Improved Holwell Sports denied by late South Normanton winner

Holwell captain Michael Stevenson gets in a challenge against South Normanton EMN-160315-153018002
Holwell captain Michael Stevenson gets in a challenge against South Normanton EMN-160315-153018002
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Holwell turned in a much improved and more spirited performance in the East Midlands Counties League on Saturday despite another predictable loss to top four opposition.

Asked to show some steel by manager Simon Daws after last week’s drubbing at home to St Andrews, Holwell took to the field hoping to get a result against South Normanton.

Aaron Ridout keeps his eye on the ball against South Normanton EMN-160316-090819002

Aaron Ridout keeps his eye on the ball against South Normanton EMN-160316-090819002

They had pushed their opponents close in January’s reverse fixture when they should have at least returned with a point.

Graham Wells returned up front, but talisman Julian Joachim was unavailable, meaning Daws was again unable to field his strongest side.

Aaron Ridout went back to his main central defensive role alongside Hallam and Bitmead.

After a cagey opening, Holwell nearly took an 11th-minute lead when Cropper fed Grennan in midfield who in turn set Tom Harris free down the right. His low cross was met by Wells, but his attempt just evaded the right-hand post.

First half chances were few and it took 37 minutes for either side to fashion a decent chance when the industrious Tom Lewis played in Josh Thompson who wasted the chance for Normanton.

The visitors finished the half well on top as Purkis cleared off the line from Bartley, and then on the stroke of half-time Luke Crosby hit the post.

Holwell were under the cosh from the restart with Harris doing well to track back and make a last-ditch tackle on Lewis to concede a corner which the young winger then cleared off the line at the near post.

But the inevitable came on 52 minutes when Crosby used all of his strength to bundle the ball over the line at the back post from another corner.

Holwell rallied as the game came to life after a dull first half with a spell of good play midway through.

Daws had certainly got the reaction he wanted from his side, but the visitors still looked slightly stronger and Smith had a chance to extend the Shiners’ lead only to fire over when well-placed.

Holwell kept at it and their best move of the match followed as Freddie Daws won the ball in midfield and fed Harris. His intelligent ball allowed Grennan to break away and cross for Wells, but again the final effort went wide.

The home side stepped up the pressure as Holwell began to look the more dangerous and forced Normanton to defend.

And Holwell got their reward with 16 minutes left when a corner was cleared out to Colton Cropper. He slammed in a fierce shot from the edge of the box which smashed off the underside of the bar and over the line for a deserved equaliser.

South Normanton looked to their experienced players to salvage the win, but Holwell did well to stem the flow.

Yet the experience and greater strength finally won out for the visitors in the 80th minute when Crosby collected the ball on the edge of the box. As the hosts backed off, he was allowed to go past two defenders before sending an unstoppable left-foot shot low inside Harry Wood’s right-hand post.

Lewis was given a final chance to extend the lead, but Wood’s great save denied the visitors.