Nailers add to Northwich woes
By David Laughlin
Three years ago to the day, Northwich Victoria were celebrating a famous televised FA Cup victory over Charlton Athletic at a packed Victoria Stadium in the Northwich suburb of Wincham.
Northwich defender, Joe Guest handles the ball on the line, but not seen by the match officials (Photo: Tim Harrison)
Wayne Riley’s strike, nine minutes from time had sent the Vics supporters into ecstasy and the future indeed looked rosy for arguably Cheshire’s finest non league club
Wind the clock forward to the half-deserted terraces at Stafford Rangers’ Marston Road stadium, Vics’ current temporary home, and it is no wonder that their dwindling band of supporters can hardly believe what has happened to their illustrious club.
Only 91 hardy souls, including probably half of them from Belper, watched as Vics’ demise was illuminated in the clearest possible way as the Nailers dominated the opening 45 minutes, with the hosts showing little of the passion and belief that their much-suffering supporters should have rightly expected.
Indeed, the Nailers task would have been made much easier than it was, had the referee and linesman spotted a clear 2nd minute goal-line handling offence by Joe Guest from a Jared Stephens header, which would have meant an early departure for the Vics defender.
An early Simon Harrison shot was blocked by Vics’ keeper, Ryan Robinson in a bright Belper opening before the missed handling offence exercised the vocal chords of the Belper players, who were claiming an injustice of the highest order.
Shaun Tuton continually tormented the Vic defence in the opening half and it was no surprise when he latched onto Colin Marrison’s head down to drill the ball into the net after 32 minutes.
Minutes later, he had a glorious opportunity to add to his tally but his first touch was slightly heavy and his chip over the ‘keeper from a narrow angle just cleared the crossbar.
Northwich winger, Lee Dodgson then deserved a better reward after some intricate footwork took him through a host of defensive challenges but his final shot flew just wide as Northwich eventually started to make inroads into the game.
A double substitution just after the interval eventually sparked Vics into life and for 20 minutes, the hosts gave the Nailers defence a stern examination
The Nailers enjoyed some welcome good fortune after an excellent Northwich passing move, the ball found its way to Joe Guest who saw his goal-bound shot deflected over the bar.
That had been a clear warning for Belper but under increasing pressure from the hosts, the Nailers succumbed to an equalising goal after 64 minutes when Michael Connor powered in a header from a pinpoint cross from substitute Chris McDonagh.
But this Belper team is made of sterner stuff nowadays and they refused to buckle whilst their quick counter-attacks continually stretched the home defence.
From one such move in the 75th minute, Shaun Tuton bustled his way through the middle of the Vics defence before laying the ball off to Jared Stephens who in turn found Nailers substitute, Richard Stirrup who was able to walk the ball into the net.
Vics were reduced to nine men when Christian Peach received a second caution and Joe Guest a harsh straight red for a challenge on Shaun Roulston, although his earlier handling offence meant he was on borrowed time anyway.
Vics misery was further compounded following the match when manager, Andy Mutch and his assistant, Adriano Rigoglioso, resigned their positions - another body blow for a club striving for stability and for their long-suffering supporters.
Northwich Victoria: Robinson, Carr (McDonagh 51), Guest, Henry, Hardiker, Mercer, Toner (Murray 47), Peach, Luby, Connor, Dodgson. Other subs. Mooney, Nolan, Spotswood.
Belper Town: Ratcliffe, Pride, Wright, Marrison, Roulston, Colley, Harrison, Warne, Stephens (Ward 75), Tuton, Rushbury (Stirrup 65). Other subs: Deakin, Adams, Froggatt.
Referee: Alan Sarginson (Hednesford)