First-half - first Nantwich Town goal - Sean Cooke celebrates with teammates (1)

Joe Malkin delivered a knock-out punch to Stafford Rangers with a brace on Boxing Day in Nantwich Town’s 4-1 win, writes James Brown.

The victory in front of more than 800 supporters consolidated Nantwich’s place at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

The Dabbers put on an excellent display from defence to attack, with Sean Cooke and Malkin both being denied inside the opening five minutes by Stafford keeper George Sykes-Kenworthy.

At the other end, Nantwich loanee keeper Will Jaaskelainen kept out Andrew Haworth and Joe Cuff as the hosts began to put pressure on the Dabbers goal.

The game was kept goalless by Sykes-Kenworthy again just before the half hour mark when Louis Barnes fooled the Stafford wall with a free-kick curled left-footed towards the bottom corner however it was saved well.

The deadlock was eventually broken on 32 minutes – and it was something special.

Joe Mwasile’s storming run down the right wing beat two defenders before feeding Cooke outside the box who curled right footed into the top corner.

First-half - first Nantwich Town goal - Sean Cooke (1)

First Nantwich Town goal by Sean Cooke

James Lawrie used some neat footwork to put himself in a goal scoring position but sliced over five minutes later before Stafford began to grow into the game.

Despite looking offside, Cuff found himself in on goal however good reactions from Jaaskelainen kept Nantwich ahead.

Five minutes before the break, the home side were level when Jake Charles ran down the right and crossed into the six-yard box where the unfortunate Joel Stair turned an attempted clearance past his own keeper.

Cooke had a chance to respond quickly but was denied by Sykes-Kenworthy as the sides went into half-time all square.

Stafford began the second half on the front foot as a sliced Jamie Morgan clearance allowed Charles in, but he fired wide before Nantwich settled.

From the 54-minute mark, the Dabbers controlled possession with a Lawrie cut-back finding the run of Matt Bell who had his goal-bound shot blocked on what was becoming a difficult pitch to play fluent football.

Nantwich re-took the lead before the hour mark when a drilled shot from Cooke 20-yards out was only parried by Sykes-Kenworthy into Malkin’s path who scored his first of the afternoon, thumping home from close range.

Second-half - second Nantwich Town goal - Joe Malkin celebrates his goal (1)

Joe Malkin celebrates his first goal

The home side almost levelled once more after a shot from inside the area was cleared off the line by Lawrie.

With 20 minutes to go, the Dabbers were in a great position to pick up three points with what turned out to be an important goal.

More terrific energy from Mwasile took the winger past Josh Green before crossing for Malkin who netted his brace with a bullet header.

Toby Mullarkey wrapped up the victory inside the final 10 minutes, rising above his marker from a Cooke corner to head home as the fantastic Dabbers traveling support erupted.

Second-half - fourth Nantwich Town goal - Toby Mullarkey (1)

Fourth Nantwich Town goal by Toby Mullarkey

Stair continued to lead an excellent Nantwich defensive line to see out the remaining time and make it eight unbeaten in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.

The Dabbers are back at home on New Year’s Day with a Cheshire derby against Witton Albion at the Weaver Stadium (3pm kick-off).

Nantwich Town: Will Jaaskelainen, Jamie Morgan, Louis Barnes, Joel Stair, Toby Mullarkey, Matt Bell, Joe Mwasile (Callum Saunders 81’), Caspar Hughes (c) (Danny Glover 89’), Joe Malkin, Sean Cooke (Nathan Cotterell 90’+2), James Lawrie. Subs not used: Troy Bourne, Declan O’Riordan

(pics by Jonathan White)

Second-half - third Nantwich Town goal - Joe Malkin second goal (1)

First-half - Joe Malkin puts in a tackle (1)

First-half - Will Jaaskelainen saves at The Shed End (1)

First-half - first Nantwich Town goal - Sean Cooke celebrates with Joe Mwasile (1)

Second-half - fourth Nantwich Town goal - Toby Mullarkey - Dabbers fans celebrate (1)

Full-time - Dabbers players and management thank fans (1)

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