Blaby & Whetstone Ath. 1
Heanor Town 3
TWO late goals kept Heanor Town at the top of the table after the home side had Andrew Morris sent off in a bruising encounter at Warwick Road.
Phil Austin and Jake Vernon returned to the Lions starting line-up and Adam Kay, back from a summer working abroad, made his first appearance of the season.
It was obvious from the start that Blaby had done their homework and they were going to make it very hard for the Lions. Their physical approach was something the Lions had not encountered before this season.
Heanor might have had an eleventh minute lead but Benger was penalised for a foul on the goalkeeper. Then Debrouwer’s intelligent quick free kick sent Foster down the flank but the opening was wasted when the full back overhit his cross.
The fiercely competitive home side defended in depth but also suffered cautions for Morris and Inson in the space of a few seconds. Moments later Morris could perhaps consider himself more than a trifle fortunate to still be on the field after leaving Jason Foster in a crumpled heap which the referee saw as nothing more than competitive.
Despite being on top for long periods Heanor found the packed home defence difficult to break down, and the game’s first chance did not arrive until Benger sent Vernon clear on 34 minutes, but the striker’s first touch was too heavy and his second toe poked the ball wide.
The breakthrough finally came five minutes before the break. It needed to be good, and it was. JASON FOSTER received the ball wide right, cut inside and hit a delicious 25-yard shot into the top corner.
And before the break home goalkeeper Hall dealt with a stinging Debrouwer drive and then watch Jake Vernon shoot narrowly wide.
Blaby began the second half even more determined and Frost was called into action for the first time. Moments into the second half Read tested him with a low shot and then Gunn shot wide.
But it was really sloppy defending and a total misunderstanding between Kay, Peel and Frost that allowed Read to slip the ball across goal for Clinton Gunn to tap in the leveller on 55 minutes.
After this Heanor began to play a bit. They got the ball down and their excellent passing and smart running into space put the fear into Blaby they had tried to snuff out by other methods.
Benger hammered a shot on the turn over the bar and Hall saved splendidly from Debrouwer as he raced clear.
Blaby’s cup began to run over and in quick succession the mouthy Gunn was buttoned with a caution and Morris was dismissed for what many thought to be his third bookable offence of his 65 minute appearance.
Rather surprisingly, it appeared that the sending off rejuvenated Blaby who began to play some of their best football of the game, but they were only allowed to threaten on the break.
Debrouwer was inches wide with another stinging drive and Heanor won a number of corners, two of which Jason Foster came close to scoring from direct.
Read got himself into a good position in front of goal and might have won it for the home side on 77 minutes but Frost saved splendidly and Heanor resumed on the attack.
Time was running out when a long throw in from Jake Vernon was catapulted home by Nico Degirolamo with five minutes left to bring great relief to Heanor’s large following of supporters who easily made up most of the gate.
When Matthews barged over Jake Vernon in the penalty area with three minutes of stoppage time on the watch Nathan Benger ensured the points would all be going back to Heanor from the penalty spot with his 14th league goal of the season.
Blaby & Whetstone Athletic: Luke Hall, Elliott Dalton, Mitchell Warner, Jordan Wakelin, Mick Matthews, Phil Inson (Leon Doughty 68), Tom Orton, Andrew Morris, Liam Read, Clinton Gunn, Adam Blanchard (Declan Cox 80). Substitutes not used – Adam Turner, Adam Hart.
Heanor Town: Mark Frost, Jason Foster, Phil Austin, Adam Kay (Danny Claridge 66), Brett Peel, Nico Degirolamo, Gary Webster, Keiran Debrouwer, Nathan Benger, Jake Vernon, Lee Stevenson. Substitutes not used – Julian Capuano, Graham Wells, James Whitehead, Sean Pickworth.
Referee: Abbas Khan of Leicester
Star Lion: Jason Foster
Goals: Blaby – Clinton Gunn (55). Heanor – Jason Foster (40), Nico Degirolamo (85), Nathan Benger (90+3) penalty.
Yellow cards: Blaby – Andrew Morris (24), Phil Inson (25), Clinton Gunn (64).
Red card: Blaby – Andrew Morris (65 – second yellow).