Mickleover were unlucky as they fell to defeat against Stalybridge Celtic for the first time in their history, with the game ending 3-1 to the visitors.
All four goals came in a busy first half for both sides, as Stalybridge stormed into a 3-0 lead before Andrew Wright got a consolation back for the home side just before half time.
The game did not start very well for Mickleover, as the towering Stalybridge striker Marcus Dackers won a dubious penalty with just five minutes played. The referee initially said no penalty as it did look like there was very minimal contact, but the linesman changed the referee’s mind and the penalty was given, much to the bewilderment of Mickleover staff, players and fans. Dackers dusted himself off and coolly slotted the penalty into the bottom left corner to give The Celts an early lead.
Mickleover looked to respond through Andy Dales in the 17th minute, but his sweetly hit strike from distance was too close to Celts keeper William Huffer and he parried it away.
Stephen Brogan should have made it 2-0 in the 26th minute after Doyle chipped the ball through to him and put him one on one with Hawkins, but the keeper did very well to save the powerful strike.
Pablo Mills then had a goal bound header cleared off the line after 33 minutes following a free kick right next to the corner flag.
However, just three minutes later, it was 2-0 as Dackers utilised his tremendous height to rise high over his marker and head the ball into the far corner.
It then got worse for Sports, as barely a minute later Jake Burton was played in with acres of space on the edge of the penalty area and he just simply passed the ball into the far corner past the helpless Hawkins to make it 3-0.
Mickleover did then get a goal back five minutes before half time, as Mason Warren faked to shoot and played a lovely disguised pass through to Wright and he fired past the Stalybridge keeper to set up an intriguing second half. It was very much a deserved goal for Mickleover who were extremely unlucky to be three goals down.
Mickleover manager John McGrath made two subs at half time as he looked to build on Wright’s effort, Adam Haw and Declan Bacon were brought on for Kemy Augustien and Jordan Gough.
Mickleover started the second half well and thought they should have had a penalty in the 50th minute. Andy Dales made a trademark darting run inside and was fouled right on the edge of the box leading to the referee giving a free kick but the Mickleover players were claiming the foul was inside the box. This time, the referee stuck with his initial decision and no penalty was given and the resulting free kick was fired over the bar.
It was then quiet for 20 or so minutes with Mickleover having the majority of the ball but failing to turn their possession into chances until the 77th minute when Dales tried another long shot, but his excellent curling effort was saved at full stretch by Huffer.
It was then Hawkins’ turn to make a great save, following some good skill by Justin Johnson he sent a shot towards the bottom right corner, but Hawkins got down really well and somehow managed to turn it round the post.
Dempsey Arlott-John, who was introduced after 67 minutes, and Adam Haw, who was introduced at half time, both came on and made big impacts for Sports. In the 82nd minute Arlott-John put a beauty of a cross in with the outside of his boot, but Haw’s header was easily saved by Huffer.
The two then combined again in similar fashion, with Haw heading another good Arlott-John cross onto the post this time.
This was the last chance of the game as it ended 3-1 to Stalybridge and another home defeat for Mickleover.
Andy Dales and manager John McGrath were both seen in very animated conversation with the referee at full time, presumably about the two penalty decisions that did not go Mickleover’s way.
Despite the score line it was not a bad performance from Sports, and they played some good football, hopefully they will be able to turn their fortunes at home around against Grantham Town next weekend in the FA trophy.
Q: What are your thoughts on the match?
A: Apart from a dismal first 15-minute display from us defensively I thought we were very unlucky not to get anything out of the game. I think the ref, shall I say, had one of his off days. It was never a penalty for them in the first five minutes and the one in the second half on Andy Dales was about four/five yards inside the area. For the last 70 minutes our performances were excellent. We moved the ball really well and created loads of chances and on another day, we would’ve scored 3 or 4, it was just one of those games. Like I said, the performance I was really pleased with, but the result was obviously not great.
Q: What did you and Andy Dales say to the ref at full-time?
A: We spoke to him yea. He was really quick to go over to the linesman for their penalty and then the linesman didn’t help him out with the one on Dales and we showed the referee the footage and showed it was clearly in the box and it is disappointing that neither the ref nor linesman saw it. The linesman should have picked up on it and flagged like he did in the first half.
Q: What was the difference between the performances in yesterday's loss and last weekend's win?
A: I think we just gave ourselves a mountain to climb early on. You know, we were put under pressure last weekend, but we weathered the storm and stayed in the game. For us, it is important that we stay in games. They had three chances and scored three goals. We have a hatful of chances in the first half and a hatful of chances in the second and only score one goal. It comes down to the defending, but it is not just a back four thing. We are too cheap giving the ball up in possession. Becauyse we play such expansive, open football we are open to counter attacks when we give simple passes away. We need to go back to basics again and look forward to next Saturday.
Q: How far away are you from having a full squad back available?
A: Oh god! We welcomed back Dempsey Arlott-John on Saturday. He’s been out for six weeks and he is a massive boost, I thought he was excellent when he came on. We lost Lee Holmes 10 days ago and he has had a scan on his knee, and we will get the results on that this week. James Butler is probably a week away. It will be nice at some point to have a full strength starting 11 and a full-strength bench as well. It is vitally important that we get everyone back soon.
Q: How are you feeling about Saturday's game against Grantham Town in the FA Trophy?
A: I’m always confident about any game. I am excited to get back out there straight away. It is a nice break from the league. The FA Trophy is always a great competition to test ourselves in if we can progress and get a few clubs in the leagues above us. I think it is a great competition for the boys to showcase their talents. There will be no resting players and I will pick my strongest 11 for that game.