VERDICT '“ Point taken as Steelmen's bid to survive shows signs of life
It's more than likely going to be a long, hard battle if Corby Town are to get out of trouble in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Premier Division.
But everything has to start somewhere and the Steelmen stopped the rot after four successive league defeats with an entertaining 3-3 draw with Ashton United at Steel Park.
It was, perhaps, a lot more entertaining than the respective managers would have wanted and, given the way the game panned out, both bosses would have been disappointed that they didn’t have three points to show for it.
But Steelmen boss Gary Mills registered his first point since taking charge of the club as his new-look team turned in a much-needed battling display.
Mills handed home debuts to no fewer than five players and things were looking good when one of those – Jamie Tank – fired the Steelmen into an early lead after a bright start.
But the Steelmen’s defensive frailties were on show again as Ashton hit back to lead.
However, when you are in a scrap at the wrong end of the table, the one thing you do need is a bit of character.
Before now, there had been little evidence to show that Corby would be able to fight back after falling behind.
But with some much-needed experience coming into the squad, the Steelmen stood up to the fight and showed some of that character by coming from 2-1 and 3-2 down to earn a point.
In this situation, you have to reach for every positive and Mills seems to be an assembling a squad that knows what it takes to succeed at this level.
The proof, as always, will be in the pudding in the crucial weeks that lie ahead but the hope will be that the more this group plays together, the stronger and more resilient will become.
The major positive, however, was that Corby looked much more of a threat going forward.
They now have a natural frontman in the form of Stefan Moore while another debutant, Steven Leslie, produced a highly-impressive display with his delivery from set-pieces particularly catching the eye.
Corby were out of the blocks quickly and Jordon Crawford shot into the side-netting before the deadlock was broken.
Visiting goalkeeper Ritchie Branagan produced a fine, low save to turn Brad-Lee Gascoigne’s header round for a corner.
But when that set-piece was only half-cleared, the ball eventually dropped for Tank and his low shot was too good for the Ashton stopper.
The visitors wasted little time in getting back into the game, however, and Lee Knight headed straight at Steelmen debutant Louis Connor before they equalised when Alex Frost bundled the ball home after Richard Smith had headed Will Haining’s free-kick onto the crossbar.
Nathan Fox hacked Stephen Mason’s header off the line as Ashton pushed for a second and it duly arrived in comical circumstances just past the half-hour.
A long diagonal ball was pumped into the area and, as Connor came to claim it, he collided with Fox and it left Lee Gaskell with the simple task of scoring into an empty net.
But, instead of going into their shell, Corby worked their way back into things and they levelled before the break when Jepson was floored by a challenge from Mason in the area and Moore stepped up to beat Branagan from the penalty spot.
That could have been the spark for a big second-half display but it was Ashton who restored their lead six minutes after the restart.
Some neat football released Knight on the right side of the area. He drove the ball across and, although Connor stopped Frost’s first effort he couldn’t hold on and the defender stabbed home his second goal of the afternoon.
It left Corby battling to find another way back. Recent signing Phil Trainer, who captained the team on his home debut, saw a looping header cleared before Gascoigne could apply a finishing touch at the far post.
But they did grab another equaliser with 15 minutes to go. Moore was sent clear and was sent tumbling by Branagan as he attempted to take the ball round him. The goalkeeper was booked and Moore picked himself up to convert from 12 yards for a second time.
Branagan was equal to a fine low strike from Moore as Corby went in search of a winner but that was as close as either side came as honours ended even.
It’s a point on the board for Mills and his new-look squad.
They remain bottom but this game did, at least, offer some hope for what may lie ahead.
The next step will be to pick up a victory to really get the ball rolling…
Steelmen: Connor; Kennedy (sub Anton, 70 mins), Tank, Gascoigne, Fox; Bell; Leslie, Trainer Jepson (sub Draper, 61 mins); Crawford (sub Johnson, 85 mins), Moore. Subs not used: Parsons, Grant.
Ashton: Branagan; Smalley, Mason, Frost, Maiese; Haining (sub Banim, 64 mins); Lees, Smith, Dorney (sub Murray, 86 mins); Knight, Gaskell. Subs not used: Coo, Steenson.
Referee: Mark Tinsley.
Goals: Tank (10 mins, 1-0), Frost (14 mins, 1-1), Gaskell (33 mins, 1-2), Moore pen (43 mins, 2-2), Frost (51 mins, 2-3), Moore pen (75 mins, 3-3).
Bookings: Jepson, Haining, Branagan (all fouls), Dorney (dissent), Fox (kicking ball away).