Squires Gate 1-1 Congleton Town (By Bobby Lakin)
Congleton Town put in one of their best performances in recent weeks when they visited Squires Gate on Saturday and looked set for a long overdue victory.
However, an equaliser from Conor Smith in stoppage time meant they were cruelly held to a draw in the Hallmark Security League Premier Division.
There were 4 changes to the side that last at Ashton Athletic. The most notable was Jack Pritchard who was replaced by Ian Willis after previously only missing one game all season. Ross Heywood was unavailable in goal which meant Michael Dixon played for the first time since October. Conor Gittins made his debut at right-back in place of Clevon Beadle and Callam Gardner came back in for Kazim Waite-Jackson.
The Bears began very strongly and didn't take long to craft their first chance. Gardner and Paul Bathgate combined nicely with the latter shooting just wide.
After just 9 minutes, the opening goal arrived with Bathgate involved once again. His long throw was aimed in the direction of Gate keeper Joseph Griffith. Declan Fletcher wasn't going to let him have it easily and successfully beat him to the ball with a header that looped over and into the net.
Congleton went on to dominate the half with a catalogue of chances. Fletcher’s cross from the right was well saved by Griffith under pressure from Ryan Hibbert. Then a quick free-kick was run onto by Fletcher but hit over the bar.
Rick Bailey linked up with Gardner to play Hibbert in for a shot wide. Gardner then went wide himself with a low shot before Gate finally threatened just before half-time.
Lee Jackson’s mis-kick was latched onto by Charlie Waters but the Congleton left-back was relieved to see the shot go wide. A corner just before the break was badly cleared by Bailey to give Waters another opportunity, this one went well over.
The second half saw Congleton once again having the majority of the chances. Bathgate broke down the left and tried to lob the advancing Griffith. His effort was going wide and Fletcher couldn’t quite finish it.
Fletcher went even closer 10 minutes later as he ran onto the ball outside the box and let fly. It took a slight deflection and Griffith did very well to keep it out. Gardner then showed a good touch to lay off Hibbert on the edge of the box but his shot was straight at the keeper.
Gate had a good chance to equalise when Jordan Casey took advantage of some poor defending. His shot was tame and didn’t cause Dixon any problems. Tarren Moxon then beat Callum Jones to the ball but scuffed his shot.
Congleton needed another goal to make the game safe but Griffith was having an excellent game. He was called into action once again when Jackson’s free-kick was glanced towards his own goal by a defender.
Conor Smith was substituted on by the home side as the game entered stoppage time and he went on to be the hero. The initial effort from Joe Noblet came back off the post and could only be cleared to Smith on the edge of the box. His shot was fairly close to Dixon but bounced through a crowd of players to leave him unsighted and steal a point.
Congleton Town: Dixon, Gittins, Jackson, Willis, Jones, Bathgate, Bailey (Koral 60), Sephton, Fletcher, Gardner, Hibbert (Baker 80).
Substitutes not used: Waite-Jackson, A Alston, Beadle.
By Bobby Lakin