CONGLETON TOWN 1, HANLEY TOWN 0
The early signs look promising for Congleton Town’s new management team of Ryan Austin and Richard Duffy, two players who enjoyed hugely successful careers in the professional game.
The Bears, unbeaten in their opening three games in the North West Counties League, are looking to bring the good times back to Booth Street.
The goal remains to regain Northern Premier League status and, were it achieved this season, it would be on the 20th anniversary since they last played at a higher level.
Austin and Duffy are no strangers to the non-league game, though, as they cut their teeth at Kidsgrove Athletic.
But they bring to the table a wealth of experience and, above all, contacts in the game.
Austin had eight successful years at Burton Albion while centre-back Duffy, 35, who still plays for the Bears, won 13 full caps for Wales during his stellar career which saw him play in the Premier League for Portsmouth after his career kicked off at Swansea City.
The management team has lured 38-year-old former Jamaican international Lee Williamson out of retirement.
Winger Williamson, who played in the Premier League for Watford, also played for clubs including Sheffield United, Portsmouth and Blackburn Rovers.
Congleton’s latest win was 1-0 in a feisty derby against Hanley Town who three days earlier had won 7-0 at Eccleshall.
Only 12.7 miles separates the two clubs and local rivalry is intense with the game having a dramatic finish.
Hanley conceded a 93rd minute penalty when goalkeeper Adam Lawrence was sent off for violent conduct.
Substitute Joe Thompson, an outfield player, went in goal and his first job was to pick the ball out of the net as Bears’ substitute Aaron Bott struck home the spot kick with almost the last kick of the game.
The game had looked a nailed-on goalless draw until the late drama as both sides finished with 10 men – Congleton had left back Jonathan Swale was shown a straight red card with 15 minutes left for a reckless challenge.
In the opening period, Bears’ striker Aaron Johns forced Lawrence into a couple of decent saves.
And in the second half, Congleton keeper David Parton acrobatically turned over a drive from Callum Feeney in a game played with a good intensity but with few clear-cut chances.