Stockton Town FC v Dunston FC
Stockton made it 4 wins from the last 5 games tonight with another excellent performance against the Division 1 'form side'. Coulthard, Mulligan (D), Roddam, Woodhouse were all missing and although back into full rehab now skipper Adi Nicholson is still several weeks away from being considered. Chris Stockton made his first start for over a month on the back of a hat trick performance in the last game.
Dunston started quickly and were keen to put the ball in the channels for the pacy Fitzpatrick to chase and this set a high tempo for the game which suited both sides. Dunston had the first effort which brought a neat save by Arthur down to his right on 4 mins, but generally Cossavella and Poole were coping fine in defence.
Stockton got into the game after 20 mins when Colemans overhead kick just snuck past the far post and then Owens crashing header was tipped onto the bar and looked like it was going in when it hit the keeper on the back and bounced towards the goal only for the keeper to grab it just in time.
The Anchors were flying now and opening up Dunston at will, it was no surprise when they went ahead on 33 mins when Hayes produced a great finish after a slick move involving Craggs and Owens, check out the match photos for the now standard Kev Hayes back flip celebrations. The game was being played at such a pace now and Dunston had an opportunity to equalise but Heslops shot missed the target. Stockton increased their lead on 37 mins when Carter and Hayes linked up down the right and the overlapping Carter was fed in with a disguised pass and burst into the box and slid it under the advancing keeper.
Stockton conceded, disappointingly, just before half time when Thear was allowed to drift in from the right pick up the loose ball and fire one in low at the near post from 16 yards
Dunston had obviously had a 'gee-up' at half time and the goal on the stroke of the interval gave them heart and they hustled and bustled but met a solid defensive wall, which when they did breach it they found Arthur continuing where he left off on Saturday with solid saves and clearing his lines efficiently.
However Stockton were creating the better chances on the break and the crowd were on their feet again when Hayes cut in from the right and struck a curling left foot shot which rippled the net but unfortunately on the wrong side of it. Dunston were struggling to cope with Stockton Towns pace and movement now and it came as no surprise when after 54mins they went 3-1 up through Chris Stockton (cue the cries of stocko's on fire!!) this was Stocko's 100th senior goal for the club, a great personal achievement for him. The goal was well worked as the ball was moved from one side of the box to the other and Max Craggs showed great feet to get around the defender and slip it to his left into the path of the onrushing Stockton who lashed it home in between the keeper and the near post.
Dunston had their moments and pushed really hard in the second half to get back into the game including 2 or 3 dangerous free kicks and Fitzpatrick was an ever present threat however Stockton’s back line of Carter, Cossavella, Poole and Ward were in defiant form and denied Dunston the space they required. Arthur backed it all up with another superb display between the sticks. Owens went close with a back heel flick and just missed the rebound from a Coleman header which the keeper parried but couldn't kill the game off for Stockton, however it proved to be enough and the Anchors march on towards Seaham on Saturday brimming with confidence and with another 3 points in the bank.
They're giving the manager a right headache now as everyone seems to be hitting form together and enjoying their football after a difficult first month in this League. Difficult to pick a MoM again with so many great individual performances. Kev Hayes just seems to get better every game, he's worth the entrance fee on his own and Joe Carter has been superb at full back. Seems odd with all the brilliant attacking play but after a few defensive issues this season preference is for Al Cossavella for his second excellent performance in 4 days after hardly any game time since mid August.