East Midlands Counties League
Heanor Town 1
Radcliffe Olympic 1
A BRILLIANT 77th minute penalty save by Hadlee Dunn spoiled Nathan Benger’s 50th appearance for the Lions onWednesday night and salvaged a richly deserved point for the league’s bottom rungers.
Dunn was just one of the Radcliffe hero’s when he produced a tremendous fifth minute flying save at the expense of a fruitless corner from Benger’s sharp shot on the turn destined for the top corner.
And from that moment on, unchanged Heanor, who have only ever recorded one East Midlands Counties League win over their bogy opponents, knew that they had a battle on their hands.
Top versus bottom means very little when these two teams meet, particularly on the exceptional Town Ground playing surface where it is easy to play football.
Heanor enjoyed a storming start. Cancellara shot narrowly over the bar and Graham Wells, put through by Benger, managed to hit the bar when faced with an open goal.
Dunn beat out a sizzling shot from distance from Debrouwer but was powerless to stop Jake Vernon’s 14th minute header having run at least 20 yards to meet Benger’s cross to put Heanor ahead.
Benger headed over a splendid Foster cross on 22 minutes and then Heanor somehow seemed to lose their way.
Radcliffe got stronger, began to control midfield and pushed forward with, perhaps, more belief than past games if their league record is anything to go by.
They lost Bob Burton on half-an-hour, victim of a clash with one of his fellow defenders and John Boultby’s introduction seemed to galvanise Radcliffe even more.
They had shouts for a penalty turned down with neither the match referee nor assistant being impressed, but Ryan Smith shot narrowly over the top following another good move.
How much the visitors were on top at this stage could be well gauged by the fact that the normally vociferous Heanor crowd were silent and flat.
When Phil Austin failed to clear a corner and the ball fell invitingly for Liam Thompson to drill home from six yards two minutes into first half stoppage time was no more than the visitors deserved.
Heanor found it increasingly difficult to break down a solid visiting defence in the second half and also had to be wary of their ability to break from deep.
Even as the game wore on into its last third it didn’t open up and home efforts to retain their 100% record in front of their supporters turned to desperation.
Vernon got a header over Dunn but a defender was on hand to head off the line. Then Benger had two headers, one from a corner at the back stick that was wide and another from Vernon’s long throw saved by Dunn.
Vernon was sent clear on 68 minutes but, under pressure, shot wide and moments later at the other end Frost saved with his legs as Thompson judged a bouncing ball better than home skipper Peel to race clear.
If that was a golden opportunity to win it, Heanor spurned their best also.
From a 77th minute corner, the referee pointed to the penalty spot almost before the ball came down. There wasn’t an appeal from a Heanor player or from the noisy contingent who always congregate behind the Mayfield Avenue goal. It was awarded for shirt pulling, apparently, by Radcliffe skipper Wes Spencer.
If the decision looked harsh then Spencer’s yellow card for protesting his innocence looked even harsher. But Dunn, giving an inspired performance, brilliantly got his right hand to Benger’s driven spot kick towards the bottom corner to deflect the ball up onto the inside of the bar, then upright, and out. Vernon’s follow up shot hit the post and perhaps justice was done.
There was still time for Dunn to superbly save a Benger shot on the turn and for Adam Waddley to put a free kick just inches over the bar at the other end.
Heanor Town: Mark Frost, Jason Foster, Phil Austin, Ryan Cancellara, Brett Peel, Nico Degirolamo, Gary Webster, Kieran Debrouwer, Nathan Benger, Jake Vernon, Graham Wells. Substitutes not used – Danny Claridge, Lee Stevenson, Phil Lowey, George Walker, Craig Hopkins.
Radcliffe Olympic: Hadlee Dunn, Ben Elliott, Adam Waddley, Eddie West, Wes Spencer, Bob Burton (Jon Boultby 35), Ross Lawrence, Liam Thompson, Josh Royce, Ryan Smith, Kye Hall (Matt Gamble 89).
Referee: Kristian Silcock of Bolsover.
Yellow card: Wes Spencer (Radcliffe) 77 minutes.
Star Lion: Graham Wells.