Evo-Stik Premier Division: Northwich Victoria 1, Buxton FC 1
BRADLEY Barraclough was battling Buxton’s point-saver on Saturday as Scott Maxfield’s men surprised one of the division’s top teams.
The loan striker had been a thorn in the Vics’ side for most of the game and well-deserved his fourth goal in as many matches, netted in the 89th minute as he rose among a group of players to meet an inswinging, left-flank corner.
The visitors well-deserved their draw for their first-half performance of more than matching Northwich despite facing a strong wind, and for their resilience when under pressure after the interval.
Undoubtedly this was an impressive response after the home defeat by Stocksbridge and the earlier inglorious Trophy exit at the Victoria Stadium, and following as it did a brave team selection by the manager.
Captain and record scorer Mark Reed, and Kieran Lugsden, remained on the substitutes’ bench until the 4-5-1 line-up was adapted to 4-4-2 in the search for an equaliser.
The Bucks opened brightly and a fine 18-yard strike by Ollie Banks towards the top corner brought the best out of keeper Hinchcliffe to gain an unproductive third-minute corner-kick.
However, the slick-passing Vics were soon exerting pressure and both James Baxendale and Steve Ridley, harshly, saw yellow for fouls, though home centre-back Collins body-checked the elusive Barraclough without punishment.
Newcomers Adam Billard and Tom Burgin were both performing well in defence, and it was the keeper’s foot which thwarted a close-range Budrys shot, while Burgin blocked brilliantly to deny Johnson.
In attack the visitors threatened when Michael Towey headed on a Grant Black long throw and Baxendale emulated Banks’ earlier effort with a 20-yard drive after Josh Wilde returned the ball to him following a half-cleared Buxton corner-kick.
However, the best piece of skill of the afternoon was reserved for the 49th minute when Barraclough improvised superbly to outwit both central defenders only to see Hinchcliffe pull off his third vital save and usher in Vics’ dominant spell.
Billard saved well from Johnson, then the home side had a headed goal disallowed for a foul, but within a minute Northwich had taken the lead. Burgin headed away a left-flank cross only for Johnson to miscue a snap-shot into the top corner.
In response, Barraclough showed his pace to be close to latching onto a defensive back-header, and a Tommy Agus 30-yard thunderbolt at a free-kick tested Hinchcliffe’s handling, while Billard made another good save, low at his left-hand post.
Buxton made their substitutions but late on it was Baxendale who was prominent three times as the visitors hunted an equaliser. First he provided a waist-high cross for an athletic Reed hook shot that went directly into the keeper’s grasp, then his clever back-heeled pass in the centre-circle put Lugsden away to force a corner. Finally, it was his corner-kick that was headed home by the spring-heeled Barraclough, with even Buxton keeper Billard alongside the scorer in what seemed the ‘last-chance saloon’.
The Bucks played out the nervy five added minutes to achieve a valuable point at a club which had conceded defeat only eight times in 62 visits by Buxton teams in well over a century of contests.
Buxton: Billard, Black, Burgin, Agus, Wilde, Baxendale, Towey, Maxfield (Reed, 78), Banks (Lugsden, 73), Ridley (Stevens, 84), Barraclough. Subs not used: Liversidge, Taylor.