Ruston Sports 3 Skegness Town 1
Defending champions Skegness Town’s crown slipped at Lincoln-based Ruston Sports, who came back from behind to clinch the three points and climb to the top of the table.
It was sweet revenge for a defeat suffered by Sports at the seasiders’ Vertigo Stadium in September, but for most of this game it seemed an unlikely result.
Indeed, the seasiders had dealt comfortably with all that Rustons had thrown at them during the early stages, despite a bright start by the home side, playing with the slope.
Yes, Sports had the best of the early moments, but the Lilywhites with Miles Chamberlain and Daniel Stevens at the heart of their defence appeared impregnable.
That said, Chamberlain had to hook the ball off the line when Rustons threatened early on and a glancing header from Alex Mackinder went inches wide.
So, when Town took the lead in the 16th minute it may have been against the run of play, but there was little surprise about the advantage being taken.
Seconds before Luke Rayner-Mistry swung over a corner from the left Chamberlain was heard to instruct ‘stand on the keeper’, code for keep the home goalkeeper busy.
And it proved to be sound advice. Will Britton, back in the side after his half a season with Boston Town, stepped forward to distract the Rustons custodian and when the ball came over, Chamberlain was free to pick his spot with a simple header.
Rustons huffed and puffed for the rest of the half but never looked like drawing level, while the pace of Britton looked likely to increase the lead when he was released by visiting keeper Travis Portas, kicking from his hands.
With the slope in their favour for ther second half they were looking more dangerous, but resolute defending by the home side kept them at bay.
A poor challenge on the edge of the Rustons penalty area earned a Rustons defender a caution and gave Daniel Stevens a chance to double the lead, but the keeper managed to palm the ball away after he bent it round the wall.
At the other end a yellow card was brandished to Alex Mackinder for a late challenge on Portas.
So the seasiders entered the final five minutes of the game content that they had done enough to close the game down.
But the home side were gifted a lifeline by a reckless challenge from left back Jordan Turner. What possessed him to upend the Rustons player as he sought to bring the ball under control, with his back to goal, only he will know, but that’s exactly what he did.
Up stepped Sports’ top scorer Alex Mackinder with the task of levelling the scores. It was a poor penalty, blasted straight down the middle, which Portas was able to deflect away with his legs.
But Sam McCullogh was quickest to react and fired home the rebound before a Skegness defender could respond.
A minute before the end poor marking in the Skegness penalty area allowed Thomas Cass the easiest of chances to hook home the home side’s second.
Then deep into injury time, as Skegness were pushing for an equaliser, Mackinder fired home the goal of the game to secure the three points. He brought down a cross from the right and in one move swivelled to clip the ball over Portas and into the net.
TOWN: Portas, Cunliffe, J. Turner, Stevens, Chamberlain, Scutt, Rayner-Mistry, Draper, Britton, Potts, Lawe, S. Turner, Careless, Bobb.