Man of the match Joel Stair on the ball v Corby - Lancaster

Two first half goals from Joel Stair and Sean Cooke ensured Nantwich Town confirmed their place in the 2018/19 Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs with a 2-0 win over Lancaster City, writes Steve Sharman.

Both goals came inside the opening 10 minutes as fourth place was confirmed with two games still to play.

Stair’s (pictured) goal came in the fourth minute as the centre-back fired home from close range following a neat corner routine involving Caspar Hughes and Cooke.

Cooke then added a second five minutes later as he latched onto a Ricardo Fuller knock down and found the bottom corner with a left footed effort.

Manager Dave Cooke made a number of changes from the last game against Mickleover Sports with Stair, Matt Bell, Joe Malkin and Fuller all making the starting line-up.

It was the Dabbers who made a bright start as they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, with Cooke’s resulting effort providing a corner for the visitors.

That corner then gave the game its first goal after just four minutes as Cooke’s resulting effort from a well worked corner saw the loose ball find Stair who made no mistake from close range.

One goal soon turned to two just five minutes later as Cooke took advantage of a neat header down from Fuller inside the box to drill home his 12th league goal of the season with his left foot.

There was only one team in the ascendancy in the opening period as a great move involving Malkin and Cooke saw the latter curl agonisingly wide, before the midfielder then fired another effort wide after he was found by Louis Barnes inside the box.

The hosts weren’t offering a great deal going forward despite opportunities to get the ball into the box as the Dabbers backline were comfortable in dealing with any attacks.

Two minutes before the break it should have been three for Nantwich as a slick move involving Barnes, Cooke and Bell saw the latter shoot wide of the near post when one on one with the goalkeeper.

Lancaster then came out into the second half with far more energy than the first and Lloyd Allinson was called into his first save early on as David Norris’ effort was dealt with comfortably by the Dabbers’ keeper.

The Dolly Blues were having their best spell in the game as substitute Matty Blinkhorn headed wide from Paul Dugdale’s cross.

This was as close as Lancaster would get in the opening period of the second half as the Dabbers soon claimed control of the game once more with Malkin inches away from converting Callum Saunders cross.

Cooke then went very close to adding a third and his second as his curling free-kick went inches past the post, before Glenn Steel fired well wide up the other end following a pinball in the Dabbers box.

With a win confirming a play-off place the Dabbers were comfortable in sitting back for periods of the half with neither side creating any opportunities of note.

Lancaster forward Tom Kilifin should have pulled one back but shot wide when well placed following a neat header from Brad Carsley.

Carsley’s free kick high over the bar in stoppage time then summed up the hosts’ afternoon in front of goal as the Dabbers claimed all three points and confirmed a play-off place with two games still to play.

The Dabbers take on Stafford Rangers today (Easter Monday) in their final scheduled league game of the season at the Weaver Stadium, 3pm kick off.

Nantwich Town: Allinson, Morgan, Barnes, Stair, Davis, Hughes (c), Bourne, Bell, Malkin (Glover 68′), Cooke (Lawrie 80′), Fuller (Saunders 59′). Subs not used: Mullarkey, Walsh.

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