Article: Liam Price
Photographs: Jonathan White
Nantwich Town came from two goals and a man down to secure a thrilling 2-2 draw with Ashton United at the Optimum Pay Stadium.
Matt Bell had the first real chance of the game, diverting the ball towards goal from a corner but seeing it turned away by Greg Hartley. Dan Cockerline then brought the ball down well from a cross and hit on the turn but wide as the Dabbers started well.
The swirling winds of Storm Malik were taking some getting used to for both sides, and it was Ashton who were next to try their luck in these conditions, the silky Jack Redshaw hitting a dipping effort that bounced right in front of Andy Wycherley who could only shovel it behind for a corner.
Michael Brewster took aim from outside the box and his pure strike rattled the crossbar with Wycherley beaten as the visitors started to grow more into the game.
For the most part, though, it was honours even until the visitors broke the deadlock just past the half hour mark. After a Ben Hardcastle cross was deflected for a corner, that corner was not cleared by Nantwich and Jordan Simpson was there to blast in from point blank range.
With the Dabbers reeling, Ashton pounced again and doubled their lead just two minutes later. Hardcastle again targeted the Nantwich left and his unchallenged square ball was turned in by Jack Redshaw who was lurking around the penalty spot. The Dabbers went into the break with the proverbial mountain to climb after that 1-2 punch.
Things got even worse for the Dabbers 13 minutes into the second half, as Ethan Mitchell was sent off for a second booking for a lunging tackle. It came just minutes after his first yellow, and while there was no doubt he got some of the ball the nature of the challenge gave the referee a decision to make.
Redshaw and Brewster tried to bury the game once and for all in favour of Ashton, but were off target. Sean Cooke then came off the bench for Nantwich, and our luck, like the wind, began to blow our way.
First, Cooke hit the top of the bar with a sweetly hit free kick from just outside the box.
Then, a long ball upfield from Troy Bourne fell kindly for Shaun Miller to poke home, a goal really from nothing that sparked the 10 men to life.
Akiel Raffie stood the ball up to the back post and Cockerline headed wide in trying to put the ball back in the corner it came from.
The pressure was building on Ashton and they were looking increasingly unsettled, then in scenes very reminiscent of the Stafford game from a few weeks earlier, the Dabbers hauled themselves level.
Connor Heath, another sub, poked the ball out to Miller, he squared to that man Sean Cooke who got there ahead of the keeper and rolled it in to take himself to 5th in Nantwich’s all time goalscorers on 107 goals and send the majority of the nearly 400 strong crowd wild with just six minutes left to play.
And that was how it finished, a shell-shocked Ashton and a buzzing Nantwich who came out of big adversity in this game to grab what could end up being a vital point.