Holwell Sports beaten but unbowed at high-flying South Normanton

Holwell Sports captain Michael Stevenson was outstanding against South Normanton EMN-160126-162337002
Holwell Sports captain Michael Stevenson was outstanding against South Normanton EMN-160126-162337002
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Another tough outing for Holwell, but the team can be pleased they pushed fourth-placed hard and with some luck and quality could have come home with a share of the points.

Kicking up the slope for the first half at Lees Lane was always going to be tough against a side adept at using the it to turn the Holwell defence.

But just as they did a week before, slick interplay nearly brought the opener after four minutes as Holwell intelligently worked the ball from right to left. Harris, Barnard then Joachim combined to feed Cropper on the left who fashioned an opening for Graham Wells which the striker put agonisingly past the near post.

But the home side controlled the first half as they used the long ball tactic to get behind the visitors’ defence where Bitmead and Hallam did very well to control the runs of Tom Lewis.

Harry Wood made a great save low to his right-hand post as Mark Strzyzewsk shot through a crowded goalmouth. The keeper was called on again twice in quick succession as Holwell conceded two free-kicks on the edge of the box through last-ditch defending.

The tide was one way, but for all their possession, the Shiners were wasteful in front of goal.

Michael Stevenson was outstanding in midfield, supported by Joachim, and Holwell seemed to have a better balance with Cropper and Purkis linking well on the left.

But the hosts went ahead seven minutes from the break when Lewis’ free-kick from the left edge of the box cleared the wall and found the gaping net to the right of the keeper.

Still in the game at half-time, Holwell could look forward to using the slope to their advantage, but the hosts started the second half strongly.

Without Bitmead and Barnard, who cleared off the line, the visitors could have found themselves two down within minutes.

Yet Holwell began to impose themselves as the home defence resorted to rash tackling to stop the runs of Wells and Stevenson’s through balls.

The referee had a long think when Danny Roberts fouled Stevenson and after consulting his assistant issued only a yellow card when a red seemed possible.

Cropper was given a half-chance on 65 minutes when the ball was presented to him at the back post, but took too long to control it and was forced off injured by another strong defensive tackle.

Harris saw a lot of the ball on the right as Stevenson used his pace as a good outlet for crossed into the middle, but chances were not taken. As the game wore on, Holwell’s threat grew as did supporters’ hopes of a point.

South Normanton replaced the lively Lewis with Luke Crosby and took off centre-forward Mark Strzyzewsk after he missed an open goal.

But Crosby used his physical presence to impose himself on the rest of the game and became the hosts’ most involved player.

His hard work and running paid off when he collected the ball and ran unchallenged at Holwell’s defence and slipped the ball under the advancing Wood to wrap up the points.