ALVECHURCH 3-2 CARLTON TOWN - MATCH REPORT
It’s the hope that kills you, they say. That’s certainly how it felt as Carlton Town surrendered a two goal lead to lose 3-2 at promotion-chasing Alvechurch.
Not many would have given the Millers much of a chance of picking up anything from this late-season trip to Worcestershire. Church remain the only side capable of catching leaders Basford Utd (on paper at least) and are firmly in the second automatic promotion spot.
Carlton meanwhile still need three points to be mathematically safe and are in the middle of a ridiculous 12 games in 24 days to complete the season on time.
Nevertheless, Wayne Scott’s side arrived at Lye Meadow on the back of three games unbeaten including a comeback win against Newcastle last time out. Their fighting spirit was evident in those matches and was on display for this game as well.
Scott made three changes from the Castle game, with Kane Baldwin, Kaylum Mitchell and Tyler Blake replacing Niall Davie, Daniel Fletcher (both absent) and Jordan Wilson.
Jack Steggles was on hand to save as early as the second minute from a Yusifu Ceesay free kick as Church started on the front foot.
The Millers responded and the opening 15 minutes were fairly even. Carlton’s best move in that spell saw Riece Bertram, Luis Danquah and Tyler Blake combine to feed Ben Hutchinson, whose deft chip was just beyond Mitchell.
The dangerous Josh March then arrowed a ball across the face of goal with no-one on hand to convert as Alvechurch lifted themselves.
The home side were putting the Millers under increasing pressure on a sticky pitch which had nevertheless drained reasonably well but was fairly clogged up in the goalmouths. The drainage may have something to do with the Gresley-esque slope which ran from side to side.
Another good move from the home side saw March shoot straight at Steggles when clean through.
Church thought they’d taken the lead on 26 minutes but Nathan Waite’s strike was ruled out for offside.
Still they came forward and March hit a first time volley wide as Carlton struggled to keep any possession, with the defenders performing stoutly to keep the home side at bay.
On their rare attacks though, Carlton did look a threat and when Hutchinson crossed on 32 minutes it was just missed by Bertram with the goal gaping.
Steggles then made a fine save before the Millers shocked the home side by going ahead on 40 minutes. Blake fed Mamoke Akaunu on the left. He held off two challenges and fired low into the corner of the net from the edge of the box to send the six travelling supporters into raptures.
If Church felt hard done by, they could have no complaints when Carlton doubled their lead six minutes into the second half. Goalkeeper Charlie Price had already made one fine save from Mitchell at the start of the half.
When a fairly innocuous ball was played into the Church area, captain Ashley Carter missed his kick and Blake pounced, firing home past Price from 10 yards.
Church, to their credit, just kept going forward and Carlton, to their credit, kept putting their bodies on the line to keep them out. Steggles made a wonderful low save from the outstanding Babucar Sauane, a player who seemed to keep appearing all over the pitch wherever the ball happened to be.
In the middle of the half, Carlton seemed to be gaining the upper hand. Church still had all the possession but Carlton were harrying and squeezing the play and forcing the home side into wasting possession. It was looking the classic away performance.
The Millers claimed a penalty midway through the half when Hutchinson went down but the referee wasn’t interested. At the other end Kieran Walker headed away from goal magnificently after another fierce shot.
Church redoubled their efforts in the final 15 minutes and, after defending so resolutely, they finally forced cracks in the Carlton defence. Perhaps it was the heavy pitch, perhaps it was the never-ending run of game, perhaps it was just the home side’s quality, but they pulled the first goal back on 76 minutes.
A ball played in from the left was only half cleared and March bundled his way through some fairly weak challenges to fire home.
Five minutes later the home side were level as Waite headed home unmarked from six yards.
The question for the Millers now was whether they could salvage a point, but the answer was negative. With two minutes remaining the otherwise excellent Darol Lucas brought down Suane and Tom Turton fired home the spot kick.
It was difficult to argue that Alvechurch didn’t merit the win on the balance of play, but it was ever so harsh on a fine battling performance from Scott’s side.
Carlton Town: Steggles, Lucas, Danquah, Bertram, Baldwin, Walker, Mitchell, Elliott, Blake (Wilson 57), Hutchinson, Akaunu (Pepe 83). Unused substitutes: Mutibvu, Wallace
Goals: Akaunu 40, Blake 51; Josh March 76, Nathan Waite 81, Tom Turton 88 (pen)
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM: Darol Lucas