Consett pulled off a superb result against one of Division One East’s in-form teams, winning 1-0 at third-placed Stocksbridge Park Steels.
A Calvin Smith strike in the 58th minute was the difference between the sides at Bracken Moor, high up in the suburbs of Sheffield, but the Steelmen thoroughly deserved the three points after a textbook away performance.
Manager Tony Fawcett made just one change to the side which had lost at home to Grimsby Borough, with Jake Orrell returning in place of Adam Mitchell, who was beginning a three-game suspension.
Stocksbridge started the day level on points with second-placed Stockton Town, but the visitors frustrated them from the start, not allowing them to get into the sort of stride which saw them win 2-1 at Belle View back in November.
The opening exchanges were nip and tuck, with defences very much on top, and it was 21 minutes before the game saw its first attempt on goal. Consett were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out, and Charlie Exley got his effort on target. The keeper dropped the ball and players from both sides converged on it, only for the referee to award a free-kick for a foul on the keeper, when none seemed apparent.
It was the 37th minute before Stocksbridge troubled the Consett goal, when they were awarded a free-kick 20 yards out for a foul on lively striker Lewis Macaskill, and although Tomas Poole’s chipped free-kick beat the defensive wall, it was off target.
On 39 minutes there was a worrying moment for Consett as Stocksbridge’s pacy striker Ify Ofoegbu threatened to break clear. Consett skipper Arjun Purewal matched him pace for pace, moving aside to allow the advancing Ross Coombe, who came tearing out of his goal, to clear. But the forward and keeper clattered into each other, and after lengthy treatment to an ankle injury Coombe was unable to continue.
Consett brought on Mark Foden for his first appearance since Boxing Day, but the last chance of the half was at the other end as Orrell’s searching cross almost picked out Scott Fenwick, who was just beaten to the ball by Stocksbridge keeper Ben Townsend.
Half-time: Stocksbridge Park Steels 0 Consett 1
The second half saw the game open up a little, with Consett’s best passing move so far seeing Fenwick and Josh Baggs combine to send Orrell scampering to the byline, but his pullback was just too close to the keeper.
At the other end Stocksbridge got a shot on target at last in the 54th minute, Jack Tinker’s effort didn’t unduly trouble Foden. Consett seemed a yard sharper at this stage, and won a couple of vital tackles in succession to set up Baggs, who fired just wide.
The game’s defining moment came just before the hour when excellent work by Zak Atkinson saw him burst into the penalty area and unleash a shot, which was blocked by Charlie Oglesby. The No 10 regained possession and laid the ball off perfectly for Calvin Smith, who fired home from just inside the box, pictured top.
After that Consett defended for their lives, with every player battling for the cause, but with Purewal, Dan Capewell and Ben Milburn in particular outstanding at the back.
Exley had a chance to double the lead after Atkinson was fouled, but his free-kick cleared the crossbar, and then Atkinson was ruled offside as he broke clear following a great pass from Fenwick.
Stocksbridge’s Kurtis Turner saw two efforts from distance fizz past the post, and there was a worrying moment for Consett in the 85th minute when Foden went down injured at he saved bravely at the feet of Macaskill, who was booked for following through on the keeper.
After lengthy treatment the substitute keeper was okay to continue, and when Stocksbridge sub Dylan Youmbi’s shot came back off the inside of the post in the last minute and Ross Goodwin fired the rebound over at blank range, you knew it was going to be Consett’s day.
The Steelmen held out for the four minutes of stoppage time to pick up a very well-deserved three points against opponents who had lost only once in its previous 15 games. It was their fourth away win of the season, and took them back up to 9th in the table.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD
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