Pictures John Hopkins & Barrie Scholes
A DRAMATIC late comeback earned 10-man Warrington Town a point in a 3-3 draw in treacherous conditions at Buxton.
Michael Monaghan’s late penalty and Dylan Vassallo’s injury-time free-kick rescued Paul Carden’s side, who had collapsed at the start of the second half by conceding two goals and losing Lewis Codling to a red card.
It was a game that had almost everything in freezing conditions, with rain beating down on what was a sodden pitch throughout at Silverlands.
The Yellows got off to a dream start when Monaghan, making his league debut for the club, swept home a rebound after Ruben Jerome, also on his Yellows league debut, had his shot saved.
The conditions, both underfoot and otherwise, were not conducive to a flowing game of football, and both sides had to adapt.
The tenacity of Danny Ventre and Mitch Duggan in the centre of midfield meant the Yellows held command for the first quarter of the game, and Jerome had a chance to double the lead when he miscued a good cross from the left by Josh Askew.
There were shouts for a penalty on 21 minutes when Codling was apparently felled inside the box after taking in Scott Harries’ short pass, but the referee remained motionless.
The influential Brad Abbott then started to get Buxton on the front foot and he hit a terrific shot from the edge of the box which was clawed away by Tony McMillan when it looked destined for the top corner.
The hosts ended the first half on the front foot, and they landed a killer blow right on the stroke of half-time when a slip in midfield allowed Liam Hardy to nip in, round McMillan and keep his composure to find the corner despite the presence of a couple of defenders on the line.
That goal would have changed both half-time team talks, and Buxton came out at the start of second half with the impetus.
They peppered the Yellows goal in the opening exchanges, forcing three successive corners, and the pressure eventually proved too much for the Yellows, when centre-half Joel Bembo-Leto beat McMillan to a cross to head in to the back of the net to put the hosts 2-1 in front.
That didn’t stop the onslaught and McMillan had to be at his best to deny Joe McGee, while substitute Jamie Jackson blazed one in to the side netting from close range.
Warrington’s poor start to the second half went from bad to worse on 52 minutes when Codling, who had cut a frustrated figure throughout, lashed out at Ricky Ravenhill and was dismissed for an early bath by the referee.
That also prompted the removal of Ventre, on a yellow card from the first half, as manager Carden tried to ensure he didn’t lose any more of his charges.
Buxton almost doubled their lead moments later when McGee got in behind, only for the steady Askew to get back in the nick of time and divert the ball wide for a corner.
They continued to lay siege to the Yellows goal, and Jackson had another chance on the hour mark, heading Abbott’s corner on to the near post.
It looked like just a matter of time until Buxton got a third, and it duly arrived on 64 minutes. Evan Gumbs missed a clearance, enabling Niall Doran to get in behind and his low cross in to the goalmouth was diverted home from point blank range by McGee.
The conditions worsened, and the visitors could have been forgiven for praying for the full-time whistle, trailing by two goals and playing with a man disadvantage.
They showed little indication of what was to come in the final stages of the match, as time ticked by, and Carden made his last throw of the dice with 10 to play, bringing on in-form winger Dylan Vassallo for Gumbs.
Within five minutes, Warrington were given hope, a short back pass was intercepted by Monaghan, and when both he and Samuel Ilesamni were almost simultaneously brought down, the referee had no choice but to award a penalty.
With six minutes still left to play, plus injury time, it looked like a path to an unlikely comeback, but Tranmere loanee Ilesamni hit a poorly executed penalty straight at the ‘keeper, and the Yellows hopes were dashed.
They did, however, keep going and earned a second penalty in the 89th minute, when the tireless Monaghan was brought down on the left hand side of the box by Bembo-Leto. Monaghan this time stepped up for the spotkick, and he made no mistake.
The belief surged through the visitors, who chucked centre-half James McCarten up front to give an extra outlet, and they came agonisingly close to an equaliser in the first of three minutes added on, when Ilesamni’s shot was cleared off the line after an almighty goalmouth scramble in the snow and mud.
After Buxton had almost made sure of the points through substitute Brad Grayson, the Yellows earned their last shot at a point when a free-kick was awarded 20 yards from goal, just on the right edge of the box.
Up-stepped Vassallo, who hit a perfectly-struck left-footed free-kick that found the bottom corner and complete an unlikely comeback and earn a point.
It preserves Warrington’s unbeaten start to 2017, and they will hope to continue that at home to Marine on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
Buxton: Budtz, Williams, Green, Ravenhill, J Bembo-Leta, Young, Taylor (Jackson), Abbott, McGee, Hardy (Grayson), Doran (Hinsley). Unused subs: Walker, F Bembo-Leta.
Warrington Town: McMillan, Gumbs (Vassallo), Askew, Ventre (Smart), McCarten, Shaw, Harries, Duggan, Jerome (Ilesamni), Monaghan, Codling. Unused subs: Kilheeney, Robinson.