Wednesday, 23rd April 2014

Drayton near to the great escape

MARKET DRAYTON fans are now finally able to draw breath long enough to put this helter-skelter season of dramas and delights into perspective.

When thinking when that would come, the four dates in March that came to pass might not have been considered.

And, in retrospect, the afternoon of Saturday the 17th and evening of Tuesday the 20th could be called defining  in the club’s battle for Evo-Stik League South survival.

The 17th stands out, not just for Town beating back-markers Shepshed Dynamo 4-1, but because the footballing fates finally chose to  smile on Drayton.

All their rivals in the relegation rumble failed to win, suddenly leaving Town in a position of real, if not quite mathematical  safety, 15 points above the drop zone.

If there was any doubts about that, Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at impressive Loughborough Dynamo showed just how far they have come.

A lot of that can be contributed to  how much they have improved since they called upon the combined leadership of manager Jimmy Mullen and director of football Andy Cooke.

Both were spectators when the teams last met – a humiliating 7-1 thrashing for Town at Greenfields in late October  that prompted the departure of manager Neil Woolliscroft and his assistant Darren Williams.

The appointment of Mullen, to be followed shortly afterwards by the official arrival of Cooke, was a massive milestone for Town – and Tuesday’s return match was another, arguably bigger one.

When Messrs Mullen and Cooke began their work, Town were in dire straights  – bottom of the table and ousted at the first hurdle from all of the five cups they had entered.

So to reach the point where, after Tuesday’s draw on Loughborough’s patch, Mullen could complain about not winning, speaks volumes about the distance Drayton have progressed.

He argued after the game: “We could have had two or three goals in the first-half and their equaliser was down to a blatant foul on our goalkeeper, Matty Cohen.”

Jamie Clarke took advantage of that 75th minute melee to score, cancelling out a super strike from Nicky Porter.

That had come 14 minutes earlier, when he half-volleyed a massive clearance from Cohen straight over Loughborough’s startled custodian, Laurie Pearson, from 20 yards.

Mullen also hailed his men for the way they settled Shepshed on Saturday.

He said; “It was a great team effort. We were always too strong for them.

“They battled hard but, in the end, I felt we would not have been flattered by another couple of goals.”

Ironically, while Drayton deserved it, there was a strong element of doubt about Drayton’s opener.

It was a 30th minute penalty, which was emphatically  rammed home by Martyn Davies.