Carlton Town 4-1 Loughborough Dynamo (Northern Premier League Midlands Division) 16.10.21
A Kieran Knight hat trick helped Carlton Town to an emphatic 4-1 win against Loughborough Dynamo in a top-six clash at Stoke Lane.
But for some fine goalkeeping by visiting keeper Ruben Rabstein, the margin of victory could have been even greater as the Millers cemented their place in the chasing pack just behind leaders Halesowen Town.
As impressive as Knight’s treble was, the outstanding moment of the game was in fact the one goal he didn’t score, when Nat Watson’s stunning rabona-style cross completely flummoxed the Dynamo rear guard and set up Toby Moore for a simple header home. It was a piece of skill worth the admission price in itself, certainly for the home supporters in the 144 crowd.
There was also the hugely welcome sight of Martin Ball making his first start of the season following the major surgery he had earlier in the year. He was amongst four changes that managers Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey made to the side which had beaten Bedworth Utd last time out with Kieran Preston, Watson and Khyle Sargent also returning to the side. Making way were Jack Steggles, Moore, Jared Holmes and Louis Czerwak.
Loughborough featured ex-Millers Rob Norris and Danny Gordon in their squad and their management team featured another ex-Carlton player, Brad Munn. Amongst the crowd was Coalville Town’s Stuart Scott who served as physio under Brookbanks for both Carlton and Loughborough.
The opening period of the game was an even contest with Nat Watson going close for Carlton and the impressive Kevin Da Silva Bastos causing the home defence numerous problems. Daniel Fletcher picked up an early yellow card for a crude challenge on Bastos just outside the area.
On 18 minutes Sargent went close to opening he scoring when he beat Rabstein to a Fletcher cross but the ball dropped inches wide of the post.
Rabstein made his first excellent save on 24 minutes, tipping over a goal-bound Tyler Blake effort, while at the other end Dan Brown made one of a number of timely interceptions to thwart Bastos.
Carlton opened the scoring on 30 minutes when Niall Davie headed a Preston pass into the penalty. Tyler Blake, impressive all afternoon, was able to bring the ball under control despite the attentions of a number of Dynamo defenders and Knight steered home with precision from 12 yards.
Immediately after the goal Brookbanks and Harvey took off Fletcher, who was at risk of a second yellow, and brought on Moore, with Brown switching the left back.
Knight doubled the lead three minutes later when he dispossessed ex-Miller Danny Gordon and rounded Rabstein before tapping home with aplomb.
Courey Grantham reduced the deficit on 40 minutes when he fired home after a Bastos cross, but within a minute the Millers restored their two goal advantage thanks to Watson’s outrageous piece of skill and Moore’s predatory instinct.
Loughborough should have scored on the stroke of half time when Grantham went clean through on goal but the striker fired wide and that was more or less the last moment of genuine threat from the visitors.
In the second half Carlton by and large controlled proceedings, with Ball, Moore and Tom Maddison excellent in the middle and Lawrence Gorman and Brown dealing with the wide threat. Certainly Bastos, who had been a major threat in the first half, struggled to get into the game in the second period.
Knight had an early opportunity for his hat trick just two minutes into the second half but shot flew wide after what seemed to be a bobble. Watson also saw an effort go wide of the target before Dynamo’s task was made harder on 67 minutes when Gordon, having come on as a substitute in the first half, was sent off for a second yellow card.
Substitute Alex Steadman did force Preston to make a fine near post save shortly afterwards when Loughborough attacked down the left.
Czerwak, on for Watson, ran through on the left after Knight flicked on a Preston pass but his effort sailed just wide of goal. Knight himself then picked up a Brown throw in, turned his man and hit a delicious shot from the edge of the box that drew a superb save from Rabstein.
With five minutes left Blake left the field to generous applause for a sterling game and there was the additional welcome sight of Aaron Opoku back in a Carlton shirt after a period of injury.
Two minutes later Knight bagged his hattrick with a touch of fortune. Knight had sent Czerwak clean through on goal but Rabstein made yet another super save. The loose ball fell to Knight and although his follow-up shot was on target, it looked to be heading straight towards the goalkeeper until a deflection wrong-footed him and gave the Carlton striker his first treble for his new club.
Rabstein made yet more excellent saves from Knight and Louis Czerwak but the Millers finally secured the victory with three minutes remaining. Rabstein saved a one-on-one chance from Czerwalk, but when Czerwak played the ball to Knight his shot took a deflection to wrong-foot the goalkeeper and wrap up the points.
There was still time for Maddison to head a Knight cross over the bar with the goal gaping but the win was secured and at the final whistle the players enjoyed generous applause from the home support.
Loughborough too brought a good number of fans to the game and they were a credit to their team, always getting behind them and generous in defeat at the end.
Carlton Town: Preston, Gorman, Fletcher (Moore 31), Ball, Brown, Maddison, Watson (Czerwak 76), Sargent, Knight, Blake (Opoku 85), Davie.
*Article provided by Sky Blue Miller.
*Main image @SteveMack2017 club legend Martin Ball is congratulated by Tommy Brookbanks.