TEN-MAN Nelson climbed off the foot of the NWC First Division table after edging a five-goal thriller against fellow strugglers Ashton Town.
The Blues, without the influential Ralph Welch, Phil Cain and Wayne Morrison, made the best possible start as Suleman Hafeji finished off a fine flowing move, beating Carl Williams from a narrow angle after quarter-of-an-hour.
Moments later Abid Uddin doubled Nelson’s advantage when Shakeel Butt’s centre was brought down by Jerrome Matthews inside the area and when the striker’s shot was blocked, Uddin pounced to make it 2-0.
Amirido Giloga sought a way back in to the game for the visitors and his long, jinking run deserved a more fulfilling reward than a corner. Williams kept the score respectable minutes later when Uddin’s set-piece from the edge of the area, awarded for a foul on Matthews, caused confusion among the defence but the Town stopper raced off his line and dropped on the ball to quell the danger.
Williams then came to the rescue again as his outstretched leg prevented Matthews from extending the lead as half-time approached. However, there was still time for plenty more drama.
In Nelson’s next attack Butt’s effort was fumbled by Williams and in an attempt to clear full-back Phillip Johnson bundled the ball in to his own net. Ashton hit back straight away to make it 3-1 at the interval when Adam Gilchrist struck past Nathan Worrell to give the away side a lifeline. There was still time for Nelson’s Dan Tatley to net again, but Matthews was adjudged to have committed a foul in the build up and the goal was disallowed.
The second half was all about self-preservation for the Blues and Matthews tried to pile the pressure on their opponents with an effort that he blazed over the crossbar and another which flashed past the post.
But Worrell was called in to action as he tipped substitute James Rushton-Woods shot around the post and the Blues keeper had to be alert again, this time making a superb double save.
Matthews was later booked for an over enthusiastic challenge but things became worse for the home side when Lee Botham was shown a red card for a late challenge. Nelson manager Paul Paynter immediately withdrew Butt and replaced him with Kalim Hafeji as things began to boil over on the pitch and in the dug-out.Last week’s hero Brett Ferguson then replaced the injured Joe Heseltine.
Uddin’s free-kick was then glanced wide for a corner after the Nelson man was dragged back on the edge of the area. But Ashton soon made use of their extra man and started to over run Nelson in the midfield, forcing the Blues deeper and deeper in to their own half.
And Nelson’s mettle was tested in the final 10 minutes as Ashton reduced the arrears to 3-2 when substitute Kevin Clarkson was on hand to head home a deep cross.
It was all hands to the pump for Nelson’s tiring players to preserve their narrow lead and they were spared late heartache when Worrell saw a free-kick hit the outside of the post before rebounding to safety. However, the Blues hung on for maximum points.