|Posted by Dan on March 14, 2016 at 11:45 AM|
PCFC travelled to top of the table Central FC with their squad stretched to the absolute maximum, and the home side going in to the match as the punters' clear favourites - for 75 minutes, it looked like those predictions would be right, but it was PCFC who were celebrating at the full time whistle after some Roy of the Rovers action in the final quarter of the game.
The blues, in red, travelled to Eccles with a number of regular members of the squad missing, so debuts were handed out to keeper Dave Brookes, midfielder Andrew Kenyon, and Damien Otway was an experienced head named on the bench. Leach moved to rleft back while Nicky Johnson, Luke Stretton and Ste Earp returned to the starting line up too.
It was Central however, who made the best possible start - in the opening minutes a PCFC goal kick was taken short, intercepted and slotted home. 1-0 to the home side. 10 minutes later Leach had to depart the action with a blood injury, PCFC shuffled their pack, Otway moved into central midfield but Central began to gain control of the match, dominating possession and territory. Wave after wave of Central attack, PCFC unable to really clear their lines beyond half way, and Brookes called into action on a number of occasions, coming off his line sharply to narrow angles, clear outside his box and tidy up any loose balls.
Mellor and Johnson were working hard upfront, but not getting much ball. Mellor showed determination and speed to wriggle away on a couple of occasions, but the visitors had failed to test Central's keeper in the opening half. As the half was drawing to a close, PCFC found themselves attacking down the left, but that attack broke down, and Central burst forward on the counter attack - 30 seconds later the ball was in PCFC's goal and Central went into the break 2-0 up, PCFC on the ropes as the half draw to a close.
A few personel and positional changes were made at the break, with Bradley moving ufront and Mellor switching to wide right, the industrious Kenyon taking a breather. PCFC started the second half with a bit more purpose and intent, Cullen and Otway mopping up well in the middle of the park, but once again it was Central creating the goal scoring opportunities - Brookes saving 4 or 5 shots on target, tipping one over the bar and making a fine double save from one corner. Stirling stuff from the keeper!
At the other end, Stretton stretched his legs with a mazy run from wide left to outside right, weaving between challenges before firing over the bar. The game was beginning to get a little stretched as PCFC sought a way back into it. Central created further chances, heading over twice and agains the bar once, and this time it was Boyers who was on hand with a selection of goal line clearances, one while lying down, another sprinting back towards the goal line with the keeper rounded. The score remained 2-0 with 30 to play.... until the referee gave what can only be described as a 'very soft' penalty. The ball bouncing up against Earp's arm off their striker, after an excellent Earp interception. PCFC were distraught, but the decision had been made and the ball was stroked home for 3-0.
PCFC did not give up though! Boyers led a counter attack from the left - Johnson finding Otway, who pulled it back for the tired minister to shoot on goal - blocked on the way. Earp then drove a shot through bodies but slightly too wide. Central seemed a little tired , and Kenyon rejoined the action for the final 15 minutes for Mellor, who'd put in a great shift both upfront and on the right side. What happened next was truly remarkable....
PCFC got one back with 15 minutes to play - Stretton finding Johnson who rolled his man, laid off Bradley who slotted home coolly to make it 3-1. Bradley then had another chance moments later, but fired agonisingly wide at the front post. PCFC sensed a Central wobble, and the quick thinking Churchman lofted a free kick through to Bradley who found a yard of space and tucked his shot away nicely. 3-2 with 8 minutes to play!
PCFC piled the pressure on, and Central seemed to sit deeper and deeper - in the final minutes a PCFC free kick was launched into the box, but dealt with. The second ball fell to Kenyon, who curled the ball back into the box - there was Johnson coming toward the ball, who volleyed first time and the ball nestled in the corner. An exquisite finish from the tall striker, and an incredible climax to the game. Back from the dead, PCFC stole a point from the league leaders - and what a vital point it could prove to be in the battle for Div 2 survival. With 4 matches left to play, PCFC will be looking to build on the final stages of this game, the character, commitment and work rate which got them back on level terms agains the leage leaders. Glorious!
Man of the Match went to debutant goalkeeper Brookes for a string of fine saves. Mentions also in the voting for Bradley, Boyers and Johnson, but all round a fantastic second half effort from all involved! Pleasing