VERDICT – Milnes strikes as Steelmen’s bid for the great escape gathers pace

Jason Lee enjoys a little drink as Corby Town celebrate Ben Milnes' winning goal against Mickleover Sports. Pictures by Alison Bagley
Jason Lee enjoys a little drink as Corby Town celebrate Ben Milnes' winning goal against Mickleover Sports. Pictures by Alison Bagley

Corby Town are out of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division relegation zone.

A month ago, those are a few words that even the most optimistic of Steelmen fans simply wouldn’t have heard themselves saying.

Ben Milnes fires home the Steelmen's winner

Ben Milnes fires home the Steelmen's winner

Yet, here we are. A monumental effort by Gary Mills and his players has turned Corby’s season around.

The theme song to The Great Escape was blasted out over the Steel Park PA system seconds after the final whistle blew following this 1-0 success over Mickleover Sports.

And the great escape is on, it’s well and truly on now.

Let’s go back in time for a moment. Bank Holiday Monday, August 29. Corby lost 1-0 at Spennymoor Town to drop into the relegation zone after a poor start to the campaign.

And for four of the past five months, it looked like they would stay there and go on to suffer a second relegation in the space of a year.

Mills took his time to assess the squad he inherited but he soon made the changes he felt were needed to try to at least give the Corby faithful some hope.

That hope looked to have been extinguished after a 4-0 defeat at Grantham Town on Boxing Day, which left the Steelmen a huge 12 points adrift of safety.

But a run of just one defeat in nine league matches and now a sequence of four wins in a row have seen that gap wiped out.

There is, of course, a lot of work still to do. The margin for error remains small and the Steelmen will have to pick up plenty more points to keep their head above water. But the fact they even have a chance is something of a miracle in itself.

And, there’s even more good news. Corby are now picking up points when they don’t actually perform that well.

This game with Mickleover won’t live long in the memory when it comes to entertainment value.

But the importance of the final outcome can’t be underestimated. Indeed, it might just be one of those games that people will reflect on once everything is done and dusted at the end of April.

The first half was forgettable. It was as dull as the weather and there was little to cheer the freezing souls on the terraces of Steel Park.

Corby failed to create a clear-cut chance and Mickleover looked the more likely with the impressive Andy Dales and captain Tom Burgin both going close with fierce shots that were just off target.

Aside from that, there was little more to report on. It could only get better. Thankfully, it did.

Visiting striker Adam Baskerville twice got in behind the Corby defence but could only force Aidan Grant into fairly routine saves on each occasion.

But it was Corby who broke the deadlock with what proved to be the winner on 69 minutes.

David Bell’s free-kick into the area was only half-cleared. It fell perfectly for the on-rushing Ben Milnes and he hammered home a low strike to send the home fans into delirium.

And seeing the game out from there proved relatively straightforward.

Milnes had another effort deflected wide and Jason Lee, who clearly enjoyed the earlier goal celebrations from the picture that emerged after the game, went close with a volley.

At the other end, the Corby defence did what they had to do and when Dales was played in by veteran Clinton Morrison, Grant was there to make a smart save at his near post.

The roar as the final whistle blew was one full of belief as well as delight. There’s belief all the way through the club that the job can be finished off.

And that’s the key point to remember. The job isn’t done, yet...

Steelmen: Grant; Smith, Brown, Lee, Wildin; D Bell (sub Tank, 90 mins), Crawford, Kennedy (sub Osei-Bonsu, 61 mins), Milnes; Trainer, Moore (sub Iacifano, 70 mins). Subs not used: Anton, R Bell.

Mickleover Sports: Draper; Sloane, Mills, Burgin, Turner; George (sub Dickinson, 89 mins), McGrath, Scott (sub Grocott, 70 mins), Dales; Morrison, Baskerville. Subs not used: Lansdown, Norcross, Green.

Referee: Kieron Salmons.

Goal: Milnes (69 mins, 1-0).

Bookings: Moore, Grocott (both fouls).

Attendance: 408.