Few could argue that confidence and belief was at it's lowest before this week fixture as Sporting went into the game with back to back defeats and some disappointing performances to boot.
Manager Mark Crawford was tasked with turning things around and some drastic changes were needed.
With Mike Ginn and Benwell dropping into defence and Stebbings returning, it was a new look back line for Sporting. Nathan Krogh got the nod over the out of form Herrera and Jim Miller started again alongside the ever present Bailey.
Referee C. Phillips commenced proceedings as he blew his whistle. Sporting came out of the blocks early on as they pressed high up the pitch winning back the ball time and again, Lovejoy was winning every header and putting in some fantastic challenges as Benwell continued to burst out from his left full back position providing some problems for Shotley's right flank. Sporting's defence stood firm against a rare Shotley attack in the early stages of the game and Ginn lead his defence well, leading by example by winning every header that came his way. Early on it was evident that Crawford's changes had made an impact as the solid foundations gave Sporting the platform to attack and this was to be rewarded as Krogh picked up the ball on the right flank and danced his way past several Shotley players before bursting forward and releasing the ball to Miller who unleashed a thunderbolt drive along the floor and into the back of Shotley's net. Sporting back on track after some poor performances in recent weeks they now lead Shotley one goal to nil.
It was to be more of the same for Sporting who were now dictating the play and after absorbing another rare Shotley attack they burst forward down the right, again Krogh managing to wriggle his way past several players before simply blitzing past Shotley's left back and putting in a delightful cross which caused Shotley all kinds of problems as they failed to clear several times before Bailey found the ball and managed to find Manning who on a hot run of goalscoring form easily dispatched the ball into the back of Shotley's net. Two nil Sporting.
Manning had been working hard down the left and seemed even more energetic after his goal as he prowled the left flank searching for an opportunity to burst into life again. He wouldn't have to wait long as a he pounced onto a loose ball and drove forward, releasing Bailey who unluckily found his shot in the hands of the keeper. Sporting were dominant now and after several fantastic corners from Manning Sporting really should have been up by more than two. They were to be rewarded however when Krogh on one of his trademark runs put in another crisp cross into the box which was missed by several Shotley players and found it's way to Bailey who again managed to find a player, this time it was Sporting's Rodwell who had burst into the box and managed to get his boot on the end of the ball and into the back of the net. Sporting were on cruise control as Manager Mark Crawford could be seen to be very animated on the sidelines, urging his players to stay focused. It was boys against men as Taylor, Ginn, Benwell and Stebbings kept the defence closed for the day and quickly snuffed out any Shotley attack. Keeper Dan Page would have been forgiven for feeling a little bit lonely as he did what was needed with kicks and catches but was left with very little to do. Sporting were left red faced however when Shotley's Linesman deemed a handball had been in effect before Rodwell had found the back of the net and his goal was chalked off. At half time Sporting went in three up and cruising, it was Crawford's job now to keep his team's feet on the ground and work out when and where his substitutes would make an appearance in a team running like clockwork.
The second half began as it ended with Sporting on top and cruising, Shotley seemed resigned to a loss, it was up to Sporting however just how big a loss it would be. Bailey had been on form again today with two assists already to his name and it was time for him to get on the score sheet, having already been denied, Bailey would not be shut out again as Rodwell found him free, Bailey burst forward and slotted home with a trademark finish to put Sporting four goals to the good. Rodwell's revenge for the disallowed goal earlier in the game would be sweet when Bailey found him again and this time Rodwell would not be stopped as he hit the back of the net with aplomb. Bailey continued to probe the front line and Miller continued to cause Shotley problems as Sporting pressed hard for another goal. Barton returning today from injury replaced Manning around the hour mark and not long after Miller was rewarded for his tireless efforts with a rest as Herrera took to the pitch and took his position as Bailey's strike partner. Barton weaved some magic a he danced clear of some Shotley players to find Bailey who took on several Shotley defenders before narrowly being closed out for a shot. Herrera was hovering around Bailey anticipating that one pass that would give him a chance. Herrera was not left waiting long as Bailey zipped past two Shotley defenders and from the far left of goal cut the ball back to Herrera who found himself with all the time and space in the world to slot past Shotley's keeper into the bottom left corner of the net. Sporting were in dreamland but were not finished yet.
Rodwell who was Sporting's stand out man of the match, managed to find Barton on the edge of the box who controlled the ball before striking it perfectly with his left boot and found the back of Shotley's net to round off a display worthy of the scoreline. Honeyball who had been rested for this tie, came off the bench late on and replaced the evergreen Taylor and worked hard to keep Sporting's clean sheet. The final whistle blew and Sporting could celebrate not only the goals but a fine defensive display as they picked up theirs and Dan Page's second clean sheet of the season.
On a day when Sporting needed a result, they delivered. They could now take this result and performance into the next two fixtures, that would see Sporting play some of the leagues high flyers and Manager Mark Crawford will be hoping Sporting can continue this level of performance.
Highlights of Crawfords touchline frustration dances can be seen at www.nearpostcornersnotfarpostandstoprushingyourpasses.com