Curzon Ashton 4, New Mills 3
New Mills relinquished second place in Evo-Stik League First Division North after losing by an odd goal in seven against Curzon Ashton at Bower Fold on Saturday.
With a home play-off semi-final berth already guaranteed, manager Roy Soule took the opportunity to freshen up his squad and introduced full backs Andy Graham and Jamie Kay from the reserves as well as resting some key personnel.
The league’s leading scorer Kristian Dennis almost made it 41 goals for the season in the sixth minute as he wriggled free of his marker Michael Bowler, but his low skidding effort on the turn went fractionally wide of the near post.
The Millers took the lead on the quarter hour when James Hampson was dragged down in the penalty area by defender Jonathan Hunt. Despite being the last man and denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity, referee Mr Hanley showed some last-day leniency on Hunt by only brandishing a yellow card when a red would have been more befitting of the challenge.
Daniel Grimshaw took it all in his stride though by coolly sending Josh Ollerenshaw the wrong way from the resulting spot-kick.
That precious lead lasted all of six minutes as again New Mills appeared to fall foul of the officialdom again. Despite looking many yards in advance of the defensive backline, the offside flag never materialised against Kristian Dennis and after advancing towards goal, the striker squared the ball to Matty Kay who knocked in the rebound after a brave block denied his first effort.
Michael Fish restored the visitors’ advantage in the 24th minute when he executed a fine finish which glanced the inside of the post before nestling in the bottom corner, but that was immediately cancelled out as Matty Kay scored his second goal of the afternoon within seconds of the restart.
After the interval, the game meandered a little towards a typical end of season fixture and some defensive complacency very nearly hindered Curzon as Fish’s shot was saved low down by Ollerenshaw.
At the other end, Ollerenshaw’s opposite number David Stevenson gifted Curzon the lead with 15 minutes of the game remaining. New Mills’ keeper dallied over an attempted clearance and in an instant substitute Scott Metcalfe had dispossessed him and tapped the ball home into an empty net.
While that goal was fortuitous, there was no doubting the quality of Metcalfe’s second strike in the 87th minute when his excellent precise header found the corner of the net with aplomb.
Fish halved the deficit in the last minute of normal time with another excellent effort, this time from the edge of the area which simply flew past Ollerenshaw.
Despite that late strike, The Millers couldn’t rescue a point which would have secured the runners-up position, especially after news filtered through that an injury-time strike for Cammell Laird had secured them home field advantage throughout the play-offs.
New Mills: Stevenson, Graham (Douglas-Pringle), Kay, Grimshaw, Bowler, Evans (Young), King (Luby), Graham, Hampson, Platt, Fish. Unused subs: Moore, Armstrong.