Ten-Man Stocksbridge Park Steels fell to Stockton Town in a topsy-turvy game which saw both sides take the lead.
Stockton got first blood when Kevin Hayes scored a wonder goal to give the Anchors the lead. Nathaniel Crofts scored a wonder goal of his own to level the game before Josh Nodder scored in the second with an impressive strike to give the Steels the lead. Stockton were level due to a Lee Cooksey own goal before Reece Fielding was sent off for a second bookable offence. Stockton took advantage of this and got the winner when Tom Coulthard made the most of a set piece.
Both teams battled in the midfield and other than Luke Mangham going clear before being flagged for offside, not much had happened. Stockton took it upon themselves to liven the game. Hayes was played clear on the right before cutting inside and firing a shot into the top corner which left Ed Hall with little chance of saving it.
The Anchors worked hard as they tried to double their lead and take control of the match. Mikey Roberts’ first shot was blocked but it didn’t bounce favourably for the Steels. This gave Jamie Owens a good opportunity to get another goal for the Teesside club but Hall pulled off an impressive close range save to keep the deficit down.
This ended up being perfect for Stocksbridge as they got their equaliser soon after. Kurtis Turner and Crofts created space for themselves with some good passing. This still didn’t get them into a goalscoring space, but that didn’t matter for the former Sheffield United winger as he attempted a curling shot anyway. It had no right to go in, but it did anyway and went into the top corner, putting the Steels level.
After Stocksbridge had a brief glimpse of getting a second with Nodder’s effort being well saved by Callum Roberts in the Stockton goal, the Anchors got back to attacking and trying to retake the lead. They got a great chance when Dan McWilliams found Roberts with a deceptive pass before the winger curled over. It was a great chance he was unable to take and it meant the two sides went into half time level.
Stocksbridge should have had the lead from the off in the second half. A great pass found Crofts in acres of space and he raced through to go one-on-one with Roberts. The duel was won by an onrushing Roberts with the former Preston North End keeper managing to save it with his feet. The ball almost bounced kindly to Mangham, but Stockton eventually were able to clear.
The Steels did get their goal though. A long ball from Hall at the back went over the heads of the Stockton defence before eventually being knocked down to the ground. It would then fall kindly to Nodder who hit it sweetly into the back of the net, giving Stocksbridge the lead against the in-form Stockton.
While Stocksbridge weren’t far off getting another when Crofts almost caught out Roberts who had advanced too far off his line but the winger couldn’t keep that shot on target, Stockton did start putting on the pressure. Nathan Mulligan’s shot wasn’t too far wide of the post and Hayes continued to be dangerous with his shot thankfully skewing over.
Stockton’s goal would eventually come though. Mulligan went on a good run down the right wing and whipped a cross in and Lee Cooksey in his best attempt to stop the ball going to the advancing striker behind him ended up knocking the ball into his own goal, levelling the game.
Things would get worse not long after. Reece Fielding fouled a Stockton player by the corner flag and received his second booking for the game after earlier receiving a yellow for a foul in the build up to Hayes’ first goal. It would now be an almighty task for the Steels to hold onto it.
The Anchors would unleash a barrage on the Steels goal as they looked to take the lead. From the free kick caused by Fielding’s red card, Nathan Steel almost scored when he turned the ball goalwards while a free kick from Kevin Hayes looped into Hall’s arms.
It meant Stockton’s eventual winner wasn’t too surprising. It was another free kick which Mulligan sent in and while the initial shot from Adam Nicholson was blocked, his defensive partner Coulthard was there to fire home. Stockton pressed to get another and kill the game off, but that goal was another to send the Steels back into the dog without a point.