Pictures John Hopkins
WARRINGTON Town came from behind for a deserved 4-1 victory over Nantwich Town to progress to the play-off final.
Trailing at the break, a brace of Ben Garrity headers turned the tie around for the Yellows to set up a trip to South Shields on Saturday.
It was no less than Paul Carden’s side deserved as they played the better football throughout, but went behind to a spectacular opening goal against the run of play by Dabbers winger Callum Saunders.
After a sluggish opening to their last home league game, a goalless draw against Witton Albion that ended their title hopes, Warrington were keen to avoid a repeat and they came out full of life on a well watered pitch.
They started with an intensity that they would maintain for large parts of the match, though despite their relative dominance, they didn’t create anything in the form of a clear cut opening in the first 10 minutes.
Their first shot towards goal came on 14 minutes, Garrity winning a couple of headers in midfield to find Jack Mackreth, he beat his man and laid off for Tony Gray who hit a rising shot over the bar.
Both Jack Dunn and Jack Mackreth were seeing plenty of the ball and asking questions of their full-backs, Dunn cutting in from the left touchline and dragging a right-foot shot wide.
Nantwich fired their first real warning when Saunders got space on the left and a dangerous ball was turned behind by Dave Raven.
Saunders would open the scoring on 26 minutes, a disputed free-kick close to half way wasn’t cleared by the Yellows and the winger fired an acrobatic volley in to the bottom corner.
That was a blow to the Yellows, who would have had last season’s play-off disappointment – a 3-0 defeat to Grantham Town – in their minds.
They dug in though and on 33 minutes could have equalised through Gray, Lloyd Allinson pulling off a fine stop from the striker’s shot off Mitch Duggan’s pull back.
Duggan then clipped a ball over the top to find the run of Robbie Evans, who beat the ‘keeper but saw his effort hooked off the line.
Nantwich started the second half on the front foot though it wasn’t long until the pattern of the first half was restored.
The introduction of Bohan Dixon at half-time gave the Yellows more options in the final third, and he almost scored off Mackreth’s excellent right-wing cross.
For all their forward play, the Yellows were given a warning of the threat that the Dabbers posed when a pacey Jamie Morgan rode a challenge to get through in to the box and fired a shot across the face of goal.
The equaliser came on 55 minutes from a set-piece routine, Dunn’s clipped corner headed goalwards by Garrity and it crept in at the far post.
It was all Warrington and a lovely turn by Dixon saw Alex Whittle in to the box, his shot cleared from in the goalmouth, before Dunn hit a wicked free-kick just over the bar.
Two free-kick incidents would then result in the gamebreaking moment. At one end, a magic turn by Casper Hughes left Saunders with the ball, he went down theatrically on the edge of the box and was booked for simulation.
Warrington went up the other end, and when Gray was pulled down on the edge of the box, Dunn curled a free-kick was tipped over by Allinson.
From the corner, an almost carbon copy routine saw Dunn’s corner headed in to the top corner by Garrity to send the 1,424 crowd into delirium, the hard-working midfielder booked for removing his shirt in the celebrations.
Former Stoke City striker Ricardo Fuller was brought on to give Nantwich more of a threat up front, and he had calls for a penalty waved away when Whittle brought him down in the box, shortly after Louis Barnes whistled a shot wide.
Despite having a lead to protect, Warrington didn’t sit back and they got the crucial third goal three minutes from time, Dunn hammering a free-kick off the crossbar and in to the net off the back of the unfortunate Allinson.
The five minutes of injury time sparked Nantwich in to life, only for them to find Tony McMillan in-form, the ‘keeper pulling off a brilliant save at full stretch to his right to deny Daniel Glover, and then tipping Sean Cooke’s shot on to the cross bar.
As they committed men forward, Nantwich were exposed at the back and a fine run by Dunn was curtailed by Barnes, who picked up a second yellow card and was sent off.
And to rub salt in the Dabbers wounds, Warrington added a fourth, Dixon’s cross volleyed home by Gray, who very much deserved a goal for his efforts.
Warrington Town: McMillan, Duggan (Dixon), Whittle, Garrity (Vassallo), Roberts, Raven, Beeley, Evans, Gray, Dunn, Mackreth (Benjamin). Unused subs: Amis, Cusani.
Nantwich Town: Allinson, Morgan, Barnes, Davis, Bourne, Hughes, Lawrie (Fuller), Bell, Glover, Cooke, Saunders (Malkin). Unused subs: Mullarkey, McDonald, Read.