FOOTBALL: Ilminster Town grab a late equaliser
ILMINSTER Town battled back from 2-0 down to gain a share of the spoils in their Somerset County League Premier Division match on Saturday (January 6, 2018) away at fellow mid-table side Nailsea United.
The Blues were relieved to have got some match action under their belts as the game only got given the go-ahead following an early morning pitch inspection.
Ilminster were well rested after their extended winter break having not played for three weeks since their League Cup defeat at Shirehampton, although you would have to go back to November 25, 2017, since they were in league action when they lost a seven-goal thriller at home again against Shirehampton.
With captain Jonny May out with what seems like a long-term knee injury, Brad Miles suspended and both Doug Whitfield and top scorer Taylor Jefferson unavailable, 16-year-olds Mitch Hooper and Kieran Manley were both added to the squad.
The pitch was playable, but very heavy and that made playing a short passing game almost impossible.
Nailsea started well and playing up the hill took the lead on five minutes. Ross Probert brought the ball out on the right of the defence before playing a perfectly weighted pass to find Adam Marsden who in turn played an accurate ball into the middle where Sam Olsen made no mistake to slot the ball home.
Charlie Rutter had a good chance to bring the score level but could not sort his feet out when through on goal.
Nailsea increased their lead when good closing down by Sam Olsen gave him the opportunity to slip the ball to Luke Penberthy on the left who surged forward before releasing a shot which beat Chris May just inside the far post.
A change of formation followed for the Blues and after sustained pressure they were rewarded when Tom Sullivan was brought down for a penalty with Jefferson missing, Jack Male stepped up and made no mistake dispatching his penalty in the bottom corner before the half-time interval.
The second period, just like the first, was evenly contested with Nailsea perhaps shading the first 20 minutes, but with the pitch cutting up and the heavy surface stopping any interchanging of passes in midfield Ilminster began to get on top.
Chris Nezianya done well on his first start of the season to last an hour and with Rich Crabb and debutant Kieran Manley, who replaced Sullivan, bringing fresh legs to the midfield the Blues started to really dominate, as they searched for an equaliser.
Adam Male was close with a header, but with the clock ticking down and 87 minutes showing it was Karl Davis on the left who put in a high cross into the box, Rutter challenged the keeper who failed to clear and Jack Male was on hand to half volley the ball into the net from ten yards, to spark wild celebrations from the Ilminster players as he won his side a valuable away point.
Jack Male worked really hard in the heavy conditions. The young midfielder knows that he needs to add goals to his game to be a real top player and he certainly started 2018 well by scoring his first and second goals of the season to deservedly take the man of the match award.
Ilminster Town team: Chris May, Luke Paul, Karl Davis, Adam Male, Jake Woodard, Ben Pitman, Brad Pitman,Jack Male, Tom Sullivan,Chris Nezianya, Charlie Rutter (C). Subs used: Kieran Manley, Rich Crabb and Mitch Hooper.
The Blues are back at home on Saturday (January 13, 2018) at the Archie Gooch Pavilion with a 2pm kick-off against the runaway league leaders Chilcompton which should be a good test for the young team.