The Anchors started their 2018-19 campaign with a tough away trip to last seasons 3rd place side Shildon AFC. Manager Micky Dunwell selected a 3-5-2 formation against the much fancied Railwaymen at Dean Street. New signings Pete Bulmer and Mikey Roberts made their League debuts, Max Craggs made the bench as he continues his comeback, Jordan Robinson and Fred Woodhouse missed out with injuries.
The Anchors started a little nervously in the hot sunshine and had to work hard to try and deny Shildon. Shildon were well drilled and played it out from the back taking lots of touches. With Stockton sitting a little deep Shildon got some joy and space to play in. Robson on the left saw a lot of the ball and created one or two dangerous opportunities however the first real effort at goal came on 6 minutes when Stockton’s Nathan Mulligan played the ball into Coleman who’s neat touch and flick found Ward running beyond him but his volleyed effort was high and wide
However the Ralwaymen were still in the ascendancy and a right wing cross from Blackford on 10 mins was deflected by the fingertips of Arthur only for it to drop to Waters just inside the box, Arthur did superbly to get across and block his half volleyed effort at what was an open goal an excellent block by Coulthard and a great clearance on the stretch by Jake Petitjean as substitute Hird was about to pull the trigger were high points as the Anchors defence battled hard to keep Shildon at Bay, in between those efforts Peter Bulmer’s first raid down the right saw a nice move end with his cross being met by a soaring leap from Sonni Coleman but his downward header couldn’t beat Newbrook as he saved low down. Both sides were pushing now and Risbrough and Bulmer started to get into the game for Stockton as the team grew more comfortable with the shape and they started to cause the odd problem for the Railwaymen. Mikey Roberts had a great chance on the stroke of half time to put the Anchors into the lead but after a great turn and touch his shot was a little scuffed and Newbrook collected comfortably
Stockton started the second half on the offensive but was Shildon who took the lead on 47 minutes through Jack Blackford after the Ref inexplicably gave a foul against Stockton they switched off and allowed the ball to be played quickly upfield to BLACKFORD who skipped past two defenders and found himself free in the box wide of the goal and managed to poke the ball into the far corner beyond Arthur.
The Anchors responded well and Jimmy Ward worked a shooting chance but missed the target, Coulthards cross field pass to Risbrough was laid off to Adam Nicholsons and his dangerous cross was met by Sonni Coleman but he didn’t make enough contact and the ball flicked away wide of the far post. Stockton were getting more and more possession but couldn’t find the final ball or decisive shot on goal. The best move came on 62 minutes when Roberts, Ward and Bulmer all linked up to play in Coleman whos shot went over the bar. The Anchors were really pressing now and Bulmer intercepted a cross field pass on 71 minutes and cut inside but his left footed shot from the edge of the box was straight at the keeper.
The equaliser finally came in the 81st minute Adam Nicholson won the ball back well on the half way line and Jimmy Ward sent Roberts through for another attack just as it looked like the defender Heywood had it covered the ball ran clear and ROBERTS slid in and smashed it past the keeper for a deserved equaliser.
The Anchors had one more opportunity before the end when Chris Stockton was fed by Mikey Roberts but he couldn’t direct his shot on goal. FT 1-1
Great start for The Anchors especially taking the game to Shildon most of the second half. The defence looked really solid in the 3-5-2 and the tireless Mikey Roberts worked the Shildon back line for the full 90 minutes. Both wing backs were in the game a lot and in the second half drove the team forwards. ‘Munchie’ Risbrough took the man of the match for his quality in the opposition half and willingness to get up and down but overall, a few bits of rust aside, it was a satisfying first day back to work for Michael Dunwell and his men.