DANNY MEADOWS celebrated his 27th birthday on Thursday and then grabbed both goals as Newark Flowserve moved up to third spot in the Midland Football League Premier Division on Saturday afternoon.
Visitors Haughmond made The Highwaymen work hard for their bounty, but the overall contribution from the former Nottingham Forest youth and reserve team captain showed that Meadows is maturing nicely as a footballer.
As well as his two-goal contribution that took the men in orange to within two points of the leaders with two games in hand, Meadows also missed a guilt-edged chance to complete his hat-trick with a missed header in front of goal six minutes from time, but then it was his head that cleared a last minute corner from Haughmond.
Flowserve’s starting line-up was unchanged from the side that put eight past Coventry Sphinx the previous week, with hat-trick hero Matt Cotton again on the bench. More of the likeable young man later.
The game started in a torrential downpour of biblical proportions, but both sides made light of the conditions as their passing games spoke volumes about the condition of the playing surface at Lowfields.
Keylun Pollard, wearing the number 11 shirt but plying his trade on the right wing, looked lively once again, though he must have had private thoughts about the weather he previously enjoyed in his spell in Australia.
It was his sharp work in the box and slick cross across the face of goal that caused confusion in the visiting defence in the ninth minute, and Meadows was the first to react as he tucked home the loose ball for the opener.
It took another 20 minutes, and the arrival of some welcome sunshine, before Flowserve threatened again, and it was that man Pollard who drove in a shot that Haughmond goalkeeper Sam Jones did well to push around his left-hand post.
The visitors’ first effort on goal came in the 33rd minute when a direct free-kick from Joe Parry curled around the wall but over the angle of post and crossbar, with Flowserve keeper Joe Searson safely monitoring its progress.
Searson had only two routine saves to make in the game, but his third clean sheet of the season was complemented by his improved kicking and distribution which has come on leaps and bounds.
Seven minutes before the interval Flowserve threatened again when the industrious Jack Beckett made space for himself and shot narrowly wide, and then Ben Hutchinson – who again led the line superbly – hit an ambitious piledriver with similar results.
The second half was just a minute old when good work down the left saw the ball fall to Meadows and his aim was true as his powerful right foot effort saw the net bulge and the points safe, even at that stage of the game.
Both sides huffed and puffed for the remainder, but a fifth successive win – with 20 goals scored and just four conceded – was just reward for a Flowserve side who were always in control of proceedings.
That was summed up by Sol Miller, whose composure under a high ball – neatly trapped, dummy sold and a nonchalant pass back to the keeper – drew admiring applause from the Flowserve faithful in the 72nd minute.
In the 84th minute Meadows was rueing a missed free header from a Jack Andrews cross before Cotton entered the fray as the third substitute. Three minutes later a disconsolate Cotton limped from the field with a recurrence of the foot injury he picked up at Lye Town at the beginning of the month.
Your heart went out to him as he hobbled across the field at the end, supported by the club physio Oscar Harding.
For Meadows the party was just beginning.
Newark Flowserve: 1 Joe Searson; 2 Sol Miller; 3 Jack Andrews; 4 Tom Potts (captain); 5 Lawrence Gorman; 6 Jack Beckett; 7 Cameron Dear (Jahred Russell 62mins); 8 Kyle Dixon; 9 Ben Hutchinson (Elliot King 52mins); 10 Danny Meadows; 11 Keylun Pollard (Matt Cotton 84mins).