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Poachers Slay Countrymen in Wintry War of Attrition
Posted 01st February 2016 - Posted in Match Reports
Hallam endured a tough afternoon in extreme conditions as their 17-match unbeaten away run came to an end at 3rd-placed Bottesford.
With snow and sleet swirling around Birch Park in bitter winds throughout the match, this was never going to be one for the purists. The hosts' grit and endeavour was rewarded by goals from Nichols and Steeper in a game of precious few chances.
They could have taken the lead within seconds of the kick-off as Jack Dennison was forced to tip over a piledriver from Martin Pembleton straight from the kick-off. Hallam were forced onto the back foot in the opening stages, with Bottesford forcing three successive corners.
However, the visitors soon settled and began to show some attacking menace of their own. A brilliant exchange with Steve Brammer sent Michael Blythen through. He went down in the area but the referee was not interested.
It was a more even game now, but Bottesford carved out a great chance in the 18th minute. Pembleton found space on the left but his angled shot was superbly tipped round the post by Dennison.
The Hallam goalkeeper acquitted himself well throughout the game, commanding his area and claiming difficult high balls with confidence, despite the wind wreaking havoc.
However, he was powerless to stop Bottesford taking the lead after 25 mins. A hopeful header back into the Hallam area following a corner found Josh Nichols, who somehow broke the offside trap to lash high into the net from ten yards.
A physical game occasionally threatened to boil over as players mistimed tackles and frustrations came to the fore. Shortly before the break, Nichols and Jack Hall were both booked following an altercation.
Bottesford started the second half with intent and force, with Terry Barwick shown a yellow for a sharp tackle on James Reed. This was a midfield battle with no clear winners, though Bottesford should have doubled their lead in the 57th minute when Andrew Hutchinson wasted a rapid counter-arrack, shooting over from close range.
Hallam grew more into the game and began to play their passing game but struggled to create clear chances. Blythen was instrumental as always, and Danny Barnsley and Micah Bishop made a big difference when they came on for Simpson and Brammer respectively. Suddenly, the visitors had found some width and started to exert some consistent pressure on the Bottesford goal.
However, the Poachers lived up to their name with a killer goal seven minutes from time. Hutchinson led the breakaway from a Hallam attack, carrying the ball fifty yards before lashing a shot goalwards from the D. Dennison couldn't hold his low shot and Matthew Steeper netted the rebound, with claims for offside ignored.
From that point, the hosts were content to protect their lead and Hallam were unable to find a way through a defence that had remained stubbornly resolute all afternoon.
And so ends a stunning run of results for Ryan Hindley's men - stretching back almost ten months to last April. It is also the first time they have lost back-to-back league games since then.
So, plenty to be proud of and to build on, and where one good run ends, another begins.
Man of the match: Simon Mirfin. Battled hard in midfield and set an example in atrocious conditions.