Spennymoor are on course for their third promotion in four seasons, after two second half goals gave them a deserved 2-0 victory over Nantwich Town, in their play off semi final at the Brewery Field.
Moors’ previous play off experience shone through as they took a firm grip on proceedings for most of the game. Moors kept Nantwich at bay for almost all of the game and showed no signs of any defensive slip-ups at all. Those qualities, coupled with a second half snowstorm which made life twice as difficult for Nantwich, earned Moors a home tie against Stourbridge at the Brewery Field this Saturday.
Moors kicked down the slope and into the wind in the first half, and had the first shot at goal through Andrew Johnson in the third minute, but the ball sailed well over the bar. A minute later Glen Taylor cleverly turned two defenders 25 yards out and struck a right footed shot that skidded on the greasy surface into the hands of keeper Daniel Gyollai.
A good run by Johnson up the left took him behind the Nantwich defence, but when he pulled the ball back, Ibou Touray just managed to slide the ball away from Rob Ramshaw.
Moors went close from a free kick 30 yards out, awarded for a foul on Joe Tait by Vinny Mukendi. Kallum Griffiths fired over the wall, but inches wide of the right hand post and into the side netting, prompting celebrations from a portion of the support as they thought it had nestled.
Nantwich nearly scored with their first chance on 20 minutes, when Moors keeper Dan Lowson fisted a left wing corner away as far as Sam Hall, who hit a rising right foot shot from the edge of the box that whistled just over the bar.
Nantwich clawed their way back into the game after that, looking to use Mukendi’s height up front to build pressure on the Moors defense.
Moors had a half chance when Taylor’s shot on the turn was deflected wide, and Ramshaw’s subsequent corner whizzed across the six yard box, needing just a touch.
Just like the first half, Moors had plenty of pressure in the opening minutes of the second period, but the best chance they had was a shot by Graeme Armstrong that was charged down in a scramble on the edge of the Dabbers’ six yard box.
But Nantwich showed how dangerous they could be when Tom Peers swung a wicked corner over from the right, and centre half Ben Harrison headed just wide.
Nantwich ‘keeper Gyollai pulled off a top class save on 62 minutes. A shot by Ramshaw was blocked on the six yard line and the ball ran loose for Chandler, whose shot seemed destined for the net until Gyollai somehow deflected the ball with his left hand over the bar, clipping the woodwork on its way.
Moors finally took the lead on 67 minutes. Curtis Jones was booked for a challenge on Ramshaw 30 yards out, allowing specialist Griffiths to step up, with his earlier sighter fresh in his mind. He cleverly drove the free kick under the jumping wall, making use of the skiddy turf, and found the bottom left corner, with Gyollai getting a firm glove on it but failing to keep it out.
Nantwich made two substitutions to try and get back into the game. This was easier said than done in the face of a resolute Moors defense and a heavy snowstorm in their faces.
And they had even more work to do on 80 minutes when Andrew Johnson worked his way in from the left wing, passing two defenders and firing into the bottom right hand corner – a carbon copy of his wonder-strike against MK Dons in the First Round of the FA Cup and enough to give Moors a foothold in the play off final.
Glen Taylor thought he’d scored a third when he poked the ball home, but he was flagged offside.
Moors celebrated in the snow at full time on a night where they were just too strong for a brave Nantwich side. A memorable night for the 882 supporters who watched the game in awful conditions.
Spennymoor Manager Jason Ainsley said: “I thought we were excellent throughout the game. We were very solid defensively from front to back, and our keeper, Dan Lowson, didn’t have a save to make.
“We started the game well, created some chances, and restricted them to only a 15 minute spell when they got back into the game. We did the unattractive side of the game brilliantly, which often goes unnoticed.
“I thought both our goals were well taken. Kallum Griffiths has scored goals like that before, and he showed why he’s been named in the league’s team of the year. Andrew was as cool as you like for the second.
“I thought our big game players came to the fore. You could see how much victory meant to them before the game.
“As a club, we’ve come a long way. Only ten years or so ago we were in the second division of the Northern League, and now we have a chance to play in the National League North. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, we’ve only done half the job so far.”
Moors: Lowson, Griffiths, Mason (sub Baldwin 62), Chandler, Tait, Curtis, Ramshaw, Henry, Taylor, Armstrong (sub Dowson 75), Johnson (sub Anderson 90).
Subs not used: Mitchell, Fisher.
Nantwich Town: Gyollai, White, Touray, Harrison, Jones, Hall, Hancock (sub Abadaki 86), Riley (sub Brooke 78), Mukendi (sub Mwasile 72), Bell, Peers.
Sub not used: Jones, Stair.
Bookings: Jones, Bell.
Referee: Mr A Herczeg
Great Annual Saving MOM: Andrew JOHNSON (Spennymoor Town)