Hot-shot Benger is the hero yet again

Action from the game between Holbrook Sports and Heanor Town on Saturday.
Action from the game between Holbrook Sports and Heanor Town on Saturday.

East Midlands

Counties League

Holbrook Sports 2

Heanor Town 3

Heanor Town kept their title hopes on track thanks to Nathan Benger’s late winner, but they were pushed all the way by a Holbrook side who had lost at the O’Kra only once this season.

The Brookies, who had taken a vital two points off fellow challengers Borrowash in midweek, produced another top form performance but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

There was plenty of effort but not much goalmouth action until Jason Foster fired a free-kick wide for Heanor on the quarter-hour mark, before the same player’s 18th minute corner was headed back across goal by skipper Brett Peel for Benger to volley home from six yards and open the scoring.

Two minutes later Lee Stevenson was set up by a Stef Frost run but shot wide.

Tom Bartram produced a splendid run for Holbrook and from his pass Neil West made a smashing save from Sam Ridgard’s shot.

The game was interesting, exciting, and full blooded and end to end.

Josh Royce fired wide following a throw-in, whilst a poor clearance from West almost presented Holbrook with an equaliser when the ball was returned in and the goalkeeper had to redeem himself by pushing Bartram’s shot round the post. From the resultant corner West punched clear but Emike Ejiofor thundered his volley over the bar.

Phil Austin wasted a good free-kick opening for Heanor after 33 minutes and in the last five minutes of a most competitive first-half the Lions should have initially made more of some great control by Jake Vernon, and secondly Frost should have put away a splendid cross from Gary Webster which Lillie managed to deflect for a fruitless corner.

The action after the break was just as keen as Heanor resumed on the attack with Lillie touching over a Foster free-kick.

But it was Heanor’s defensive frailties which showed up again in the 54th minute when a huge clearance from Lillie was latched onto by Ejiofor to lob perfectly over the unprotected West for the equaliser.

But Heanor soon regained the lead when following a scramble in the home goalmouth, the prostrate Graham Wells planted a shot into the corner on 65 minutes.

Holbrook put on terrific pressure and restored parity again on 72 minutes when West in the visitors’ goal failed to hold a shot from substitute Vaughn Hallsworth and as the ball was returned into the goalmouth Lee Mitchell was on hand to fire home.

Stevenson shot over the bar as Heanor hit back again before the Lions regained the lead 11 minutes from the end.

Awarded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, Wells forced a great diving parry to his shot from Lillie, but the ball fell kindly for Benger to drive crisply into the opposite corner for his 30th league goal of the season.

Heanor’s defence was given a real grilling for the remainder of the game as Holbrook tried harder and harder to salvage a point.

The Brookies claimed a penalty when Hallsworth went down just inside the area following a tackle by Nico Degirolamo who was ruled to have played the ball. The already substituted Ejiofor, parading the touchline, was then sent off for foul and abusive language to the referee.

The Brookies pushed Paul Campbell up front in a bid for a point and West saved his fierce header as the game headed for stoppage time. And then, after West had punched out a free kick, Hallsworth landed his lobbed shot onto the top of the net and time ran out.

Match stats

Holbrook Sports: Simon Lillie, Kane Jellyman (Tom Gibson 85), Paul Campbell, Gerome Palmer, Jack Coulson, Sam Ridgard, Rob Harrison, Chris King, Tom Bartram (Vaughn Hallsworth 64), Emike Ejiofor (Darren Ruston 64), Lee Mitchell. Substitute not used – Danny Cox.

Heanor Town: Neil West, Jason Foster, Phil Austin, Lee Stevenson, Brett Peel, Nico Degirolamo, Gary Webster, Josh Royce, Nathan Benger, Jake Vernon (Neil Grayson 60), Stef Frost (Graham Wells 60). Substitutes not used – Mark Littlewood, James Whitehead, Matt Foster.

Referee: Peter Craggs (Mansfield)

Attendance: 102

Yellow cards: Paul Campbell (Holbrook) 76 minutes.

Red card: Emike Ejiofor (Holbrook) foul and abusive language 85 minutes.

Star Lion: Phil Austin


Saturday, March 17 - East Midland Counties League: Blackwell Miners Welfare v Heanor Town (3pm)

Central Midlands League: Heanor Town Reserves v Staveley Miners Welfare Reserves (3pm)