Holwell Sports strike late to earn Dunkirk draw

Former forward Ian Bitmead recalled his old goalscoring habits against Dunkirk EMN-170417-164401002
Former forward Ian Bitmead recalled his old goalscoring habits against Dunkirk EMN-170417-164401002

Ian Bitmead’s late equaliser earned Holwell Sports a deserved point on Saturday against an in-form Dunkirk side unbeaten since Christmas.

Holwell had been given an unexpected free scouting opportunity when Dunkirk played at Welby Road in midweek, winning the League Cup semi-final against Aylestone Park.

Holwell settled well, looking to take advantage of the wind at their backs, but control was difficult.

Hibbitt got his head to a floated free-kick to bring a good save from keeper Mitchell, while Tinsley also tried his luck from 30 yards, spotting the keeper off his line, but his shot went just over.

The hosts were winning possession well from their more fancied opponents, but poor control in the last third let them down.

Dunkirk used a high line, with keeper Mitchell deployed as a handy sweeper, but the conditions dictated play with both teams playing high up the park and compacting the midfield.

Holwell went closest on the half-hour when Hibbitt again headed down strongly from Chapman’s cross, but Mitchell turned the ball away at full stretch.

Chapman’s long-range effort brought another good save from Mitchell, while Jamie Witham kept Holwell on level terms with a great save low down to Smithson.

Holwell were rewarded for their endeavour four minutes before half-time when Dunkirk keeper Mitchell’s weak pass to his left-back fell short and Tinsley slammed the ball home.

But Dunkirk were level just a minute into the second half when Tom Berridge picked the ball up from the restart and was allowed a free run into the box. And with no challenges as defenders backed off, he poked the ball under Witham.

Dunkirk had their tails up and were quickly in front when Luke Smithson picked the ball up on the left and threaded a shot around Ridout and past an unsighted Witham into the left corner.

In seasons gone by Holwell would have fallen apart, but it was testament to the improvements made under manager John Webster this season that they rolled up their sleeves to get something back out of the game.

For most of the second half Holwell looked the more determined and the likelier scorers as the gusts spoiled the game as a spectacle.

Holwell pressed for the equaliser in the last 10 minutes and piled on the pressure which Dunkirk struggled to handle.

Brad Smith went close on 85 minutes and with a minute to go, the hosts got the goal that their second half reaction merited.

Witham sent a free-kick long from his own half to the edge of the box where Bitmead controlled, turned and slotted the ball under the advancing Mitchell.

Holwell: Witham, B. Smith, Ridout, Bitmead, Woodcock, Chapman, Hibbitt, Stevenson, Harris (Hazeldine), S. Smith (Foster), Tinsley.