AFC Telford United 7 Nuneaton Borough 0 - Report
The Bucks’ fizz was a case of seven up, as they burst Nuneaton’s bubble in remorseless fashion.
Kevin Wilkin’s team were simply too much for an experienced and fancied Nuneaton side, who must have been longing for the full-time whistle long before it arrived.
Quite simply, everything clicked. There were uniformly first-rate performances throughout the side, and collectively also, but it was in the final third where the Bucks excelled.
The arrival of Ty Webster in midfield has given the Bucks a bit more energy and drive in the centre, and he delivered in spades. Wilkin also included Twariq Yusuf in place of George Forsyth, who had been nursing a slight injury, and Yusuf’s more attack-minded instincts and Webster linking things together gave Nuneaton more problems than they could find answers to.
The first half began with Nuneaton kicking off, and within 20 seconds, former Bucks loanee Matty Stenson brought a save, albeit a routine one, from Brandon Hall.
Whether Nuneaton registered another shot on target is one for the analysts to dissect. Yusuf had the Bucks’ first attempt, although it was probably an attempt to play the ball across the goal, and Dan Jezeph held comfortably.
Jezeph, who cannot have had many more torrid afternoons then palmed away a stinging Ricardo Dinanga effort, created by Dinanga’s terrific control of Webster’s 40-yard diagonal ball to the left of the box.
Nuneaton midfielder Kyle Storer was sent off in this fixture 13 years ago and collected the game’s first booking. As the deepest-lying midfielder Storer, twice Webster’s age, had the task of nullifying Webster, but youth had the upper hand over experience and he was soon forcing another save from Jezeph, pivoting to get in an improvised shot inside the penalty area.
It wasn’t one-way traffic, but the visitors lacked the penetration to hurt the Bucks. Defender Orrin Pendley’s header towards the Nuneaton goal from a free-kick was just too far ahead of his captain, Fraser Kerr, and then midfielder Jordan Piggott’s forceful run brought a cross-shot that was charged down.
Piggott was then close to being picked out by Montel Gibson’s ball into the middle, the momentum very definitely resting with Wilkin’s team.
Yusuf got in behind his full-back, Alex Lafleur, to send a goal attempt wide of the far post, and just after the half-hour, Kerr went into the book, for a lunge at Bilal Yafai after possession was lost.
Yusuf’s influence was growing, and only the toe of a Nuneaton defender steered his Crossfield pass away from Byron Moore, arriving late and in plenty of room to measure a shot.
Both sides then had players down injured. Boro’s Scott McManus, their captain, was able to resume, but barely a minute later. Bucks’ left-back Nathan Fox went to the ground with a probable hamstring injury. Fox couldn’t continue and was replaced by substitute Brad Bood.
Fox sat on the bench for the remainder of the half and saw Moore rifle a 30-yard effort just too high and wide of the target, but the Bucks were about to break through.
Piggott, the Bucks’ Mr Versatile, has been converted into a box-to-box midfielder by Wilkin, and it was from his own half that he started the move that he was to finish. Breaking play up, Piggott saw the chance to drive through the middle, breaking Nuneaton’s defensive lines, and carried the ball from his own half deep into Nuneaton’s before finding Webster.
The blond no.10 carried the ball into the penalty area, and with the visitors unwilling to challenge he picked out Piggott, who has continued his run and who struck a low left-footer past Jezeph’s right-hand, into the far corner. It was quite a way to score your first goal for the club, and the hugely popular Piggott milked the moment.
The Bucks held the lead at the interval, as they did in Monday’s 1-1 draw at Redditch United. The players themselves identified their failure to push on and secure a second goal as one of the faults in that Redditch performance, and they were to exorcise that ghost in some style.
Nuneaton had again had the first goal attempt of the half, Hall holding a header at his near post, but in the 52nd minute, they were to present the Bucks a chance to consolidate. Yusuf ran at the defence and entered the penalty area, only to be barged to the floor by Lathaniel Rowe-Turner. Gibson took the penalty, and his cannonball from twelve yards went straight down the middle, risking damage to Jezeph had he been in its path.
Five minutes later, Gibson added a third. A McManus pass was blocked and rebounded past the Nuneaton captain into Gibson’s path. The striker simply took off, haring away from a lumbering back line and when Jezeph came off his line, Gibson opened his stance and directed a right-footed effort to the keeper’s left, into the far corner.
Bucks’ fans, giddy with excitement, were almost delirious when Pendley met a 60th-minute corner kick, floated into the box, and powered a firm header past Jezeph for the fourth goal.
The result was no longer in doubt, but the Bucks decided that the best form of game management was to simply put the match further and further beyond Nuneaton’s reach.
Dinanga couldn’t sort his feet out to get a shot on goal in the 65th minute, but goal no.5 was not far away. Former Bucks loanee Kane Richards earned a yellow card for a cynical halting of Dinanga, twenty-five yards from goal; Webster lined up the kick and fired in an effort that Jezeph may have seen late, owing to a decoy run in front of him. The keeper managed to put the ball onto the inside of his left post but rebounded into the net, and Webster had crowned a great performance with his second goal in three games.
Wilkin introduced Tré Mitford for Webster in the 76th minute, although the young midfielder had almost grabbed a second goal of the afternoon when his swept effort from Dinanga’s dinked cross was blocked.
Mitford clearly didn’t want to miss the goal feast, and he promptly bagged his first Bucks goal and the sixth of the afternoon. He had already brought a fine save from the beleaguered Boro keeper when the Bucks were awarded another free kick within range of goal. It was taken short and quickly to Mitford’s feet, and he struck a beautifully placed shot into Jezeph’s top, left-hand corner from 20-25 yards.
In the 89th minute, Dinanga made it a magnificent seven, with the goals shared amongst the Bucks’ six-shooters; he again menaced the Boro defence and saw his shot from fifteen yards take a deflection to beat the hapless Jezeph, who genuinely hadn’t been to blame for any of the goals.
The final whistle ended Nuneaton’s torment but left the Bucks fans disappointed that there wasn’t time for more. Wilkin’s side had been irresistible on the day, against a side who many feel will be amongst the division’s contenders.
It has to be acknowledged that it was a day where just about everything went right, whilst for Boro it simply couldn’t have gone more wrong; the task for Wilkin may be to keep people’s expectations in check and his team’s collective head out of the clouds, but once again it was simply a great feeling to see Telford fans leaving with broad, almost disbelieving grins on their faces, instead of the long faces of the last few seasons.
AFC Telford United: Hall, Myles, Fox (Bood 40), Piggott, Kerr, Pendley, Yusuf, Moore (Forsyth 66), Webster (Mitford 76), Dinanga, Gibson.
Subs: McQuilkin, Hodgkiss.
Nuneaton Borough: Jezeph, Lafleur, Rowe-Turner, Nirennold, McManus (McWilliams 61), Storer (Butterfield 53), Yafai (Tomlinson 58), Mancinelli, Richards, Waite, Stenson.
Subs: Charles, Chettle.
Booked: Storer, Stenson.