The Millers produced their best display of the season so far, certainly for the first hour, and really should have been out of sight long before the end. As it was, the home side never gave up and forced the Carlton defence to secure the win in the final 30 minutes with a third clean sheet in four league games.
Manager Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey made five changes from the side which beat Cambridge City two days ago. In came Jacob Sturgess, Toby Moore, Jared Holmes, Tom Maddison and Aaron Opoku. They replaced Tyler Johal, Deon Meikle, Danny Elliott, Khyle Sargent and Louis Czerwak.
On a lovely playing surface it was the home side who had the first chance when Lewis Irwin drew an excellent save from Kieran Preston in the Carlton.
The Millers though then raised their game and created three glorious chances in the next five minutes. On nine minutes Opoku burst through on the right hand side before crossing to Maddison in the middle. The captain had three attempts at shooting at goal with his third effort going high and wide.
Moments later Maddison, playing a more forward role in midfield with Holmes sitting in front of the back four, slipped the ball to Opoku but his shot flew well wide.
Soon afterwards came one of the best moves of the match. Watson, excellent all afternoon, threw off two markers with a delightful turn in midfield before sending the ball to Tyler Blake on the wide right. He outpaced Bleu McNeil getting in behind the Daventry defence before hitting a pinpoint cross to Opoku in the middle who steered his drive over the bar from close range. It was a lovely move that deserved a goal.
Daventry’s threat in the first half came in general from counter attacks when Carlton lost possession from a free kick or corner, and one such break led to Carter Price being put clean through on goal but his weak shot was easily saved by Preston.
That was one of only a handful of occasions when the home side caused the Millers and difficulties in the first half. Instead, back came Carlton and when a Niall Davie free kick was returned to the midfielder, his cross was just missed by Opoku.
Dan Brown had to be alert to make a superb tackle from another Daventry counter attack before the Millers finally got the opening goal on 25 minutes. Opoku beat Ross Harris to an Davie Crossfield pass and as he rounded goalkeeper James Martin, Harris brought him down. It was a clear penalty and Maddison made no mistake, sending Martin the wrong way.
Sturgess then played a neat pass to Holmes, just inside his own half. He played a lovely ball to send Blake away. The striker looked second favourite to get the ball but he got ahead of Harris and, with Martin off his line, lifted the ball over the goalkeeper and agonisingly over the bar.
Still Carlton pushed forward. Holmes and Maddison were dictating play in midfield and the home side were struggling to handle to threat posed by Opoku and Watson in particular. Another Davie pass to Maddison saw the captain send Opoku away on the left. His angled drive drew a decent save from Martin.
From the resultant corner Daventry broke and only a fine tackle by Sturgess kept them away from goal. They had another counter attack shortly afterwards after Opoku and Blake saw a chance cleared and this time it was Brown who saw off the danger.
On the stroke of half time Carlton opened up Daventry again. Maddison and Blake combined on the right before Maddison sent Opoku down the right wing. His superb cross found Watson unmarked at the far post but he could only direct his header wide of target.
Carlton started the second half in much the same way. Watson fed Opoku who darted into the area before pulling the ball back to Maddison who took one touch too many and the chance was cleared.
Closer still went the Millers on 55 minutes when Holmes and Watson combined to prize open the Daventry defence. The former slipped the ball to Davie on the left and his wonderful cross was diverted onto the post by Harris with the goalkeeper grateful to see the ball rebound into his arms.
The second goal duly arrived two minutes later. Maddison and Blake moved the ball around before playing it to Opoku on the left. He cut through the defence before slipping the ball inside to Watson who rifled home from just inside the area, low to the goalkeeper’s right.
Shortly afterwards Davie was felled by Harris and had to go off injured, with James Matthews coming on and Maddison being moved to the left. The change seemed to disrupt the rhythm of the Millers albeit they were unlucky not to be awarded a second penalty when Martin seemed to upend Opoku.
Lawrence Gorman then fed Blake who beat Harris but fired wide.
Daventry though sensed they might get something out of the game if they could force a first goal for themselves. They pushed the Millers back but the defence held firm. Sturgess and Gorman had fine games in the wide defensive positions and were ably assisted by Preston, but Toby Moore and Brown were outstanding in the middle.
Brown cleared an effort from Taylor Orosz off the line and Sturgess headed a dangerous Orosz cross away from goal.
There were a couple of scrambles in the penalty area from long throw-ins and set pieces, but in the main Carlton looked comfortable and indeed Opoku had the ball in the net late on, albeit after the offside flag had been raised.
This was a fine display on an excellent surface with every member of the team contributing to win. The Carlton players left the field to generous applause from the very healthy travelling support who had thoroughly enjoyed what they had witnessed.
Carlton Town: K Preston, L Gorman, J Sturgess, D Brown, T Moore, J Holmes, N Watson, T Maddison, A Opoku, T Blake, N Davie (J Matthews 63). Unused substitutes: L Czerwak, K Sargent, D Thomas, J Steggles
Goals: Maddison 25 (pen), Watson 57
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM – Dan Brown