Carlton Town 2-0 Chasetown (Northern Premier League Midlands Division) 02.04.22
Carlton Town produced a stunning second half comeback to beat title-chasing Chasetown 2-0 at Stoke Lane.
In a veritable game of two halves, perhaps only Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey thought the Millers might get something out of the match when the sides went in goalless at the break.
The Scholars had completely overwhelmed the Millers in a one-sided first half and only some wasteful finishing, heroic defending and a couple of superb saves from goalkeeper Shaun Rowley kept the scores level.
But a change of formation, some inspired substitutions and a complete about-turn on the pitch saw Carlton turn the game on its head and late goals from Aaron Opoku and Aaron O’Connor delivered a significant dent to Chasetown’s title hopes and kept Carlton’s slim play-off chances alive. It was in truth a fantastic afternoon’s entertainment for the very healthy crowd of 260, with an excellent home turn out boosted by a superb following from Staffordshire.
Harvey and Brookbanks made four changes from the side beaten at Corby last time out. In came Daniel Fletcher, Tom Maddison, Louis Czerwak and O’Connor. They replaced Tyler Johal, Toby Moore, Opoku and Tyler Blake. That meant Nat Watson started up front alongside O’Connor. It also meant a home debut for recent signing Ryan Tait.
Chasetown came into the match joint top of the table and on the back of some excellent recent results, including wins against Ilkeston and Halesowen. They were clearly intent on taking the three points back to the West Midlands and from the kick off had Carlton on the back foot.
As early as the eighth minute Benjamin Lund, who was a constant threat in that first half, beat Lawrence Gorman and Martin Ball on the left before cutting inside and striking a shot just over the bar.
Moments later the same player hit a dangerous cross which was well cleared by Dan Brown.
The Scholars attacked relentlessly. They overran the Millers in midfield and seemed at times to have an extra player on the pitch. The Carlton defence worked tirelessly to keep the visitors at bay as they constantly asked questions of the Carlton rearguard.
Just after the half hour Chasetown were awarded a free kick on the right. Jack Langston sent it to the near post where it was met by Lund who fired inches over the bar.
Kris Taylor then sent in a free kick to the far post where Daniel O’Callaghan found himself completely unmarked, but Rowley made an excellent stop from his header.
Still the visitors attacked and a fine passing move through the middle of the pitch saw Langston with a clear sight of goal but he pulled his shot wide from the edge of the box. It was a very good chance.
A quick move down the right involving Lund and Langston saw the ball only half-cleared and when it was crossed to the far post Joey Butlin looked certain to score only for Rowley to make a stunning point-blank save, clawing the ball away from the goal and out to safety. It was the key moment of the game and enabled the Millers to get to the dressing room on level terms and regroup.
It was noticeable that Carlton returned for the second half a good five minutes after Chasetown. Jared Holmes was brought on at half time to play alongside Maddison and they immediately added more presence to the midfield.
Although the visitors had the first effort of the half when Rowley made a good save from Liam Kirton, it soon became clear that Carlton were much more of a force on the pitch. Gorman hit a deep cross that was heading straight into the net before a smart save from Curtis Pond in the Chasetown goal, and soon afterwards the Millers earned their first corner of the game.
Although the Millers were now much more of a threat, Chasetown were still looking to create opportunities and only a superb Brown clearance kept a dangerous Kirton cross out of the goal area.
Carlton then brought on Opoku and pulled Watson back into midfield. It had an instant effect and O’Connor, who worked tirelessly all afternoon, suddenly looked reinvigorated. Indeed, within a minute of the change O’Connor drew a fine save from Pond.
Alex Howes, who like most of the midfield and forwards had been fairly anonymous in the first half, then imposed himself on the game to tremendous effect. He picked up a ball from O’Connor, ran into the area leaving defenders trailing and fired a shot which was deflected over the bar.
Watson then fed Howes on the right. He slipped past Jordan Evans, drew Pond but the angle was too narrow and he hit his shot into the side netting.
The Scholars countered and Butlin aliped the ball inside to Langston who curled a shot just wide of target.
Holmes then had to go off injured with Johal coming on for the final 13 minutes.
Martin Ball, who along with Gorman, Brown and Daniel Fletcher had a superb game, did very well to react to a clever through ball and clear the danger ahead of Butlin.
Fletcher then picked up the ball just inside the Carlton half. He threaded a lovely pass to O’Connor, who advanced into the area but was denied by an excellent block from Joshua Mansell. The ball fell to Johal who sent Howes away on the left. Howes looked up to check he was onside, sped down the win and then delivered a wonderful cross which was volleyed home by Opoku at the far post in front of the ecstatic home support. It was clear from his celebration that the goal meant a lot to the striker.
Chasetown made a couple of substitutions as they looked to get at least a late equaliser, but Carlton kept their shape and kept them at bay.
And with the clock on 89 minutes the Millers sealed the win with their second goal. Howes was fouled in the right wing position by Taylor. He took a short free kick to Watson on the edge of the box. Watson then danced around Evans, got to the goal line before pulling the ball back to O’Connor who rifled home at the near post to wrap up the three points.
Carlton Town: Rowley, Gorman, Fletcher, Brown, Ball, Maddison, Czerwak (Opoku 65), Tait (Holmes 46 (Johal 77)), Watson, O’Connor, Howes.
*Article provided by Sky Blue Miller.
*Main image @CTFC1904 Alex Howes receives his man of the match award from Lord Vernon Coaker.