Carlton Town 2-0 Sutton Coldfield Town (Northern Premier League Midlands Division) 07.08.21
Carlton Town produced a dazzling display as they beat Sutton Coldfield Town 2-0 at Stoke Lane.
In addition to the goals, which arrived in the final quarter hour of the game courtesy of Aaron Opoku and Louis Czerwak, the Millers hit the woodwork twice, saw one shot volleyed clear off the goal line and saw visiting goalkeeper Lewis Gwilliams pull of a string of top draw saves.
Whilst in general it was one-way traffic, mention should also be made of the Millers defence who kept their opponents at bay for most of the game, and of goalkeeper Kieran Preston who made a couple of fine saves of his own to prevent what would have been an absolute travesty had the Royals left the Bill Stokeld stadium with anything at all.
All in all, it was magnificent entertainment for the fine midweek crowd of 141. It was also a fourth straight win and a fourth straight clean sheet for the unbeaten Millers who now site third in the table with a game in hand on Halesowen and Ilkeston above them.
Managers Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey made just two changes to the side which had gone out of the FA Cup against Stratford Town in the previous game. In came Preston and Tom Maddison for Jack Steggles and Khyle Sargent.
The Millers tore into the Royals from the kick off. In just the second minute Opoku created space for himself on the edge of the box and rifled a powerful drive which beat Gwilliams but struck the post.
Minutes later Maddison, playing further forward with Holmes sitting in front of the defence, slipped a pass to Watson. He played one of his trademark delightful passes to put Opoku into the penalty area. The striker held off Harry Eden before hitting a near post shot which Gwilliams did well to keep out.
Next it was Niall Davie’s turn. He ran at Dalmar Morrison before crossing to Watson who adjusted his feet and hit a goalbound effort from 12 yards that was somehow volleyed off the line by Alex Smith. It was a magnificent saving clearance in what was a breathless opening 10 minutes.
Carlton continued to push forward with sharp incisive passing across the midfield causing Sutton all sorts of problems. Next to go forward was Tyler Blake. He beat Smith before slipping the ball to Maddison who was fouled on the edge of the box. Up stepped Davie who hit a peach of a free kick that once again beat the goalkeeper but crashed against the crossbar. All this inside the first 15 minutes of the game.
The Royals gathered themselves and had their first attempt three minutes later when Eden’s shot from the left drew a fine save from Preston.
But back came Carlton with Lawrence Gorman darting down the right wing, finding Watson who always seems to have an extra yard of space. He played yet another delightful ball, this time to Davie whose first time drive from just outside the area missed the target by inches.
Still there was more – Opoku ran onto a through ball, shrugged off the attentions of Smith to go clear at goal but hit his shot wide of the goal.
After such an exhilarating opening 25 minutes the game calmed down as the visitors got a foothold in proceedings. That they failed to create a great deal in this part of the game was due in the main to fine shielding by Holmes and excellent work by Toby Moore and Dan Brown in the middle, and Gorman and Tyler Johal at full back.
Carlton still posed a threat of course and next to have a go was Maddison whose shot was deflected over the bar for a corner. From Watson’s flag kick Gorman saw a powerful shot blocked by Desean Martin.
Sutton broke immediately and with pace and only a fine tackle from Brown prevented a clear sight of goal for them.
But the one-way traffic resumed again. Holmes and Opoku combined to send Johal away on the left. His dangerous cross was cleared by a deflection with forwards running in to pounce.
Blake then slipped a pass to Opoku whose slick backheel gave Davie the opportunity to shoot again. He did with another vicious 25-yard effort that saw Gwilliams make a super save again.
Half-time came and went and the second half started in exactly the same fashion. Opoku fed Blake who lifted the ball over the bar from 12 yards barely 30 seconds after the restart.
Carlton were then awarded a drop ball on the edge of the box. Watson flicked to Maddison on the right inside the area but his shot lacked power.
Johal then played a lovely ball to Opoku who turned Morrison before squaring to Davie who hit another fierce effort from outside the area only to see Gwilliams dive to his left and make yet another excellent save.
The Millers seemed understandably to lose a little of their energy as the half progressed and Sutton did have a couple of chances of their own, with Maxwell Brogan firing just over the bar and Holmes clearing a deep cross off the goal line.
By then Brookbanks and Harvey had made the first of what turned out to be two pivotal substitutions, with Tolani Omotola replacing Blake. Immediately after Holmes’s clearance Czerwak replaced Watson. The ability to replace two players of such quality with two equally able substitutes perhaps illustrates the strength in depth the Millers enjoy at the moment.
Three minutes after that second substitution Carlton were ahead. Omotola made a nuisance of himself on the left and won a corner. Davie sent it over and when the ball looped into the air following the combined efforts of Moore and James Beresford, Opoku was on hand to dive forward and power home an unstoppable header of his own.
The home supporters behind the goal erupted and seven minutes later Czerwak wrapped up the win. It was Czerwak himself who started the move that led to the goal, picking up the ball on the edge of the Carlton penalty area and running 30 yards looking as if he was going to take on the whole Sutton team. Instead, he played the ball left to Maddison who in turn sent Davie away down the left. He sped past Morrison before playing a lovely cross to Opoku. His header was blocked but the ball fell kindly to Czerwak who had continued his run and he was rewarded when his first time shot flew low into the net.
Preston was called upon to make one final excellent save in added time, diverting a headed effort from a corner away from goal, before the referee signalled the end of what was a superb performance from the home side. They left the field to a richly deserved ovation from the Millers faithful.
Carlton Town: K Preston, L Gorman, T Johal, D Brown, T Moore, J Holmes (D Elliott 80), N Watson (L Czerwak 74), T Maddison, A Opoku, T Blake (T Omotola 69), N Davie.
*Article provided by Sky Blue Miller.
*Main image @stevemack2017 the Carlton Town managerial team celebrate their win.