MACVICAR BRACE SECURES PLAY-OFFS FOR MILLERS
A second half brace from Sam MacVicar helped Carlton Town come from behind to beat Sheffield 3-1 and secure a play-off spot.
It was no more than the Millers deserved for a fine second half display but the visitors will present tough opposition should it be they who Carlton face in the end of season lottery.
Les McJannet made one change from the team which started against Newcastle last tine out. Adam Kimberley, who went off injured in that game, started on the bench with Nick Hall replacing him.
Carlton began well but Sheffield fashioned the first opportunity on four minutes when Jason Bradley went down inside the area under challenge from Rob Darkin. Despite Club protestations the referee waved away claims for a penalty.
MacVicar then turned inside his man and got a shot in from the edge of the box, only to see a super block by Callum Harrison prevent what looked to be a goal.
Reuben Wiggins-Thomas then took advantage of Andy Gascoigne’s loss of possession on the half way line to play the ball into the path of Terry Hawkridge. The First Division South young player of the year turned Ben Turner inside out before firing over from 20 yards.
Wiggins-Thomas, Hawkridge and Daniel Fletcher then combined in a flowing move which saw the left back surge into the area and go down under challenge but, as with Sheffield’s earlier claim, the referee wasn’t interested.
On 20 minutes Carlton had the clearest opportunity to open the scoring when MacVicar reacted quickest to a poor goal kick by Josh Mimms. He forced his way past both centre halves but with just Mimms to beat and Wiggins-Thomas alongside him the former Loughborough man shot straight at the keeper and Mimms redeemed himself.
MacVicar was causing problems for Sheffield and from a quick throw-in he turned inside Sam Liversedge to fire over from the edge of the box.
Sheffield began to get a grip on the game, particularly in midfield where they were winning a lot of loose balls and moving it around well. Bradley and Dan Williams, perhaps the tallest strike partnership in the division, were proving a handful but were being well contained in a fierce battle with Darkin and Ashley Kitchen.
Nonetheless Bradley forced his way into a goal scoring position and shot narrowly wide under challenge from Andy Richmond in the Carlton goal.
On the half hour the visitors took the lead, much to the delight of the bodhran banging supporters behind the goal. Joe Naylor was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul in midfield and from Connor Higginson’s free kick, Warren Bureell stole in ahead of the Millers defence to convert past Richmond.
Club could have extended the lead on 35 minutes when Bureell ran powerfully out of defence to create an opportunity for Williams, but the striker’s deflected shot landed in the grateful outstretched arms of Richmond.
The miss proved crucial as Carlton equalised immediately afterwards. MacVicar ran powerfully down the right and crossed to Wiggins-Thomas, who unselfishly laid the ball into the path of the unmarked Hawkridge who slotted home from 12 yards.
Back came Sheffield and after Richmond punched clear a dangerous cross Williams set up Bradley whose shot was well saved by the Carlton goalkeeper.
With time running out in the half, Fletcher and Hawkridge combined well to earn the Millers a corner. Josh Thornton’s flag kick saw Nick Hall head inches wide.
As the second half began Darkin was forced to make a good tackle to prevent Higginson form getting a shot in on goal as Sheffield attacked on Stoke Lane’s undulating surface.
Kitchen then cleared off the line as Higginson headed past Richmond before the wide man fired straight at Richmond as club looked to regain the lead.
Carlton began to put Sheffield under sustained pressure and Hawkridge had a shot deflected over the bar before Hall drove just wide.
The breakthrough came on 67 minutes when the Millers took the lead. Naylor headed forward into the path of Hawkridge who beat Martin Foster before playing a deep ball from the left. Thornton leapt superbly to head towards goal but the ball hit the inside of the post and came back out in the six yard area. MacVicar reacted quickest to head home with a stooping diving header from six yards, in some ways not too dissimilar to Keith Houchen’s famous strike at Wembley in 1987.
With Carlton in the ascendancy Hawkridge and Fletcher combined for Hawkridge to cross into the path of Wiggins-Thomas. Just as the striker was about to shoot Steve Woolley got in an excellent challenge to clear.
The reprieve was only temporary as MacVicar sealed victory with his second goal on 74 minutes. Wiggins-Thomas won the ball in midfield and played a neat pass to MacVicar who sent a lovely ball down the right to Hawkridge. The wide man cut into the area, beat Bureell before crossing to Wiggins-Thomas as the far post. He headed back across goal and, with Woolley playing everyone onside, MacVicar had the simple task of heading home from two yards.
A minute later Hawkridge and Hall combined to set up MacVicar, whose strike brought a great save from Mimms. From the resultant corner Alistair Asher played the ball to Thornton who cross saw Wiggins-Thomas put an effort over the bar.
With three minutes to go Hawkridge played an excellent ball which sent Wiggins-Thomas clear. He shrugged off the attentions of the defence but Mimms saved his second one-on-one of the game. From the following corner Hall hit a fantastic volley which was blocked and cleared by the Club defence.
As the game entered the last couple of minutes there was a melee in the Millers half which led to bookings for Gascoigne and Kitchen. The delay meant that the referee played five minutes of added time. In that period Sheffield pushed forward trying to get at least a goal back.
Substitute Ricky Gardner made an excellent block to prevent one strike at goal before Andy Richmond made a magnificent save from a Luke Federenko free kick, tipping over the substitute’s strike as it arced towards the top corner.
The referee then blew the final whistle to confirm the Millers win and their play-off place. With Grantham securing the title the next challenge for McJannet’s men is to try to overtake Ilkeston and secure second place in the table.
Carlton Town: Richmond, Asher, Fletcher, Darkin, Kitchen, Naylor, Hall, Hawkridge (Gardner 90), Thornton, MacVicar (Griffith Junior 83), Wiggins-Thomas (Whitman 88). Unused substitutes: Kimberley, Foster.
Goals: Hawkridge 36, MacVicar 67, 74.
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM – Terry Hawkridge