STRIKER Dean Astbury played the last 20 minutes in goal as 10-man Warrington Town held on for a vital 2-1 win over Lancaster City.
Town held a relatively comfortable 2-0 lead when goalkeeper Karl Wills was controversially sent off for handling outside of his area, and with no substitute stopper on the bench, Astbury donned the gloves.
He was beaten once, by Aaron Taylor at the back post, but managed to keep the visitors at bay and help to maintain Warrington’s unbeaten start to 2015, which now stretches to six games.
In an entertaining game, Lancaster looked lively from the off and had the ball in the goal within two minutes when Sam Bailey’s shot through a raft of bodies was spilled by an unsighted Wills, with striker Matthew Poole flagged offside having tapped in the rebound.
Almost immediately, Town nearly took the lead themselves when Nathan Burke and Ben Wharton shared a one-two, with the former denied by a superb save by Michael Hale diving to his right to push away a firm shot.
It was end-to-end stuff, and industrious midfielder Garry Hunter would perhaps have been expecting better of his team-mates after he had got to the by-line and put a teasing ball in across the box but nobody gambled for the visitors.
Hale was again called in to action at the other end, stopping Tom Hardwick’s improvised overhead kick from point blank range following Scott Metcalfe’s headed flick on at the near post.
On 27 minutes, Lancaster came closest, a sensational dipping strike from first half substitute Ryan Winder crashed off the underside of the bar with Wills beaten, and then Reece Pearce headed the rebound against the upright as Town breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Louis Corrigan curled a free-kick just over the bar as the score somehow remained goalless at the break.
It didn’t take long for that to change in the second half, as Chris Gahgan continued his recent goalscoring run with another well taken effort. Metcalfe ran at his man on the left flank and delivered the ball in to the middle and it found its way to Gahgan, who chested down and then fired a right foot shot across the ‘keeper and in to the back of the net.
Town had their tails up, and substitute Astbury diverted James McCarten’s header just wide from inside the goalmouth.
Lancaster sent a timely warning they were still dangerous though, hitting the woodwork for a third time on the hour mark, after McCarten had headed a ball from Wills’ grasp.
But Town doubled their lead on 64 minutes. A clever ball in to the box by Metcalfe saw Wharton through on goal, and as he was held back, his lay-off fell to Gahgan who was brought down from behind and the referee pointed to the spot. Metcalfe stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.
It looked like turning in to a routine win for Shaun Reid’s side until the 69th minute, when Wills saw red. The big ‘keeper got down to snatch the ball away from a striker on a one-on-one, with the referee aided by the linesman on the far side judging that he had handled outside the box and he was dismissed.
After a stoppage, striker Astbury donned the gloves and Town sought to hold on for the final quarter.
Lancaster finally got the breakthrough on 80 minutes, a cross from the right proved difficult for the makeshift goalkeeper to deal with and Taylor managed to nip in.
But Astbury grew in confidence as the game closed out, dealing with a couple of crosses and then plucking a corner out of the air to deny the Dolly Blues.
He got down well in the dying minutes to scramble away Tom Kilifin free kick and Town managed to hold on to claim the three points and move above their opponents in to 13th place in the table.
Pictured: Chris Gahgan fires Town in to the lead (below) and celebrates (above right). Striker Dean Astbury plucks a corner out of the air (top).
Gahgan celebrates with his team mates after scoring
Metcalfe heads towards goal
Warrington: Wills, Field, Corrigan, Beattie, McCarten, Hardwick, Gahgan (Booth), Burke, Wharton (Tames), Turner, Metcalfe. Unused subs: Bannister, Ruane.
Lancaster: Hale, Bailey, Clark (Hudson), Davis, Marshall, Hunter, Kilifin, Akrige, Poole, Pearce (Taylor), Dodgson (Winder). Unused subs: Birch, Donlan.
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