediately behind Carlton all losing, it could be a precious three points for Les McJannet’s men.
The key moments in the game came midway through the second half when the referee dismissed Carlton’s Terry Hawkridge for violent conduct and then, two minutes later, sent off Loughborough goalkeeper Laurie Pearson for a foul denying a goal scoring opportunity. More of that later.
McJannet brought Nick Hall and Adam Kimberley back into the starting eleven after both missed Wednesday’s win at Shepshed. As a result, the man of the match from that game Ashley Grayson had to be content with a place on the bench, as did flu-suffering Daniel Fletcher, with Ryan Goward moving to left back.
Carlton began very well and pinned Dynamo back for the opening 15 minutes of the game. On 7 minutes Reuben Wiggins-Thomas broke well down the right and squared to Josh Thornton who saw his shot well saved by Pearson.
Wiggins-Thomas was again causing problems for the visitors and his cross was met by Ian Brown on 10 minutes but the striker’s header went wide.
Terry Hawkridge then sent over a ball which was begging to be tapped in, but both Wiggins-Thomas and Brown were inches away from connecting.
Against the run of play, Dynamo took the lead on 16 minutes. Carlton failed to deal with a long ball forward and Sam McVicar took full advantage, shooting past Marshall and into the bottom corner of the net.
As the half went on Loughborough imposed themselves more, playing against a fierce wind, although Adam Kimberley saw his angled shot well saved by Pearson on 27 minutes.
The Millers had a chance to equalise on the half hour when Hawkridge put over an excellent cross but Wiggins-Thomas took too long to get his shot away and the effort was blocked.
On 36 minutes Dynamo came closest to scoring again when Jamie Clarke headed Jacob Blackwell’s cross onto the bar with Danny Marshall beaten.
Carlton themselves hit the woodwork eight minutes into the second half when Hawkridge’s 25 yard free kick crashed against the crossbar, down onto Pearson and out for a corner.
Hawkridge then took a quick free kick to Alistair Asher whose cross was met by Wiggins-Thomas but the striker couldn’t get his shot past the impressive Pearson.
On 59 minutes Carlton missed a through ball and McVicar looked set to score but he sciffed his shot and Marshall was able to watch it drift wide.
Matthew Millns then headed goalwards from a Hawkridge free kick but Pearson saved easily as Carlton struggled to penetrate the Loughborough rearguard.
McJannet reacted by replacing Brown with Robert Gill on 62 minutes but three minutes later the game looked out of reach for the Millers. Blackwell fouled Hawkridge and as the winger got up he got himself involved in a bout of handbags with the Loughborough man.
Hawkridge clearly raised his arms albeit contact was fairly minimal, but with right back Danny Jenno encouraging the referee to act on what he’d seen, the referee duly did by dismissing Hawkridge and booking both Blackwell for his part in the fracas and Millns for his vociferous protests.
Dynamo’s numerical advantage lasted just two minutes. Nick Hall played a lovely ball through to Wiggins-Thomas and when the striker beat Pearson in a race to the ball the goalkeeper upended the Carlton man and the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. With the keeper being the last man, although it is fair to say there were defenders in hot pursuit of the Carlton striker, the referee brandished his red card for the second time in two minutes. In a touch of irony, Loughborough brought on substitute keeper Kahil Mann Kler in place of Blackwell.
Mann Kler’s first task was to pick the ball out of the net after Wiggins-Thomas smashed home the penalty, to the joy of the large and vocal support in the MSR stand, a large number of whom started dancing an impromptu conga bare-chested.
With the scores now level in all respects both sides tried to win the game. It was Carlton who managed the all-important second goal when Josh Thornton’s excellent cross was headed home powerfully by Gill, despite the desperate efforts of Mann Kler to keep it out.
Straight from the kick off Dynamo pushed forward and McVicar shot just wide from inside the area when he looked set to score. The ball had been deflected for a corner and when the flag kick came back in Marshall made an excellent save.
The referee got his book out again with five minutes remaining for Dynamo number 9 Clarke – nothing unusual there perhaps except for the fact that he’d been substituted by that point and was sitting on the bench!
Marshall made another great block from McVicar as Dynamo came forward but with the game entering the five added minutes Ashley Grayson set up his dad for a chance to secure the points. Mann Kler was equal to that effort and although Loughborough threw men into the Carlton area as they laid siege to the Carlton goal, they couldn’t force a way past Marshall, as Carlton held out with the support from behind the goal unstinting.
Carlton Town: Marshall, Asher, Goward, Darkin, Millns, Hall, Kimberley (A Grayson 79), Hawkridge, Thornton, Brown (Gill 62), Wiggins-Thomas (N Grayson 86). Unused substitutes: Kitchen, Fletcher.
Goals: Wiggins-Thomas 68 pen, Gill 78
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM: Nick Hall
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