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Match Report: Carlton Town FC 2 – 0 Dunston

Ten games ago they were 10 points adrift of safety and looked doomed. 

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NPL First Division East

22 April 2023

Goals from brothers Kieran and Nat Watson bookended a nail-biting afternoon at Stoke lane as Carlton Town beat Dunston 2-0 to avoid automatic relegation on the last day of the season.

The Millers still face a playoff to secure their step 4 safety but anything less than a win here would have seen them relegated immediately.  As it was, the win moved the home side up to 17th in the table and they await news as to who their playoff opponents will be.  Dunston’s defeat ended their promotion playoff hopes and they had to settle for a sixth-place finish for the second consecutive season.

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Carlton came into the game with just one change to the side which had drawn at Pontefract Collieries less than 48 hours earlier.  Jared Holmes replaced Lawrence Gorman with Khyle Sargent moving to right back.

Mikey talks to Carlton Town Tv after his fantastic penalty stop save The Millers from automatic relegation. (Courtesy of Carlton Town TV)

Both sides knew only a win would suffice for their differing purposes and it was Carlton who started much the sharper.  They got off to a dream start by taking the lead on just five minutes when Kieran Watson ran onto a Sargent pass, rounded goalkeeper Daniel Staples, fired at goal and Jude Swailes’s attempted clearance struck Terence Galbraith with the ball ending up in the back of the net.

Dunston’s first opportunity came on 20 minutes when Dale Pearson won the ball and ran through on goal only to be denied by a superb tackle from Sargent.

Carlton continued to push forward and Kyle Tomlin sped down the right before crossing to Holmes whose shot was blocked.  The ball fell to Nat Watson and he skipped into the area before hitting a shot that was cleared off the line by Sado Djalo.

It was clear to the impressive home support that the Carlton players were clearly up for this game.  Tomlin saw another effort blocked while Sargent was winning tackle after tackle in defence and midfield.

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Nat Watson fired over the bar after Holmes had done well to win possession and shortly afterwards the same player drew a comfortable save from Staples.

Dunston, who brought an impressive number of supporters to Nottinghamshire, always carried a threat and Holmes did superbly to get a block ahead of Dale Pearson after a fine run and cross by Djalo.

But it was the Millers who had much the better of the first half, with Holmes and Danny Elliott outstanding in midfield, and Dean Freeman and Dan Brown looking secure at the back, ably supported by Lewis Durow and Sargent.  The Watsons looked lively and Niall Hylton and Tomlin were always looking to attack on the flanks.

The visitors had been fairly quiet in the first half but they looked far more threatening after the restart and Carlton had to defend deep for long periods.  Dunston were given a golden opportunity to equalise when they were awarded a penalty on 53 minutes after Sargent was penalised for a foul on Djalo.  But Mikey Emery was Carlton’s hero, saving Philip Turnbull’s spot kick and Will Jenkins’s follow-up effort.  It was a double save that turned out to be crucial in preserving Carlton’s step 4 status for now.

Djalo then headed over the bar unmarked as the second half dragged on agonisingly for the home support.  News that relegation rivals Shildon were comfortably ahead at Grimsby filtered through and Carlton knew that a single Dunston goal would send them down.  Instead, the team defended with an intensity only occasionally seen this season and repelled all of the Dunston attacks.

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Jenkins was inches wide with a 77th minute free kick before Brown made yet another superb tackle as the visitors broke into the penalty area.

Hylton had another impressive game and was a source of most of Carlton’s few attacks in the second half.  With three minutes remaining he did well to win the ball on the right and send substitute Charlie Marzano through on goal.  The angle was tight and Marzano slipped his shot a couple of feet wide of the post.

With the clock on 89 minutes the whole ground erupted as Carlton doubled their lead.  A Durow throw sent Hylton away on the left.  He advanced into the area and when his shot was parried by Staples, Nat Watson was on hand to fire into the roof of the net.  The unbearable tension that had gripped the home fans for the interminable second half was vanquished in scenes of pure unbridled joy with supporters and players celebrating together.

There was still enough time for Emery to make another fine save, from Carl Finnigan, before the referee ended proceedings and the players got a thoroughly deserved ovation from the home support.

Ten games ago they were 10 points adrift of safety and looked doomed.  They would have snapped your hand off then for a relegation playoff position and that’s what they’ve earned with six wins and a draw from those 10 matches.  They will know they have to do it all again next week to see the job to its conclusion.

Carlton Town: M Emery, K Sargent, L Durow, D Brown, D Freeman, J Holmes, K Tomlin (C Marzano 59), D Elliott (L Gorman 79), K Watson (A Troke 67), N Watson, N Hylton. Unused substitutes: R Stainsby, Z Hill

Goals: K Watson 5, N Watson 89

Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM – Niall Hylton

Att: 246

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