Tyler Blake struck a second half hat-trick as Carlton Town came from two goals behind to beat Frickley Athletic 3-2 in a pulsating game at Stoke Lane.
Blake’s treble meant the Millers maintained their 100% start to the season with four wins from four league games. Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey’s side sit second in the table, with Leek Town ahead on goal difference only.
With Carlton having won all their games so far and Frickley having lost their three league games, it was no surprise that the Millers began the better.
Aaron Opoku went close to opening the scoring on 12 minutes. Blake’s headed flick saw Opoku run at Nathan Newell on the right hand side. Opoku strode past Newall and from a narrowing angle hit a fierce drive against the post.
Two minutes later he had an even better chance to score. A lofted ball saw the striker head over the onrushing goalkeeper Thomas Jackson. With just Jack Harrison on the lie protecting the goal, Opoku fired wide from 12 yards.
Little had been seen of Frickley as an attacking force in this early part of the game but they served notice of their intent with a quick fire break and shot just wide from Jake Currie.
As the half progressed Frickley became more of a threat and the impressive Johnny Pugh saw one 25-yarded fly just over and a free kick deflected over the bar by the Carlton defensive wall.
From one Frickley corner Carlton showed some of the fluid pass and move football that has characterised their fine start to the campaign. Oliver Clark won possession, played a lovely ball to Blake who held it up and then fed Smithson. Smithson advanced before feeding Chris Marshall whose shot was saved comfortably by Jackson. It was a fine passing move from one end of the pitch to the other and was a joy to watch.
Niall Davie had been causing Frickley all sorts of problems with some fine crosses from the left. On 35 minutes the Millers should have scored from one such delivery. He whipped over a free kick which Blake just failed to connect with at the near post with the goal at his mercy.
It was from a Carlton corner that the visitors opened the scoring on 37 minutes. They cleared the ball and broke quickly on the right, lifting the ball over Daniel Fletcher and then playing a Crossfield pass that went through the legs of Martin Ball. Cody Prior shot at goal from the left, Steggles parried and Rieves Boocock fired home from close range. It was the first goal Steggles had conceded in 307 minutes of league football this season.
It took only two minutes for him to concede his second as Boocock hit a shot from the edge of the box that went in via the post.
The striker was desperately close to a three minute hattrick as 60 seconds later he saw Steggles tip his effort over the bar.
The managers brought on Johal at half time to add pace on the flank and effectively give up possession in the middle of the pitch.
The Millers knew they needed an early goal in the second period to give them a chance. They got it on 47 minutes. A fantastic free kick was diverted past Jackson by a combination of Blake and Newall, with Blake being awarded the decisive touch.
Confidence can be everything in football. Carlton have it in spades at the moment, given their start to the season and Frickley plainly don’t, given their start. The goal changed the complexion of the game as Carlton pushed forward for an equaliser.
They got it just after the hour with a wonderful goal. Davie fed Johal on the left. Johal and Fletcher played a one-two before Johal pushed the ball to the right hand side with Robinson pushing forward. The right back slipped the ball to Smithson before overlapping down the wing and receiving the return pass. He then beat Newall, got to the bye-line before whipping over a cross which Blake fired home gleefully at the near post.
Carlton’s tails were up now and the managers brought on Mamoke Akaunu as they went for the win.
Frickley though were not lying down. They had plenty of space in midfield and Todd Jordan saw one header go just over the bar from a Pugh free kick.
The Millers completed the turn-around by taking the lead on 70 minutes. Davie, again, won the ball on the right hand side of midfield. He looked up and sprayed the ball to Johal on the left. The wing back sped past Joel Feirn like an Olympic sprinter, but had the presence of mind to look up and play a lovely ball across to the onrushing Blake who fired home to complete his hattrick. Another superb piece of football from the resurgent Millers.
Blake then fed Akaunu whose shot was saved by Jackson.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes Carlton sat ever deeper, inviting pressure and Fricklet poured forward looking for an equaliser. Liam Carrick shot just over the bar, as did Luke Hogg with Martin Ball and Toby Moore once again marshalling the defence and forcing the visitors to keep shooting from distance.
They failed to seriously test Steggles again and the Millers recorded their first ever win against Frickley, but more importantly maintained their perfect start to the league campaign.
Carlton Town: Steggles, Robinson, Fletcher, Ball, Moore, Marshall (Johal 46), Smithson (Stovell 76), O Clark, Opoku (Akaunu 65), Blake, Davie. Unused substitutes: Brown, Wilson
Goals: Blake 47, 61, 70; Rieves Boocock 37, 39
Carlton Town Supporters Club MOTM: Niall Davie