Corner sparks Boro win at Northwich
Scarborough Athletic’s mathematical glimmer of play-off light was kept burning on Saturday when they showed bags of character at high-flying Northwich Victoria.
Boro battled from behind to stun third-placed Vics with a performance that was inspired by the return of striker Tom Corner.
Corner arrived from the bench on the hour and offered the strength in attack that propelled Boro to a 3-2 win and the vital points.
Prior to this switch Boro huffed and puffed, but lacked the penetration required to slice through a Northwich side, who had only suffered three defeats at home this season.
It was Boro that made the more energetic start to the game, but their play was littered with mis-placed passes in the final third, which ruled out any meaningful chances.
In contrast, Northwich looked explosive on the break, with their darting runs causing a plethora of issues when Boro were caught on the break.
One of these chances fell to winger Ian Howard, who was released on goal, only to be denied by the diving save of keeper Joe Cracknell.
Gaz Burnett should have opened the scoring for the hosts five minutes later when the ball dropped nicely to hit on the penalty spot, but he fired his volley over the bar.
The warning signs weren’t heeded by Boro, and with 24 minutes on the clock they fell behind in comical fashion.
Richie Bennett waltzed his way into the box and drove in a low cross that fell to the feet of Howard. His low shot was heading wide of Cracknell’s goal before it got caught up in the legs of Matty Plummer and trickled into the bottom corner.
If the vocal travelling supporters were hoping for an immediate reply from Boro, they were left wanting, as all the visitors could muster in the final minutes of the half was a dipping volley from Alex Metcalfe, which was clawed away by Tim Deasy.
The frustration looked set to continue after the break, as Boro struggled in attack and looked lethargic at the back.
The defensive frailties cropped up with just five minutes of the second half played, when Ben Middleton was outpaced by Bennett, but the striker dragged his shot wide.
Something needed to happen to halt the Boro slide and fortunately a roll of the dice from Bryan Hughes and Paul Foot on the hour was the perfect tonic.
Corner was thrown into the action and it took the big frontman just five minutes to make an impact.
He won a towering header to flick the ball into Ryan Blott’s path, and Boro’s record scorer showed the composure to drill into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
The turn-around was completed just minutes later, when Gary Bradshaw broke into the box and fired in a shot. The effort was heading wide of the target, but it rebounded off a Northwich defender and nestled into the bottom corner of the net.
As has been the case for Boro in recent weeks, their good attacking play was soon to be undone by farcical defending.
Bennett easily shrugged off two challenges and was afforded a chance to score past Cracknell at the second attempt.
Happily, there was more action to come at the other end and one more decisive moment.
Seconds after Bradshaw had a header saved by Deasy, Corner latched onto a long ball ahead of the Northwich keeper and lobbed brilliantly home to give Boro that all-important breakthrough.
There was still time for the fingernails to take more of a battering, but Boro held on to record the three points.
The win keeps Boro in with a faint shout, but they must continue to dig deep in their final three games to maintain these dreams.