Holwell edge home in an eight-goal thriller

Guard of honour for Michael Stevenson at the beginning of the game. EMN-190429-135316002
Guard of honour for Michael Stevenson at the beginning of the game. EMN-190429-135316002
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Holwell signed out with aplomb in an eight goal thriller at the end of their 2018-19 campaign.

After giving Michael Stevenson a guard of honour in his last home match for Holwell after 15 years of sterling service to the club, Holwell went on to complete their first foray into the United Counties League Division One by beating sixth placed Lutterworth Athletic 5–3 in a thrilling match.

Beaten by Melton on Monday having given a good account of themselves, the Howell players were in good fettle for this final home match as they made a special day of it for Michael.

A strong wind made it difficult to control the ball, with Howell trying to use the conditions to their advantage in the first half with balls over the top for their front runners to chase.

Ross Cragg had the first opportunity for Holwell on 12mins. Picking up the ball in midfield, he advanced well towards the visitors goal before unleashing a shot from 20 yards which flew just over the bar.

But it was Lutterworth who broke the deadlock on 22mins as a mistimed clearance fell straight to Barnes Gladman, who turned and shot high past Ben Challis in the Holwell goal.

Holwell hit back immediately and Lutterworth keeper Grant Hartley had to look smart to turn away a goal-bound shot from youngster James Rushden.

But, from the resulting corner, Stevenson found captain Bitmead at the back post who restored parity, smashing in for the equaliser two minutes after Lutterworth’s opener.

Lutterworth stepped up their game for the next period, playing neat passing football to try and break down the home defence.

On 34mins, Gladman managed to beat the offside trap to run on one on one with Challis and slot the ball passed the advancing keeper to put the visitors back in front.

Again it was a shortlived lead, as Holwell were back level again within two minutes,Stevenson crossing into the box for Shaun Smith to smash an unstoppable shot high to the left of the keeper.

Rushden put Holwell in front on the stroke of half time, pouncing on a defensive error to fire the home side into the lead.

There was a fear Holwell might get caught square at the back in the second half as Lutterworth chased the game, with Munton coming close on a couple of occasions.

Against the run of play at the time, Matt Hendey put the home side further in front on 66mins, cutting in from the left after another good run and cross field pass by Shaun Smith.

David Hazeldine came close to extending Holwell’s lead as he unleashed a stinger of a shot which Hartley again did well to parry away.

Lutterworth were far from beaten and pressed in the final 20 minutes as they chased the game. Stephan Bjelic gave them hope, scoring in the 86th minute.

Then, to conclude a pulsating match, the man of the day Michael Stevenson showed just why the Holwell faithful have revered him for the last 15 years as he cut open the Lutterworth defence with surgical precision to send Shaun Smith free two minutes into added time. The youngster showed great confidence, finishing well to win the match for Holwell 5–3.

It was a result which lifted Holwell another two places up the table to 14th, a creditable finish when you consider the upheaval and struggles Holwell have encountered in this their first year of UCL football.