Warrington Town set up an EVO-STIK Northern Premier League play-off final meeting with South Shields after picking up an impressive 4-1 victory over Cheshire rivals Nantwich Town.
Despite going behind to Callum Saunders’ acrobatic opener, the Yellows turned things rounds with two goals midway through the second half from Ben Garrity.
An own-goal from Dabbers keeper Lloyd Allinson – who had been in superb form all evening – gave the hosts a two-goal cushion before Tony Gray rounded off the scoring in stoppage time, minutes after Louis Barnes had been shown a red card for a second bookable offence.
Paul Carden made seven changes from the side that drew with Buxton on the final day of the regular season. Mitch Duggan, Alex Whittle, Ben Garrity, David Raven, Tony Gray, Jack Dunn and Jack Mackreth all came in to replace Jay McCarten, Adam Hughes, Russell Benjamin, Dylan Vassallo, Bohan Dixon, Connor McCarthy and Marcus Cusani.
The Yellows made a fast-paced start to the game and forged themselves a chance within the opening four minutes. After Robbie Evans was felled near halfway, the Welshman floated a free-kick into the area, and although Garrity peeled off well at the back-post, his header went straight at Lloyd Allinson.
The intense pressing continued for the hosts and they forced two chances in quick succession as the game approached the 15-minute mark. Shortly after Mark Roberts came inches away from connecting with Dunn’s outswinging corner, top scorer Gray tried his luck from the edge of the area but fired just over the top.
Despite their bright start, the visitors took the lead on 27 minutes. After Gray was penalised for a foul on halfway, Warrington were unable to fully clear their lines from the resultant floated free-kick, the ball was diverted into the penalty area and Saunders managed to finish acrobatically into the bottom corner.
Undeterred by going a goal behind, Warrington continued to press forward, and it took a sensational stop from Allinson to stop them from drawing level. Mackreth did fantastic to find the overlapping Duggan on the right, and although his pinpoint cross was met with a superb low volley from Gray, the shot could not beat the outstretched legs of the Nantwich stopper.
With five minutes left of the first half, Town came even closer to scoring, but despite their best efforts they could not break through the visitors’ resilient visitors rear-guard. A delightful chip ball from Duggan found the run of Evans in the area, but despite diverting his shot going under Allinson, Joseph Davis managed to clear away on the line.
Warrington started the second period in a similar manner to the first and had two shots in quick succession through Mackreth and Dunn, both proving to be comfortable saves low down for Allinson.
Despite the pressure, Nantwich continued to look dangerous on the break and they nearly doubled their advantage as Jamie Morgan galloped forward into the corner of the area from right-back but could only flash a shot well wide.
After all their pressing, Warrington finally equalised 10 minutes into the second half. Once again, set pieces were causing problems for the visitors and it was a Dunn corner from the right that found Garrity. After gaining half-a-yard on his man, the midfielder diverted a superb header into the bottom corner.
Spurred on by the equaliser, the hosts continued to press and almost capitalised on their domination of the ball with a second goal. Half-time substitute Bohan Dixon did superbly to hold the ball up in the area and roll it into the path of Alex Whittle, but the left-back’s rasping low drive couldn’t beat Allinson once again.
The Yellows territorial superiority continued as the half progressed and Dunn could’ve given Warrington the lead with little over 25 minutes remaining. After winning a free-kick on the right flank, the winger tried to catch the visiting keeper out with a shot at goal, but his effort agonisingly landed on the roof of the net.
Eventually, the onslaught brought about by Paul Carden’s side resulted in the home side hitting the front. After a Dunn free-kick was tipped over by Allinson, the resultant corner found Garrity, who powerfully headed past the stranded Dabbers number one.
Just two minutes later, Nantwich gave the ball away inside their own half, and after Gray found the onrushing Mackreth down the right side of the penalty area, the wide man couldn’t beat the duo of Allinson and Louis Barnes.
Fresh from defending at one end, left-back Barnes had a chance at the other, but despite finding space on the edge of the area, his swerving strike went just wide of McMIllan’s right-hand post.
With both sides throwing caution to the wind, it was inevitable that more goals would come, and it was the home side that took a two-goal lead with three minutes remaining. After winning a free-kick on the edge of the area, Dunn once again fired a set piece towards goal, and despite it initially hitting the bar, it rebounded off the chest of the helpless Allinson and into the back of the net.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Barnes was shown a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Dunn, and as the game entered stoppage time, Warrington rounded the game off with a fourth goal.
Dixon did brilliantly to stride free down the right as Nantwich threw men forward, and after delivering a delightful cross, Gray spectacularly volleyed home to score the goal his performance more-than-merited.
Warrington Town: McMillan, Duggan (Dixon 46), Roberts, Raven, Whittle, Garrity (Vassallo 89), Evans, Beeley, Mackreth (Benjamin 84), Gray, Dunn
Subs not used: Amis, Cusani
Nantwich Town: Allinson, Morgan, Barnes, Davis, Bourne, Hughes, Lawrie (Fuller 78), Bell, Glover, Cooke, Saunders (Malkin 86)
Subs not used: Mullarkey, McDonald, Read