Centre-back Joe Smith made his return to the squad after a period out due to injury. This allowed utility player Jordan Emery to move forward and take the place of the unavailable Dan Coupland. Sam Denton earned a spot in the starting lineup, replacing Harry Viggars.
On paper, this victory may seem comfortable, but for the first hour, it was a closely contested match. Town faced determined opponents and both teams had to contend with challenging conditions.
This was despite The Miners taking the lead in the very first minute. Nash Connolly moved down the right wing and found Jay Davis. Although his shot was blocked, the rebound fell to Marshall on his left, who struck it home. In the 13th minute, Sam Barker’s header was saved by Maltby keeper Levi Owen from Jordan Emery’s free kick. Town struggled to maintain pressure on the hosts, and they conceded the equalizer in the 22nd minute. Matthew Ord’s deep free kick was played back into the area to Ethan Hobson, who headed it past the outstretched dive of Harry Flatters. Shortly after, the hosts had a chance to complete the turnaround, but Ahren Rogers’ low shot went wide of the far post.
Davis was thwarted by Owen when supplied by Marshall in the 30th minute, with the keeper snatching the ball from under his feet. Then, at the other end, Leighton Sawyer’s low cross across the six-yard box just needed a tap-in, but ex-Town striker Nathan Perks was inches away. Marshall then came close to scoring his second as half time approached, with his glancing header from Davis’s free kick just missing the far post.
Perks and Sawyer combined again for another Maltby chance in the 53rd minute, but Flatters was up to the task of saving Perks’ header. After that, Town began to assert control over the game, and Marshall was unlucky with a low shot that struck the near post after Barker worked his way into the box. However, he secured his second (and his 40th for the club) in the 67th minute, finally restoring our lead. After Emery’s shot was blocked, the ball was played across to Marshall, who scored with a powerful strike across Owen.
Connolly came close to making it three when his header from Barker’s delivery narrowly missed the near post. In a counter attack on the 81st minute, Marshall did just that to complete his hat-trick. Outsmarting both Owen and defender Matthew Reay, he found the bottom corner of the net, surely securing the points for the journey back up the A1. A minute from the end, substitute Matt Antcliff scored his first goal since his recent return from injury. Although it was a welcome goal, it probably came about in a manner he didn’t expect. Sliding in for the ball with Hobson just inside the area, he got to it first and bundled it past a stranded Owen to make it four. Deep into injury time, there was an opportunity for substitute Alex Knox to score his first for the club when supplied by Antcliff’s venture along the right, but his low shot narrowly missed the target.
Another impressive win for Paul Marshall’s side and a test of character that we might not have passed earlier in the season.
Final Score: Maltby Main 1 Garforth 4