January was a month containing five matches with three in the Vanarama National League and a game a piece in the West Riding County Cup and FA Trophy respectively.
The opening day of 2017 saw a rematch of the Boxing Day encounter against Lincoln City, the Lions took a surprise lead against the league leaders when Sam Habergham blasted Jake Cassidy’s cross into his own net after just 12 minutes. Ironically 12 minutes after half-time Alan Power equalised from the spot after a foul by Ash Palmer. A controversial decision followed as Adam Boyes was sent off for a second bookable offence, both yellows seemed harsh. Sean Raggett then bundled the ball in on 87 before Danny Lowe was then sent off picking up two yellows in a minute, he was swiftly followed by Adam Lockwood who was also given his marching orders. With 9 men the Imps piled on the pressure and scored a third when Nathan Arnold made it 3-1 with a neat finish in the last minute.
We returned to home soil nine days later when Maidstone visited, Simon Walton’s penalty in the 32nd minute was the only goal of the first half. Bobby-Joe Taylor then equalised from the spot in the 64th minute before our good home form continued with Michael Rankine’s late strike to seal another win at Nethermoor.
Attention turned to the West Riding County Cup as we travelled to Farsley on a cold Tuesday night in January and Lewis Nightingale gave the hosts the lead early on. Connor Priestley equalised shortly after with a neat finish on the turn. Richard Marshall then put his side back in front tapping in a header from Aiden Savoury but Stephen Smith pulled the game back level. Two late goals from Celtic was enough to ensure their progression to the next round, former Lion James Walshaw made it 3-2 and Jordan Deacey put gloss on their win in added time.
A return to FA Trophy action followed on Saturday on what will be remembered as a dismal afternoon in Warwickshire for the Lions. Ash Palmer was stretchered off early on with a nasty looking ankle injury but Javan Vidal did make a long awaited return from injury as he started the match. Jordan Nicholson opened the scoring for Nuneaton Town from distance as his shot somehow trickled in. One minute after half-time though and things were looking up as Michael Rankine pulled us level with a neat finish but just a few seconds later and Town had a penalty at the other end which was kept out by Maxted. It wasn’t too long though before he was picking the ball out of the net again though as Joe Ironside’s heavily deflected shot flew post the stopper. Then Jordan Nicholson added four more to his and Nuneaton’s total to complete a 6-1 win. It was not over there though as Simon Walton missed a penalty late on to complete a forgettable day.
Our first away league win of the season followed at Macclesfield as we returned to Vanarama National League action. On the half hour mark James Weslowski was tripped in the area and up stepped Michael Rankine to put us ahead from the penalty spot. Just a minute later though the Silkmen equalised through a Chris Holdroyd counter attack. Three minutes after half-time came the winner, Will Hatfield was fouled in the area and Rankine’s penalty was saved but the number 11 smashed in the rebound to send the Lions supporters home with three points for the first time in almost a year on the road.
It was a good start to 2017 for Michael Rankine with three of his four goals forming the goal of the month choices, he had won it before voting even begun!