Manchester Central earned a crucial three points in their push for promotion after a difficult 1-0 win away at Boothstown on Tuesday night.
A first half goal by centre back Jamar Campbell gave Central the lead, after striker Josh Frith had seen a penalty saved earlier in the half.
Campbell went from hero to villain soon after the interval, when he was shown a straight red for an altercation in the Boothstown box, but Central held on for the three points.
After severe delays on many of the surrounding roads, kick-off for the match was delayed by a half hour and Central were forced to go into the match without a warm-up.
Despite the unusual circumstances, and a slightly reduced half-length due to a lack of floodlights at Boothstown’s ground, manager Paul McGuire’s Central side came out out the gates attacking.
Central caused a number of problems for the home side, but one of the best early chances fell to Boothstown. A deep cross fell to their unmarked forward in the middle of the net, but he fired his volley a number of yards wide of the post.
The first half continued much in the same way for the rest of the half, with Central having the lion’s share of possession and attacking chances but the home side managed to block and clear the danger well.
However, the best chance of the game came for Central just before the early half time break, when in the 36th minute a Central player was clipped in the box as they went to shoot and the referee pointed to the spot.
Forward Frith stepped up to take it, but Boothstown’s goalkeeper guessed correct and dived down well to push the ball past the post.
It was a great save, but just moments later Campbell finished from the corresponding corner. It was a much deserved lead for Central, and a brilliant response to having missed the chance with the penalty kick.
The second half looked to be the same as the first, as Central continued to attack and keep Boothstown penned back into their half.
However, in the 54th minute, much of that changed when Central won themselves a corner from a good effort by Liam Ellis. As the players got themselves ready for the set play, the referee saw an altercation in the box and called over goalscorer Campbell – dismissing him from the field.
Boothstown seemed encouraged by their sudden numerical advantage, but still failed to offer too much that was dangerous to Central’s lead.
McGuire’s players on the pitch rallied too, and demonstrated good spirit and technical ability to continue to create chances and keep pressure on the home side, denied only by occasional heavy touches and some good goalkeeping from the home side.
As the time began to run out, and the light started fading significantly, Boothstown threw what they had forwards and the game became quite stop-start, with several cheap fouls given away by both teams.
Central defended resolutely and remained focused on the task in hand, running down the remaining minutes safely, and earning the team a key three points – further boosted by the loss by fourth-placed promotion rivals Elton Vale.