Denbigh claim runners up spot with close win
Holywell Town 2 - 3 Denbigh Town
Match report by Iwan Jones
Photos by Roy Gunther and Steve Whitfield [ samples attached. Full album to be published in due course ]
Denbigh travelled to nearby rivals Holywell looking for the win in order for their season to finish in style and claim second place in this season’s Huws Gray Cymru Alliance.
Goals from Dan Sullivan, Kristian Pierce and Matt Worrall gave Denbigh the three points which sees Denbigh finish in their highest ever position in Welsh football – what an achievement from a team under the strong leadership of manager Eddie Maurice-Jones which has gone from strength to strength as the season progressed.
Even though they knew a draw would have sufficed against Holywell, Maurice-Jones picked a team with the aim of going out to claim all three points. Matthew Cook was back in the starting eleven in place of the unavailable Andrew Swarbrick. Ben Nash returned to the team as captain and Warren Duckett was back from injury and started on the bench.
Injuries to Liam Smith and Corey Smart meant they were unavailable and local lad Andy Thomas joined the squad from the Reserves team.
Holywell with three games remaining to play before tonight’s game were the only team that could pass Denbigh in the league but they knew that only a win tonight would allow them to overtake Denbigh.
The game was given that extra edge when Holywell’s manager for the last six years John Haseldin announced earlier in the week that he was standing down as manager at the end of this season. Tonight’s game was Holywell’s last home fixture of the season and so the Wellman were looking to give him a strong leaving performance and the three points they needed.
On a cold dry spring evening at the Halkyn Road ground, Denbigh won the toss and opted to play with the strong sun behind them in the first half.
Chances came to both teams in the opening minutes, with the Wellman having the better of these opportunities. Denbigh were taking their time getting into their stride and it was’nt until Rakim Newton linked well with Denbigh’s midfield workhorse Gareth Partridge that they had their first real attack. Partridge found Craig Pritchard who fed in Matt Worrall in the Holywell area only for him to be well tackled by Matty Harvey and cleared.
Denbigh’s game of playing the ball out from the back came to haunt them in the 14th minute when keeper Keighan Jones played the ball to Ben Nash who played a loose ball back across his box which was intercepted by Holywell’s Shaun Tuck. Tuck was able to control the ball and slot it home past the helpless Jones.
This opening goal led to a period of sustained pressure from Holywell who could have gone two up when Keighan Jones was forced into an excellent save from a Mark Winslade header form a corner.
At this stage Denbigh’s chances were coming from long shots from outside the area with Newton playing a ball on for Kristian Pierce only for his low shot to be easily saved by keeper Shaun Pearson.
Shaun Tuck then had a golden opportunity to add to the Wellmen’s lead when from a loose Pierce pass he picked the ball up on his left wing, weaved into the penalty area before shooting just over the crossbar. Another warning sign for Denbigh followed when Holywell captain Steve Thomas found himself in acres of space just inside the penalty area only for him to blast the ball well over the crossbar.
Denbigh’s Craig Pritchard started to have more of an influence on the game after 30 minutes when he showed some great skill, twisting and turning past defenders and shooting just wide of the goal from 20 yards – Denbigh’s best effort so far.
Minutes later he was crudely fouled midway into the Holywell half. Free kick expert Joe Culshaw floated a great ball into the box to be met by Ben Nash’s head. He headed it over to Dan Sullivan who headed it back to Nash whose final header just cleared the crossbar – Denbigh were getting back into the game at this stage.
Nevertheless Holywell continued to have chances at the other end and Jones had to be on his toes to make some fine saves to thwart the attacks.
As half time approached Denbigh won a corner and Culshaw crossed into the area which was cleared by the Holywell defence to Pierce on the outside of the box. He controlled the ball and unleashed a low powerful drive goalwards, which Dan Sullivan managed to side foot into the goal from close range. 1-1 after a minute of injury time.
Denbigh were’nt finished and a minute later Matt Worrall broke into the area and passed wide to his right to Pritchard who was bundled over in the penalty area by a Holywell defender and referee John Jones pointed to the spot. A harsh decision from Holywell’s point of view and their keeper Pearson ended up with a yellow card for his protests.
Kristian Pierce stepped up to take the kick and sent Pearson the wrong way by slotting the ball into the keeper’s left hand side to give Denbigh a somewhat fortunate 2-1 lead at half time.
Holywell’s manager John Haseldin in his last half time team talk for Holywell, must have given his players some strong words as they came out for the second half in a determined manner. Almost immediately the Wellmen’s centre forward Mark Winslade crossed low and hard across Denbigh’s goal from his right wing and the cross was met by Shaun Tuck to slot in his second goal of the evening.
Denbigh responded from a free kick after Pritchard was fouled again on the edge of the Holywell area. The solid Dan Sullivan stepped up for this kick and he was unlucky to see his great strike hit the Holywell right hand post with keeper Pearson stranded.
Maurice-Jones then made the bold decision to bring on striker Warren Duckett for the last 25 minutes in place of defender Ben Nash as Denbigh looked to push for the winner.
This almost back fired as from a Holywell corner the ball fell to Wellman Jonathon Jones who fired low and hard from 6 yards which Jones managed to pull off a brilliant save by parrying the ball away for a corner.
Gradually Denbigh now began to take more control of the game in their best spell. On 70 minutes Dan Sullivan took a free kick from inside his own half and sent the ball down the left wing for Matt Worrall to control once and then shoot with power with his right foot from an incredible angle which flew into the right side of Holywell’s goal.
Denbigh now had 20 minutes to play the game out and despite Holywell piling on the pressure they held firm with the impressive Dan Sullivan leading Denbigh’s back line ably assisted by the strong Joel Hewitt and their young keeper Keighan Jones who has grown in stature since he started with the team.
Andy Thomas came on for Matt Worrall with a few minutes remaining and he tracked back well to help relieve the pressure on the Denbigh goal.
With several minutes of injury time played by Mr Jones, the Denbigh supporters were willing the final whistle to be blown. He obliged after 5 minutes and Denbigh were able to claim the three points and the well deserved runners up spot in the league.
This really is an incredible achievement by Eddie Maurice-Jones’ men bearing in mind that in August last year they lost three of their opening four games including a 7-0 drubbing by eventual champions Caernarfon and a 5-1 home defeat to Holywell.
His managerial skills, game plan and his eye for key players backed by his strong coaching team of Richard Williams- Cooke, Dewi Llion and Dan Reece have led the club to heights never before achieved by a Denbigh team. Many congratulations to them for all the hard work and many thanks for all the enjoyment they have given the supporters of Denbigh Town over an excellent season
Roll on 2018/2019
Shaun Pearson, Phil Lloyd, Jonathon Jones, Danny Desormeaux, Matty Harvey, Matty Kendrick, Steve Thomas, Paul Williams, Mark Winslade, Graeme Williams, Shaun Tuck. Subs; Lee Emberton, Brady McGilloway,Jack Pennington, Garteh Sudlow, Joe Grifffiths .
Keighan Jones, Joel Hewitt, Joe Culshaw, Dan Sullivan, Ben Nash, Matthew Cook, Rakim Newton, Gareth Partridge, Matt Worrall, Kristian Pierce, Craig Pritchard. Subs; Andy Thomas, Warren Duckett, Eddie Maurice-Jones, Jon Hill- Dunt, Liam Smith
Referee – Tom Owen
Assistant – John Spender
Assistant – Ryan Hughes
Attendance - 171