North West Counties First Division South: Eccleshall 1-2 New Mills AFC
A late Benito Lowe penalty ensured that the Millers brought all three points home from Pershall Park on Saturday, deservedly defeating a side that they had lost to twice already in the 2019/20 campaign.
The late strike provided a perfect response by Lowe to the home side and their supporters, who had attempted to unsettle him throughout the afternoon.
Following the midweek defeat to Belper Town in the Derbyshire Senior Cup semi-final, the Millers' joint bosses reverted to their preferred system. Harry Norris returned to the side in central defence, which freed up James Neild to move back into midfield. New signing Adam Muir took a place on the substitutes bench, with Norton dropping out of the matchday squad.
The Millers started well and should have been ahead early, Lowe heading wide from Pollard’s corner. Neild went close from 25 yards and Norris headed over the bar from another Pollard corner on the half-hour mark.
The home side fought back into the contest in the latter stages of the opening period. Their best efforts came on the counter attack and they went close on 40 minutes, with a low shot from 12 yards out going just wide of Dylan Forth's post.
The second half saw the Millers on the front foot once again. Elliot Cooke saw a shot blocked and Kyle Oakes' follow-up effort was scrambled away, while Neild saw the home goalkeeper make a fine save in tipping his 25-yard shot wide of the post.
On 55 minutes, the deadlock was broken by the hosts. Pollard swung in a corner which was headed goalwards by Norris, with the keeper gathering the ball and clearing quickly. Mason Fallon and Oakes misjudged the flight of the ball on halfway, leaving Luke Lewis with a clear run on goal and he made no mistake in slotting past Forth.
The visitors responded well and were level within five minutes. Pollard curled a free-kick into the area, Neild headed back across goal and Lowe made no mistake from two yards out.
Danny McLaughlin and Adam Gardiner were introduced for the Millers as they chased the three points, but they failed to take the opportunities, with Lowe heading over from a yard out when it seemed easier to score.
With time running out, Eccleshall had a chance to win the game themselves but saw a 40-yard volley bounce back off the crossbar into the grateful arms of Forth.
Just as it looked like the Millers would have to settle for a point from a game that they had dominated, a long clearance from Forth was chased into the area by Gardiner, who was challenged crudely by a defender.
The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Lowe made no mistake in slotting away the injury-time winner. T
here was still time for Lowe himself to pick up a yellow card for a defensive challenge, while Eccleshall saw themselves reduced to ten men following a ‘sin bin’ for dissent.
Overall, it was a good performance by Norton and Birch’s side and a deserved three points on the road.
Main image: Beth Lee