Carlton Town’s hopes of Evo-Stik football next season took a battering as they were hammered 6-0 at Frickley Athletic.
The defeat, Carlton’s heaviest since entering the national pyramid, would have been worse but some excellent saves from goalkeeper Jack Steggles. To add to Carlton’s problems, captain Ben Hutchinson was sent off in the most petty way imaginable – arguing with the referee about his decision to award a free kick in Carlton’s favour – and will now miss at least one of the remaining matches.
With only five games left the team find themselves two points adrift of safety. With eight defeats in the last nine league matches, a dramatic improvement in form is needed if the Millers are to avoid the drop.
Robbie McNicholas and Aidan Austin were ill and Elie Ikwa absent. In came Kyle Stovell, Toby Moore and Edward Clarke. Karabo Motshweni and Aaron Opoku were names as substitutes but there was some doubt as to whether they even turned up for the game.
On a sunny afternoon in West Yorkshire, Carlton began quite well. Hutchinson had the first effort on goal, turning neatly after a Riece Bertram flick and firing an angled drive over the bar.
Frickley responded and Luke Hinsley saw a fierce drive well tipped over by Steggles.
Some neat interplay between Stovell, Hutchinson and Oliver Clark saw the latter draw a comfortable save from Sam Wilson in the Athletic goal.
Although the Millers seemed to have settled well, their achilles heel in recent weeks has been their inability to defend adequately. That was demonstrated once again on 15 minutes when Frickley opened the scoring.
Ousman Cham crossed from the left to the far post. Jacob Hazel headed back across goal and Luke Hinsley had the simple task of nodding home unmarked. It was just too easy.
The home side should have doubled their lead five minutes later. Kieran Walker’s back header was intercepted by Tyler Walton. He rounded Steggles, could have scored himself but instead squared to Hinsley who, faced with defenders rushing to the goal line, somehow managed to hit the post with the goalkeeper stranded.
They didn’t have to wait too much longer as Hazel doubled the lead on 27 minutes, hitting a fierce shot which Steggles will feel he ought to have stopped.
Hutchinson received his first yellow card on 32 minutes for what seemed to be arguing with the referee and Carlton players could be heard arguing with each other and the coaching staff as tempers started to fray.
On 37 minutes it became 3-0. Frickley ran through a non-existent Carlton midfield and when Hinsley slipped the ball through to Hazel, he ran clear on goal and made no mistake.
Carlton responded positively in the early stages of the second half and when Hutchinson crossed to Tyler Blake, he flicked onto Stovell whose chest towards goal was easily saved.
Hutchinson and Stovell them combined for Blake to fire at goal, only to be denied by a superb block by centre-half Charlie Jemson.
Carlton’s already difficult task became nigh-on impossible on 55 minutes when captain Hutchinson was sent off. Carlton had the ball on the right hand side of midfield when they were awarded a free kick for a foul. Hutchinson was upset at the failure to play advantage and expressed that opinion to the referee, with the result that he received a second yellow card and was sent off.
When Riece Bertram eventually took the free kick, Stovell was inches away from connecting in front of goal.
The home side used the man advantage very well. Cham on the left and Karl Byrne on the right were giving Carlton a lesson in how to properly play at wing back. Both of them were up and down the pitch all game, playing as wingers when Frickley had the ball and full backs on the rare occasions when they didn’t.
Cham in particular had a superb game, giving Oliver Robinson a torrid time, with Byrne no less merciful against Ryan Ebanks, out of position at left back.
The fourth goal arrived on the hour and was simplicity itself. A long ball over the top saw Hazel out-pace Edward Clarke and rifle the ball into the top corner from 15 yards to complete his treble.
Steggles then made a fine save from Hinsley as Carlton all but gave up. Blake dropped into the defence as the Millers sought damage limitation.
Frickley brought on their substitutes and one of those, Miracle Okafor, tormented the Carlton defence in a way that is probably only possible when you’re 4-0 ahead.
He managed to bag a brace in his short time on the pitch. The first of those, Frickley’s fifth, came on 72 minutes when he headed home a Walton cross unmarked.
His second and Athletic’s sixth came with 11 minutes remaining as he steered home a cross from Hazel.
In between those goals Steggles had made a wonder save from Hinsley, tipping over a shot destined for the top corner. The goalkeeper still had work to do, saving magnificently from Sam Liversidge, albeit Liam Carrick should have scored from the resulting cross, but he lifted his shot over the bar.
Brad Mears also saw a final effort fly into the nearby park before the referee finally put the Millers out of their misery.
The team had visibly disintegrated on the pitch but still, led by Kieran Walker, they had the grace to thank the small travelling support for their efforts. It can’t have been easy and was appreciated, notwithstanding the dismal result.
Carlton Town: Steggles, Robinson, Ebanks, Moore, E Clarke (Frost 62), Walker, O Clark, Bertram, Blake, Hutchinson, Stovell. Unused subs: Opoku, Motshweni
Goals: Luke Hinsley 15, Jacob Hazel 27, 37, 60, Miracle Okafor 72, 79
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM: Jack Steggles
Attendance – 154