A Curtis Millward penalty in the dying seconds gave Arnold Town their first point of the season at Eagle Valley against Gedling Miners Welfare in their customary Bank Holiday Monday fixture.
As early as the 4th minute, the home side may have thought they were in for another torrid day, after their 11-1 drubbing against Ingles on Saturday, as Mason Coy crashed an effort off the crossbar with the outside of his boot after good work by Courtney Hastings presented his midfield colleague with the opportunity.
2 minutes later and Joe Meakin nearly found himself behind the Arnold defensive unit but some last ditch defending by Jordan Knight thwarted his chance. Despite the early pressure, Arnold weathered the storm and set about rectifying the latest form guide. Kris Drackett found himself in behind down the right, but his dangerous low cross was unmet and the ball trickled out for a throw in. The midfielder clearly questioning his teammates’ effort to commit forward.
The opportunity sparked Arnold and, with confidence, they started to slowly come into the game. With ten played, Cameron Thurgood, be it through fortune or intent, tested Danny Brown’s reflexes with a shot-cum-cross but the goal bound effort was excellently tipped over for a corner. From the resulting corner, Craig Binch took aim but his attempt was pickings for Brown who settled his defence.
By this stage, Arnold were the better team and their football was impressive, contrary to the early league standings. Tricky winger Will Bouwen attempted an audacious 35-yard lob over Brown but, after being found well by Drackett, the ball bounced the wrong side of the post as the hosts sensed the early initiative.
Gedling meanwhile began poorly and after Saturday’s loss at home to Belper, couldn’t afford to slip up against their local rivals as they sought maximum points to take back to Plains Road. Not even 14 minutes had been played and Thurgood again tried his luck on goal, this time from a short corner, but his shot sailed wide as the Arnold faithful commended their start.
The visitors’ possession was wasteful and any venture forward was easily dealt with by Knight and his colleagues as Arnold remained sound defensively, though they lacked that killer edge in the final third when in behind Gedling. Notwithstanding the slow start, Gedling tried in vain to stick to their game plan, but their passes, more often than not, failed to hit their targets. The committed pressure from the home side made it difficult and their efforts were rewarded when, on the 26th minute, they took an unsurprising lead.
After finding room down the right, Kurt Hallam crossed wickedly which seemed to evade all those in attendance, though leading goalscorer Curtis Millward collected well and, in one swift movement, controlled and fiercely struck his shot low past Brown into the corner; a fine hit by Arnold’s leading talisman to mark his 5th goal of the season.
In the following exchanges, Arnold looked good for their lead and Gedling were left annoyed as their approach was continuously halted by a resilient home side. They had to wait until the 40th minute for their best chance to arrive but Jack Jepson could only drag his effort wide after initially being fouled in the build-up. The striker’s protest of claiming the free kick fell on deaf ears as referee Richard Mills signalled for a goal kick.
A goal to the good at the break and, only a minute after the restart, Thurgood once again tested Brown as Arnold looked to continue where they left off in the first period. Much like Saturday, the travellers resembled a frustrated figure and their next best opportunity came just after the hour but Jepson’s flicked header from a Meakin cross flew over the crossbar.
Down the left, Bouwen was starting to worry Gedling with his direct methodology and pace but full back Jack Millward did well to contain the winger. The visitors looked to experience in an attempt to salvage something from the game and Chris Freestone entered the fray as time ticked toward the close.
The introduction of Freestone was a shrewd one, and the well-travelled striker was starting to cause a nuisance in an otherwise undisturbed Arnold back line. On 71 minutes, his nod down to Mason Coy was good, and the midfielder’s stinging effort was destined for the top corner but for the outstretched hand of the home ‘keeper James Elliott. It was from the subsequent corner that Gedling found their equaliser; warranted based on their previous 20 minute showing.
After Meakin’s delivery to the front post was left, the ball found its way through a body of players and Dwayne Brown was on hand to tap the ball home from 2 yards out.
By this stage, Gedling were in complete ascendancy and since the leveller they sensed that they would leave Eagle Valley with more than just a point. 10 minutes from time and Jimmy Spiers nearly put the visitors in front but, after controlling well, his powerful drive was saved well by Elliott. Though he could do very little a minute later when, deservedly, Gedling took the lead.
After Jepson cleverly broke the offside trap, his direct run down the left created space for a low cross to the unmarked Freestone who tapped home. One of the easiest he will score in his esteemed career against his former club as his teammates rushed to congratulate him and Jepson who played a key role in the go ahead goal.
Since going behind, Arnold, albeit not without commitment, posed very little going forward and Gedling, looking to consolidate their position, could not have been blamed for assuming the 3 points were headed back to Mapperley. However, with the last attack of the game, Arnold were given an unforeseen chance to snatch a point.
After substitute Ryan Marsh was played in down the left, his cross was blocked by Coy who had retreated well. However, as the ball rolled out for a corner, referee Richard Mills pointed to the spot and had surprisingly deemed Coy to prevent the cross via the use of his hand, much to the dismay of Gedling, who clearly felt the decision was unjust. In the aftermath, Coy was booked for his protests, but not before Millward sent Brown the wrong way to give his side an unexpected point from the game and send his personal tally to 6 for the campaign.
A much-improved second half performance from Gedling should have rewarded them with all 3 points to take away from the game, but for a contentious decision by the officials. They put league form behind them next Saturday ( September 1) when Ilkeston Town visit Plains Road in the first qualifying round of the FA Vase, 3pm kick off.