It was a frustrating afternoon for Kidsgrove Athletic as league strugglers Market Drayton Town nicked a point as the two teams played out a 1-1 draw.
Oliver Jepson had given the Grove the lead on 16 minutes, only for Connor Hughes to controversially equalise for the visitors when many felt that his header hadn’t crossed the line.
In the aftermath of that goal and the protests from players, Lee Williamson was shown a straight red card by referee Alex Kelly.
Manager Ryan Austin shuffled his team from the one that enjoyed the penalty shootout success at Gainsborough Trinity with Sam Hall and Ruben Wiggins-Thomas coming into the side.
Hall was captaining the side in the absence of Anthony Malbon, and he almost channelled his inner Malbon by having the first effort of the afternoon. However, his effort was straight at goalkeeper Sam Agius.
Kidsgrove had made all the early running in the opening exchanges of the game and, it was no surprise that they took the lead on 16 minutes when a Williamson corner was knocked down by Hall to Jepson who smashed the ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the season.
It looked like the Grove were going to push on for another vital three points in their bid for the playoffs. However, the side from Shropshire hit back with their first real attack on 29 minutes. Connor Hughes headed a corner towards goal which Kieran Harrison saved. However, the Assistant Referee flagged to say the ball had gone in and the referee awarded the goal. Much to the anger of the players.
In the chaos that followed the goal, Williamson was shown a straight red card for dissent towards the referee. Leaving the Grove to play the remainder of the match with 10 men.
Despite being a man down, it was still Kidsgrove who looked the more likely to score again with Wiggins-Thomas being put through one on one with Aguis. However, the goalkeeper made a fine block to deny the forward a goal when you would expect him to hit the back of the net.
While James Butler put a header just over the crossbar and, Kieran Coates went close to getting his first goal from a volley as the Grove sought a second goal before half-time.
The half ended on another sour note for the hosts as Tom France seemed to pick up a hamstring injury meaning Kyle Blake was brought on in his place.
After the break, the flow of the game continued in the same way with Crewe loanee Regan Griffiths and Richard Duffy testing Agius. However, neither could hit the back of the net.
Market Drayton could have had a red card of their own when Callum Bennett caught Wiggins-Thomas in the face and, despite giving a free-kick the referee didn’t book Bennett.
In a rare move forward by the Gingerbread men Connor Russo almost caught Harrison off his line with a lob, thankfully for the hosts it sailed over the crossbar.
Agius was the star man for Market Drayton as he made two more fine saves to deny Wiggins-Thomas and then Jepson on the rebound as Kidsgrove piled on the pressure searching for a priceless win. While at the other end, Jamie Hands should have stolen all three points for Market Drayton in the final minute of injury time, thankfully for Kidsgrove, he couldn’t get on the end of Tom Nixon’s low cross.
Disappointing for the Grove to drop two vital points as they chase the playoffs. Although it could be a vital point when we come to the end of the season with teams looking for every point the can get. Austin will take his patched-up team, which had been hit with injuries and suspensions to Sutton Coldfield Town next Saturday hoping to get back on track.
After the game I spoke to Ryan Austin to get his thoughts on the game.
Kidsgrove Athletic: Harrison, Coates, Morris, Jepson, Duffy, Butler, Griffiths, Hall (Minott, 79), France (Blake, 45), Wiggins-Thomas and Williamson.
Unused sub: Sankoh.
Market Drayton Town: Agius, Nixon, Bennett, Hands, Hughes, Nash, Tindall-Bennett (O’Toole, 60), Green-Birch, Thomas, M. O’Reilly (Hill, 68) and Russo (Graybrook, 79)
Unused subs: J.O’Reilly and Price.