Round three of Sporting's triple header of top of the table clashes saw them play away to Bacton United 89 'A'.
On a grey day the two teams were looking to pick up a win as both sides had seen a dip in results in recent weeks. With Sporting only managing a loss and draw despite putting in match winning performances against league leaders Chantry Grasshoppers. Bacton were suffering a string of poor results and had no doubt earmarked this game as their turnaround match.
Manager Mark Crawford had looked on in frustration over the last few weeks as he watched his team fall to defeat and only manage a draw against Chantry, who had been outplayed over the two games. Changes were imminent after injuries to Krogh and Stebbings, Crawford bringing back Daryl Manning, Chris Honeyball, Chris Smith and Daniel Herrera to the starting line up.
Sporting would line up in there usual 4-4-1-1 formation hoping that Bailey would hit top form again after having a quiet game the week before.
The Referee blew his whistle to ignite this hot bed of football.
Sporting looked to pressure Bacton early on as they moved the ball swiftly down the left flank, utilizing Manning's pace and skill to good effect as they advanced slowly down the touchline. Bacton held firm however and kept Sporting at bay, Smith dodged and weaved through midfield and found Barton who let fly with a speculative long range effort much to Manager Mark Crawford's dismay. Bailey had been quietly hovering in and around the back line when Nolan found him and released him on a run which saw him twist and turn his way into a dangerous position only to be closed out at the last. Nolan had started well early on, winning the ball back several times and distributing well. Bacton looked good however and mid way through the second half they broke after another failed attack from Sporting. Honeyball, Ginn, Benwell and Rodwell made Sporting's defence look a fearsome prospect to overcome as Benwell and Ginn had dominated Bacton's forwards early on with some crunching challenges and fantastic clearances. Overloaded and with the Sporting midfield still on the retreat Bacton took the lead after they worked their way into the box and fired past Dan Page and put them in the driving seat. Sporting were not to be outdone however and pressed Bacton back into their half after the restart, Herrera had been on the fringes of the game for most of the game but the ball was worked into him and after some interplay with Nolan and Rodwell the ball was worked into Smith who found Barton again only for Sporting to concede possession again. Crawford could be seen pacing up and down his technical area instructing his midfield to drop back and provide cover for the defence. Some more fantastic defending by Honeyball down the left created an opportunity for Manning to burst forward and after some neat build up work with Bailey, Bacton were forced to press the ball out for a corner. Herrera had been in and out of the side in recent months and you would have to look as far back as his stellar display against Salvation Army in December to remember any real contribution to Sporting. Ready to prove a point however he was tasked with delivering a killer ball to bring Sporting back into this game. Herrera stepped up and floated in a delicious cross as Manning made a fantastic run and gobbled up the ball, hammering it in the back of the net with a bullet header after rising like a salmon. Sporting back in the game at one all.
Bacton looked to wrestle the lead back as they put some strong pressure on Sporting's defence but Ginn and Benwell stood firm and snuffed out each wave of Bacton's attack. Sporting worked the ball well through midfield with Barton and Bailey linking up well, Bailey found space to unleash an effort from inside the box but a Bacton body deflected it away from goal and Herrera's subsequent cross after gathering the ball up managed to force a save from Bacton's keeper but lead to no real opportunity on goal. Sporting again broke and after Nolan found Barton on the edge of the box Bacton again could do nothing but put the ball out for a corner. Herrera stepped up again and aimed at the far post but the ball was headed back out for another corner by a Bacton defender, not to be deterred Herrera again tried for the back post and again the ball was cleared, this time for a throw in. After some neat interplay between Nolan, Bailey and Manning the ball was forced out for yet another corner and this time Herrera would not be denied, he whipped the ball in at pace and found Bailey in the box who only had to guide the ball into the back of the net for his first (and probably only) header of the year. Sporting now 2-1 up and looking good for their lead. The referee blew his whistle after a hard fought first half and Sporting looked confident going into the changing rooms at half time.
The second half began as the first half ended as Sporting looked to pile more pressure on Bacton to extend their lead but it would be Bacton who would turn things around as midway through the first half Bacton won a corner and after a near post delivery Bacton's substitute Forward found the net at the near post. Bacton clawing one back to make it 2-2 and leaving Crawford red faced on the touchline.
Changes were needed and after a good hours work, Herrera was replaced by Luke who was making a return after a lengthy injury absence. Luke from the off looked to get down the wing as he latched onto a pass from Smith and found his way into the box only to have his shot edged out for a goal kick. Barton was having a rather quiet game and had not been at his best but when a long ball found it's way to his feet he held the ball up well before sliding in Smith with a fantastic through ball who danced his way past several Bacton defenders before chipping the keeper with his first goal in a Sporting 87 shirt. Sporting in the lead again with the score at 3-2.
More changes were made as Bacton pressured Sporting and came close to equalising on several occasions. Crawford brought on Macintyre and pushed Luke up top to partner Barton as Bailey made his way to the bench, failing to complete 90 minutes for the first time this season.
Bacton still pushed hard and after some good work down the left they won a corner. In the dying minutes of the game Bacton found themselves in euphoria as the corner met one of their players who found the back of the net possibly securing them a vital point on the road to recovery. 3-3.
Barton. Barton hadn't read the script.
Crawford brought on Taylor and moved Rodwell into midfield but with hardly any time on the clock it looked a certain point for Sporting despite a good display, echoes of the Chantry game the week before.
Sporting won a throw deep into Bacton's half and after Honeyball found Manning he managed to wriggle away from his marker and find Barton, who unleashed an absolute thunderbolt effort that flew past a fully outstretched Bacton keeper clipping the inside of the far post before nestling neatly in the Bacton net and sending Sporting into raptures. Sporting at the death 4-3.
Bacton with the few seconds remaining threw everything at Sporting as time seemed to move at snails pace for the game leaders. Benwell and Ginn time and again throwing themselves in front of every ball.
The referee blew his whistle and Sporting could now truly celebrate a fantastic win against a well organised and well drilled Bacton side.
After a hard fought game, attentions could now turn to their home game against AFC Titans who have had a resurgence in recent weeks after finding a new goalscorer.