Tamworth travelled to Liberty Way for the traditional Christmas Bank Holiday fixture for the first time against local rivals Nuneaton in their latest incarnation, having never won at the venue against the previously named Town or (old) Borough sides hopeful of a change in fortunes in the last fixture of 2021.
With the previous match at Hitchin Town having been chalked off due to the incident involving Bilal Yafai, Gary Smith and Andrew Danylyszyn had a second attempt at their 100th game in charge, while captain Ryan Beswick made his 99th appearance.
Going into the derby The Lambs were without a win in seven games in all competitions (D1 L6), and also without a three point haul in seven league games (D2 L5), as the last victory had come via penalties away at Colne in the FA Trophy on 13 November and the last league win had been the last minute winner at Barwell the Saturday before. Meanwhile, Borough, bottom of the table and three points adrift from safety had a record of W1, D1, L5 in all competitions and the same in the league too.
The last minute goal at Barwell had come from Tyrell Waite who signed for Coalville before Christmas, and with other injuries, and players coming and going in the interim, there were three changes to the side that ran out at Hitchin with Orrin Pendley, Shaq McDonald taking places of Lucas Yeomans, Liam Cross and Mat Stenson as The Lambs welcomed back Dexter Walters returning from Mickleover.
Across the country, many leagues were getting involved in the Shelter homeless charity’s initiative of #nohomekit and so rather than the traditional blue and white v red and black both sides ran onto the field in their away strips, of yellow for Borough and green for The Lambs.
Nuneaton got the game underway with Tamworth attacking the home end in the first half and The Lambs pushed the home side back into the opening exchanges trying to get somewhere near to former Lamb Breeden’s goal.
As the travelling contingent raised the away end roof Yafai went down under a tame shoulder barge on 3 and no penalty as given, and then another former Lamb, Bradley, headed wide of the mark when well placed from a perfect centre from the left.
Bradley’s placed shot on 4 took a deflection off Pendley and dropped into Singh’s arms in the next move.
McWilliams was booked on 7 for upending Walters on the halfway line and Beswick’s freekick eventually fell to the same player on the left of the box but his shot was smothered by Breeden.
Walters then whipped the ball into the area and from the half clearance Forde tried his luck but curled his shot wide of the mark.
Forde took the ball on his chest and tried a threaded pass to Concannon on 16 but it was too quick and Breeden got to it before the Lambs man, but Singh was unable to get to a deflected Forde clearance on 19 quick enough to prevent a corner although the flagkick was wasted.
The next corner, from the opposite side on 22, looked like it had been batted away at the near post by Singh, but it fell invitingly for King 12 yards out and he rifled it home with a deft swing and cool finish (0-1, 22 mins)
The goal against spurred The Lambs to attack and McDonald forced a corner on the right which dropped into the six yard box but was cleared by a hefty boot by Osbourne.
Yafai, McDonald and Walters combined on 27 in the Borough area but their attempts to get a sight on goal were thwarted, and a long range effort from Yafai on 31 resulted in a corner on the right which was put behind for another on the right, then glanced behind for another on the opposite side. Walters ball was knocked over the line by a defender for another Breeden punched it away from danger before collecting the return shot from Beswick.
King and Dwyer tangled with eachother in the box on 34 when both tried to strike on target and King forced a left sided flagkick on 39 which Singh punched away with Pendley covering.
An incisive ball into the area from Bradley on the right on 41 was met by King but he couldn’t get it inside the near post and at the other end McDonald made headway down the left channel but dragged his shot across the box and out past the far post without troubling Breeden.
McDonald was then presented with the best chance of the half, receiving the ball from Forde, to his feet on the edge of the area with just Breeden to beat but he couldn’t get enough direction on it and it whistled past the right hand upright in the final action of the first half.
Tamworth got the game back underway, with The Lambs kicking towards the away terrace, populated with an official figure of 217 vociferous travelling fans and kept the ball in the Nuneaton half in the opening exchanges, as they had in the first half.
Nuneaton did get some time on the ball around 52 though and nearly made the most of it but Dwyer was unable to get his boot to the whipped in cross from the right and The Lambs cleared the danger and King then made headway from the left into the area, ultimately firing wide and high off target.
Beswick picked up a booking for an apparently deliberate handball in the middle of the park on 56 and then brought King down midway into the Tamworth half on 58 but Clements freekick was easy for Singh to collect.
The home side were now less under the cosh as they had been and put long balls into the final third for Tamworth to deal with, or try and get an advantage on the counter.
Concannon received the ball from Yafai in the right of Breeden’s box on 65 but fired past the far post with a low effort and then Beswick put a deadball in to the area and Nuneaton dug it out and raced to the other end.
Dwyer was brought down by Wilder as he shaped to shoot from the right of the area, and there were no hesitations or protestations about the resulting penalty which Dwyer dispatched solidly past Singh. Both Wilder, for the foul, and Dwyer, for the celebration, were booked. (0-2, 66 mins)
Singh had to come out of his area and head the all away from danger as Borough went in search of another and then a foul by Forde on the edge of the D set up Clements with a chance from a freekick which he put into the home terrace.
The Lambs made a double change on 71 quickly followed by one for the home side, and it was from a Yeomans chipped cross into the area on 75 that Yafai nearly reduced the arrears but his header went out past the far post.
Singh then pulled off a superb one handed save from Lita’s header on 78 although it wouldn’t have counted if it had gone in as the flag went up seconds after both sides of the crowd had finished applauding both the move and the keeper’s stop.
And on 81 Singh was called upon again to punch a Lita shot over the bar after the substitute found himself with a free shot on target from 18 yards and on 82 at the other end Clement hit Breeden’s near post with a low driven effort.
Borough substitute Chingoka was booked for a challenge on Forde which left the Lambs midfielder needing treatment on 88, and saw him replaced by Shaw for the final few minutes.
Four minutes added time was shown at the end of the game and Walters nearly pulled one back on 93, but his shot was slid out for a corner on the left which was headed away before the final whistle blew.
Singh, Cox, Wilder, Beswick (c.) (Yeomans 71), Pendley, Brown, Concannon (Clement 71), Forde (Shaw 88), McDonald, Yafai, Walters
Subs: Fallows, Cockerill-Mollett
YC: Beswick 56, Wilder 66
Breeden, McWilliams, Charles, Clements, Daly (c.), McManus, Kaziboni, Osbourne (Mussa 83), Bradley (Chingoka 85), Dwyer (Lita 73)
Subs: Foster, Noble
YC: McWIlliams 7, Dwyer 68, Chingoka 88
Referee: Mr. T. Hales
Attendance: 962 (217 away)