Lawless 86, 90+3
Nuneaton Town 0
A mesmeric Alex Lawless performance secured all three points for the Hatters on a difficult and frustrating afternoon at Kenilworth Road. Lawless' incredible 25-yard wonder-strike won it for Town with time ticking down before he wrapped up the victory in added time after a Town fast-break.
A result that was needed for Town as they recovered from Tuesday nights disappointment in the best way possible, which has seen Paul Buckle's men push back into the thick of the promotion picture.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner and Scott Rendell come in for suspended Stuart Fleetwood and Jake Robinson respectively which saw Jake Howells moved forward into the middle of midfield, with Rowe-Turner completing the back four.
Both sides started cagey, allowing very little opportunities with Andre Gray's cross into the stands summing up the first five minutes of action.
Six minutes the Town won their first corner when a neat interchange between Rendell and Gray allowed Jon Shaw to stride forward. Bundled over by a retreating Boro body the ball fell for Gray who forced the corner. Howells whipped in a deep cross looking for Rendell whose header back across goal is inches away from the on rushing Connor Essam.
The Town continued to press with a flurry of set-pieces. Howells first drilled a free-kick into the aerial space of Rendell who was beaten to the ball for a corner. The resulting corner found Essam 12 yards from goal whose header was eagerly watched into keeper Ben McNamara's hands.
12 minutes into the game, as the rain began to pour over the Kenilworth Road, turf JJ O'Donnell went for the audacious as he spotted McNamara off his line. Unfortunately for the Town midfield engine his effort skewed wide.
A half-chance goes begging for the Hatters as skipper Ronnie Henry whipped a ball into the corridor of uncertainty between keeper and defence with Rendell and Shaw lurking. Boro captain Gaz Dean read the situation and calmly chested back to McNamara to avert the danger.
Nuneaton’s first sight of goal came on 17 minutes when Andy Brown's searching cross evaded everyone and dropped half-a-yard in front of top scorer Adam Walker but his first touch saw the ball skip out of play for a goal kick.
The Town came close on 21 minutes when they worked the ball to the right hand touchline to the feet of Gray who was invited to shoot by the Boro back-line, an invitation he formally accepted but his low drive scampered past the far post.
The visitors worked an opening on 33 minutes when a series of sloppy Town passes allowed the ball to fall to Brown whose stinging shot was blocked by Simon Ainge square in the chest.
On 36 minutes the Town faithful were off their feet when O'Donnell latched onto Gray's deflected pull back and worked the keeper from 12-yards.
The Town started to find a rhythm after the O'Donnell chance as Rowe-Turner's in-swinging cross from the left hand side had Shaw scrambling to reach it. With Shaw left only the keeper to beat if he reached the cross, the Hatters fans rose as one expecting the net to bulge. Shaw's outstretched leg was millimetres from making contact before McNamara scrabbled in the ball into his chest to the relief of the travelling fans.
With five minutes until the interval, the Town began to work the Boro keeper more frequently as successive crosses from Henry searching for Shaw were recovered fbyrom McNamara with relative ease.
The first booking of the game came on 42 minutes for the visitors’ James Armson on 42 minutes when he brought down Howells who was sprinting away for a Town counter attack. From the resulting free-kick, swung in by Lawless, there was a nervous fractious in the Boro box. The ball was lashed out for a throw in which Rowe-Turner took quickly to the feet of Gray who turned inside and smashed an effort goalwards. As the ball seemed to be sailing wide of the Boro goal Rendell nipped in at the back post to deflect the ball back across the face before it trickled inches wide of the post.
The referee drew an end to a lacklustre first half from both sides, with the score remaining goal-less and chances few and far between. Changes at half-time seemed a possibility with neither side getting a real foot hold in the game.
Despite a tightly-contested first half the teams returned 15 minutes later without any half-time changes but a change in approach as Howells weaved his way down the right touchline committing defenders left, right and centre before leaving them for dead as he drove inside. Howells then laid the ball off to Shaw who instantly struck a left-footed effort goalwards which was charged down by Dean and out for a Town throw.
Five minutes after the restart and wiry legs are starting to tire from a Nuneaton point of view as Gray's skill-full turn had Gavin Cowan tugging at his collar to concede the free-kick which saw his name added to the referee's card list. The resulting free-kick teased into the box amongst an area littered with players and it was Cowan who rose highest to head away from danger.
Three minute later a hat-trick of Ainge headers defused a threatening Nuneaton attack as they looked to counter on an overloaded Hatters attack. A long ball looking for Brown from full-back Simon Forsdick saw Ainge dart in front to head away before Delroy Gordon threw the ball straight back into the area. Ainge was again on hand to head out of danger which fell to the feet of John Adams who slung a cross in from the touchline which again saw Ainge's flick header keep the scoreline goalless.
Nuneaton were gifted an opportunity to work Tyler in the Town goal as Essam conceded a foul 20 yards from goal to earn himself a booking and Boro a free-kick in a dangerous position. Armson stood over it and as his effort curled over the wall he failed to produce the dip needed and it sailed high and wide.
There was a big chance for the Town 58 minutes when the ball fell to the feet of Rendell on the edge of the area. However, Rendell couldn't get the ball out from under his feet and dug out an effort searching for the corner of the net. McNamara's dive was more for the camera's benefit as it was safely wide of the mark.
Just after the hour mark a bullying run from Rowe-Turner worked an angle for a cross before a deflection took it behind. Rowe-Turner hustled and bustled on the far touchline amid challenges from two Boro bodies before bundling the ball into his path allowing the cross. Howells’ corner was eventually flicked over by Tuesday night’s goalscorer Ainge.
Paul Buckle made a change when Dan Walker replaced Essam in an attack-minded substitute that worked a treat against Braintree.
Nuneaton boss Kevin Wilkin brought on pacey wide-man Robbie Thompson-Brown for York six minutes later and moments later it nearly paid dividends. A low corner curled in found its way to Walker who scuffed his effort through the legs of O'Donnell before it was recovered by Tyler.
With 20 minutes to play at Kenilworth Road it was the visitors who began to launch a series of attacks. Another corner was flung into the area towards the back post with centre-half giant Cowan surging on to meet it forcing Tyler to parry. His stop fell to the feet of Walker who tried to place the ball into the corner from the edge of the area but found only the face of Henry. It was a fantastic block from the skipper.
Riled by the realism of three points slipping away from the Hatters they began to pen the visitors into their own 18-yard box as first Lawless fired in a cross looking for Shaw which was battered away only for Gray to recover the ball and swoop into the area before firing wide from an acute angle.
With Town's continued pressure and time ticking down, gaps began to open for Nuneaton to exploit. Brown capitalised on a heavy touch from Gray to lay the ball off for Danny Sleath who carried the ball deep into the Hatters half before lashing wide.
Another dominant aerial display from McNamara in the Boro goal as a neat one-two between Howells and Rowe-Turner fed Rendell the ball for him to head across the box before McNamara came blistering off his line to grab the ball off of Shaw's head.
This game needed a magical spark and it was given that moment of genius from Lawless four minutes from time. He received the ball 30 yards from goal and, as the space opened up in front him the Welshman’s rifled an unstoppable strike into the top corner to bring the house down.
Lawless then confirmed his name would be the one of every fans lips as they left Bedfordshire this evening as Howells’ break-away found Lawless unmarked striding forward. The Welshman then dispatched the ball past an outstretched McNamara hand to secure all three points in the third minute of stoppage time.
A raucous cheer met the arrival of the full-time whistle with Man of The Match Lawless' name still ringing around all corners of the ground. A hard earned three points for Buckle's men, three points that for large parts of the game seemed a frustrating dream but now sees Town re-emerge as one of the front-runners for promotion and thrust into third place in the table.
Town: Tyler, Henry, Essam, Ainge, Rowe-Turner, Howells, Lawless, O'Donnell, Gray, Rendell, Shaw. Subs: Brill, Kovacs, J. Robinson, M. Robinson, Walker.