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Nuneaton Borough 2-1 Kingstonian

Last season's visit of Kingstonian to Nuneaton's Manor Park ground saw K's sitting top of the table, and their hosts in third place. How things change from one season to the next. As if anybody needs reminding, Kingstonian entered this match top of the relegation places, whilst the home fans can't be entirely happy sitting just a few points above the battle for survival.

The Kingstonian line-up saw a much predicted immediate return for Gavin Holligan - who resumed his K's career looking for his thirteenth goal on just his eleventh start. He was playing alongside Ian Duerden, meaning that both Sammy Winston and Ronnie Green had to be content with places on the bench - not for the last time this season one would guess. They sat alongside Phil Wingfield - the same player who surely hit his lowest form for K's at this ground last year.

Nuneaton included their own new loan signing in Paul Barnes, and it was he who crafted the first real chance of the game when he laid the ball back to the edge of the area for Jason Peake to shoot low. Blake saved comfortably, but the fact that this chance took ten minutes to arrive shows that this wasn't the most "chance-packed" game ever seen.

Holligan was given an early chance to run with the ball when a long pass from Gary Patterson landed at his feet. He was through with just Terry Angus to face, and decided to remove him from the equation by passing to Duerden. Sadly the hairier attacker had strayed offside, and what looked a good chance was wasted.

The deadlock was broken in the twenty-fourth minute with a much debated incident. A long ball was competed for by Derek Allan and Peake, with neither getting a telling touch. The ball continued on into the K's area where Adrian Blake, Simon Stewart and Barnes all dived in. In an almost-comical incident, Blake and Stewart collided, Barnes fell too but regained his footing immediately, looked up and scored in the net which was by now guarded by just Mark Harris' hands.

Barnes ran off to celebrate, and everybody then realised that there were two figures lying motionless on the edge of the area. Blake had, it later turned out, swallowed his tongue in the collision, and Stewart must have been given a fair headache. Both physios entered the field of play, as did four paramedics with a stretcher as things looked bleak for Blake. Thankfully (for there was no substitute goalkeeper for the visitors) he got up to resume his place in goal, albeit with the physio, paramedics and stretcher camped out behind his goal for most of the rest of the half. Which must have given him some confidence.

Several K's fans complained about the Nuneaton striker not allowing play to cease to treat the injuries, but these protestations merely smack of desperation. Nobody realised that the injuries were as serious as they turned out to be (Blake was later taken to a local hospital) and there cannot be a striker in the world who, just seconds after the collision, would voluntarily turn down an opportunity such as this - Paulo Di Canio included.

Nuneaton looked the most likely to make the next entry on the score-sheet too, when Peake attacked K's vulnerable right-flank. His cross looked destined to be finished off by one of three lurking Boro' players, but none could get a telling touch and Colin Luckett was happy to turn the ball aside for a corner kick.

The visitors did come back into the game in the moments before the forty-five were up, but first David Bass' header caused few problems for Chris McKenzie, and then Gavin Holligan - who scored against the same goalkeeper an his last appearance in a K's shirt - shot from some twenty-five yards only for McKenzie to catch easily.

The same cannot be said of the next chance though. Patterson crossed from the left wing to the near post. Duerden and McKenzie went for the ball, but neither did what they intended as the ball dropped in front of goal just two yards out. Eddie Akuamoah darted in with amazing speed and got the touch to the ball that would surely bring about the equaliser. Not so as Angus somehow managed to get a touch to turn the ball aside in the most amazing goal-line clearance.

If anything was to sum up K's performance (season?) it was the corner which followed. Akuamoah took it from the left and the ball dropped to Simon Stewart on the same side of the area. He totally mis-kicked the ball sideways, but luckily it fell to Bass on the edge of the area. Yet he repeated the trick by totally mis-kicking the ball sideways, allowing Boro to clear.

By this time we were into the fourth minute of injury time when Peake almost doubled the lead with a free-kick which was pushed aside by Blake. But he couldn't do much about the second goal which came a minute later. Barnes picked up the ball on the left, cut in towards the K's area, beat a couple of challenges and scored into the top right-hand corner for a quite superb individual goal. And there were no complaints about this one.

But there were complaints as time ticked on. And on. Although the stoppage for Blake's injury was necessarily a long one, there was no discernible reason for the ten extra minutes which the referee played. Indeed, the situation became so laughable that one of the assistant referees called Mr. G. Chapman over to inform him that the half-time tea had been ready for some ten minutes already. Thirty seconds or so later, the half was - belatedly - concluded.

The half-time break saw Mark Jones replace the hobbling Luckett, and he set up a good early chance. A good run on the left allowed a cross to find Holligan, and his flick on was met by Duerden. Angus was having none of it though, as his hand gave K's a chance at a free-kick from the edge of the box. With Geoff Pitcher missing it looked to be a chance to allow some variety into the taking of free-kicks. Yet sadly the only variety was that it was a different player - this time Patterson - who smacked the ball straight into the wall.

But K's were looking by far the most threatening, and their pressure finally told after 66 minutes. A good run by Mark Boyce was abruptly brought to an end by a foul. Patterson floated the ball across, Bass headed on and there ensued a mad scramble. Amidst it all there was a clear handball by Angus, but the referee waved play on. Thankfully the ball dropped to Akuamoah who had no hesitation in turning the ball in from ten yards out. Simon Stewart ran into the net and made an agonising face whilst Derek Allan bizarrely congratulated the referee.

A point was certainly there for the taking, and with the news that Hayes were winning against Dagenham, a point was certainly needed. Both Wingfield and Green were introduced in the closing stages as K's looked for that elusive equaliser. Yet for some reason the game had gone quite flat after Akuamoah's goal. Nuneaton sought to capitalise on K's attacks when substitute Barry Williams took off on a run which ended with a shot flying across goal with Blake looking beaten.

The last chance for K's to salvage something from the game fell to Derek Allan after a right-wing corner had been flicked on to the far post. His right-footed scissor-type volley was difficult to execute, but he should really have done better than to clear the bar by the five feet that he did. One sensed that the three points were sailing away with the ball, high over Nuneaton's crossbar.

The game ended after just a couple of extra minutes at the end of the second half, and there can't really be many complaints about the result. Nuneaton proved that they were the better team in front of goal, and they did control large portions of the game. For K's, Holligan looked desperately in need of confidence, Duerden once again failed to impress, whilst Blake, Luckett and Akuamoah looked as though they were ready to lay down and die for the cause. If only there were more like that. Still, with eleven games left to play - and thirty-three points to win - this story is a long way from finding an ending. Happy or otherwise.

Sat 31st Mar 2001
Manor Park
Football Conference
Nuneaton Borough2
1Adrian Blake
2Mark Boyce
3Colin Luckett15
4Derek Allan
5Simon Stewart
6Mark Harris14
7Gary PattersonCautioned
8David Bass
9Ian Duerden13
10Gavin Holligan
11Eddie Akuamoah
12Sammy Winston
13Ronnie Green9
14Phil Wingfield6
15Mark Jones3
16Eddie Saunders
Man of the Match
Eddie Akuamoah
Eddie Akuamoah
Match Report By
Gary Ekins