Second-half - Sean Cooke concentrates on the action (1) - draw at Stafford

Late goals from Connor Heath and Sean Cooke helped Nantwich Town earn a thrilling 2-2 draw against Stafford Rangers in front of more than 1,000 fans, writes Liam Price.

Alex Fletcher dragged an early effort wide while off balance for Stafford, Joe Cuff managing to get in behind Nantwich’s Caspar Hughes in a less familiar right wing back position.

The hosts had started the stronger, and made that count on 10 minutes.

A free kick a couple of yards outside the box was hit in such a way that it bounced right in front of returning keeper Matty Gould.

And on a difficult surface he failed to collect it first time and Jake Charles was there to poach the opener and continue his good scoring form.

The Dabbers struggled to adapt to the conditions.

First touches were often poor and distribution was frequently wild.

But eventually they began to settle into things and look to get back into the game.

And they threatened when Joel Stair headed wide as he tried to repeat his trick from our last meeting two years ago.

A key moment came seven minutes before the break.

From a Thomas Tonks long throw there was a coming together between James O’Neill and Joe Malkin.

Referee Niall Smith had the best view and gave O’Neill a straight red card to hand the Dabbers momentum.

Nantwich pressed for an equaliser before the break.

Troy Bourne steered a difficult header over and Cockerline forced a brilliant save from Tyrell Belford either side of Joe Cuff almost being let in at the other end.

The Dabbers continued to push in the second half but to no avail.

Stair headed over again, then a corner was almost flicked in at the near post were it not for Belford coming good again for Stafford.

Sub Connor Heath clipped a delicate cross for Cooke to head well but it dropped agonisingly wide.

On 81 minutes, Stafford looked like they had sealed all three points.

Cuff nut-megged Hughes on halfway and ran to the edge of the box before smashing home an exceptional strike into the bottom corner.

But Dabbers hit back just two minutes later.

There was a scramble in the penalty area and the ball fell to Heath who was on hand to tap in for 2-1.

Stafford’s patchy home form then began to tell on a nervous crowd and an increasingly nervous team.

Seconds later Cooke hit the crossbar with a sublime curling effort from the edge of the box.

Then another raking ball into the box dropped nicely for Cooke and he poked into the far corner to send the travelling fans crazy in stoppage time.

And there was almost an incredible winner.

A free kick right in Cooke territory went just wide, then with the last kick of the game, a snapshot after a corner was miraculously tipped onto the crossbar by Belford.

This was a vital away point going into the game against Witton Albion on New Year’s Day.

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