By Christopher Sweetman
Click here for Castle Manager, Robin Van der Laan's, reaction to todays draw.
Newcastle Town made it eight games without a win as they slipped to a 1-1 against Hanley Town at the Red Industries Stadium.
Hanley – themselves now seven games without a win – Newcastle were under pressure early on, with Reece Jones and Eden Bailey both going close
However, it was the home team who took the lead, as Callum Lovatt’s header went in off the post for his first goal for Newcastle.
Hanley pushed hard for an equaliser in the second half, but Newcastle were able to restrict their chances, with keeper Joe Slinn prominent.
However, with minutes to go, Kieran Brown went down in the box for a penalty, which Jake Twyford converted to ensure the points were shared.
In an unusual occurrence this season, Newcastle began on the back foot as Hanley looked to exert immediate pressure.
Hanley got forward early and had shouts for handball turned down, before Kyle Blake fired over the bar.
Hanley continued to dominate possession for the opening minutes, although Newcastle did see Lovatt fire over bar from range.
Slinn was then called into action, producing a great block to deny Reece Jones as he tried to shoot from wide.
Louis Dodds then had a pair of chances, the first coming from a poor clearing header, although his shot was blocked.
The second saw his diving header just clawed away from the goal by Slinn, although Dodds was flagged for offside.
Newcastle then began to earn some chances of their own, as off a throw in Jayden Hunter hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Then, an excellent switch allowed Nathan Morley to drive into the box, and his cross was perfect, but Hunter was unable to jump for the header.
Minutes later, Newcastle took the lead as Conlon’s cross landed perfectly on Lovatt’s head, before rebounding off the post and in.
That made it 1-0 to Newcastle, and five minutes later it should have been 2-2, as both sides missed excellent chances.
First, Newcastle nearly doubled their lead after great interplay between Hunter and Morley, before Hunter’s shot from the edge of the area came back off the post.
Then Hanley should have equalised as Jones excellent cross saw Bailey head straight at Slinn.
Then, from the rebound, Jones found himself one on one with Slinn, but tried to chip it in, which Slinn was able to block.
The second half began in the same fashion as the first, with Hanley almost immediately finding their way into the area, only for Bailey to pass when the shot was on.
That sparked a barrage of chances for the visitors, as first Dodds shot wide of the post, before Twyford fired over the bar.
Newcastle then successful blocked a dangerous Hanley free kick, before Twyford’s chip sailed over the top of the goal.
The hosts then had their first sniff of a chance, as a great run by Morley left the Hanley defence chasing shadows, but he could not get a shot away.
Hanley then had a period of pressure, as they managed to keep the ball deep in the Newcastle half, but could not fashion a clear chance.
Instead, it was the hosts who nearly added to their lead, as Hunter raced through on goal, but a vital block allowed Hanley keeper Kieran Harrison to gather the ball.
Around the hour mark, the rain really began to pour, and Jake Avery then replaced Jones for Hanley, who would prove to be a valuable outlet for the visitors.
Avery almost immediately got down Newcastle’s left, only for his dangerous cross to be headed clear by James Askey.
Moments later, Avery once more drove into a dangerous position, before playing a great ball into the box, which no one anticipated, allowing Slinn to clear.
Twyford the provided another great cross for Hanley that should have been converted, but no one could get the final touch.
Hanley were on top at this point in the game, and only some resolute and desperate Newcastle defence was keeping them ahead.
This was leading to some frustrations for the visitors, as Avery fired a cross straight at Slinn before a Hanley player attempted to slap the ball in off a cross.
Perhaps fortunately for Hanley, that attempted Hand of God went wide, as did Brown’s header moments later from another excellent Avery cross.
Moments later, Avery was in again, this time trying the shot himself, although his attempt was straight at Slinn.
Hanley then should have equalised off two more excellent crosses.
Newcastle got a foot to the first, but could not clear, and the second resulted in a scramble which only ended when Slinn was able to gratefully dive on the ball.
Then, with five minutes to go Hanley won a penalty as Brown went down in the box trying to evade the Newcastle defence.
There had looked to be minimal, if any, contact on Brown for the penalty, but Twyford kept his cool to send Slinn the wrong way and level the scores.
Newcastle could feel aggrieved about the awarding of the penalty, but not the score as Hanley had dominated the second half.
However, both teams had to be content with a point, and look to other games to end their long winless runs.
Newcastle now travel to Widnes next Saturday, before welcoming league leaders Macclesfield FC on January 21st.
Man of the Match - #1 Joe Slinn