Athersley Grind 3 Points From Swans
Barton took on Athersley Recreation at the Easy Buy Stadium in the NCEL Premier Division where the visitors beat Barton 2-1.
A cold evening back in Barton was the setting for two teams playing in the NCEL Premier Division at the Easy Buy Stadium. The Swans were playing host to a Penguins side that were coming off a 4-2 Loss to Harrogate Railway Athletic, the side below Barton in the top spot of the relegation zone. Barton were also coming off a 2-1 Loss after a strong performance against league leaders AFC Mansfield, giving them confidence going into this fixture with a hunger for the 3 points. The teams both sat in the bottom half of the bottom of the table going into the game, so it was a must for either side to win the game. The sides came out onto the pitch to shake hands in front of an attendance of 88, Barton in Blue and Athersley in Orange. They took their positions, and the game began.
From the off, it was very apparent it would be a tough game for both sides. The gameplay was scrappy, both team scrambling at the start to get an early goal, with the nerves on the pitch very apparent. With the sides being in a relegation battle, neither wanted to concede, but pushed hard to attack. It was the visitors who were the first to find the back of the net too, in only the 5th minute. A lapse in concentration from the defence saw Lee Garside running through clean on goal after timing his run well - as the stadium stood still to watch what ensued. Realising the flag stayed down, Garside chipped the ball just over the keeper inside the area, then proceeded to just nod it into the goal to give the away side the lead. This did however swing the momentum slightly in Barton's favour however, as minutes later Barton seemed to have much more of a purpose in the fixture, and had to hunt a goal. A couple of close chances in the 14th and 18th minutes saw Mike Thompson hit over twice from inside the box, after corners swung into the box. It would be however, the lone striker Gareth Barlow who would get the equaliser riding this momentum for Barton in the 22nd minute. As a ball was played back to Barton Goalkeeper Sam Riches inside his box, he hit a very clean kick that sailed over the top of all the players, just stopping before the opposition 18 yard area. Barlow was the first to react to it, getting in behind the defence and meeting the ball, flicking it over the Goalkeeper in and into the net. A great moment for Barlow as he gets closer to his 300th goal for the club, Barton settled straight back into the fixture. This seemed to almost settle the fixture however, as the sides began to panic on the ball more and the play started to go end-to-end, without any clear chances. The teams were getting stuck in, but it was a lack of quality in the last third that was letting the teams down. Before they knew it, the Half Time whistle was blown, and the teams went in at 1-1.
The Second Half would be the more important half for the teams, as they needed to come out hungry for the win. The second 45 continued just like the first, possession being surrendered left-right and center, making poor viewing for the spectators. It took a moment of skill from James Eyles however, in the 66th minute, as he round himself 1-on-1 with the keeper - in which the game saw yet another flick over the goalkeeper - into the Barton net. The away fans were ecstatic with the goal, and the away team celebrated in a huddle together. Barton knew it was crunch time, they needed the points desperately but were struggling to get in behind, or find that killer pass. Minutes passed and the game began to get dirty, with some trips and tackles coming in giving the referee plenty of work. Substitutions for both sides saw fresh legs come on the pitch, but it wasn't making the difference for either. The last 10 minutes saw Barton pushing players up hard to get a reply, finding success down the left side of the pitch and getting crosses into the box, but it wasn't met with the right player for the job. A chance in the last few minutes saw one of the Athersley strikers sky the ball over the net from close range - but inevitably it wouldn't make a difference to the score as the final whistle blew with the scoreline at 2-1 to the visitors. The disappointment was clear on the teams, and the Barton side knew it was 3 points badly lost.
Barton Reporter Dean Ross spoke to Swans Manager David Ricardo after the match.
"What's your assessment of that fixture, how did you feel it went?"
"We let ourselves down a touch as we had enough experience and quality to be winning games such as last night. Full credit to Athersley who are a experienced Premier side who stick to what they are good at. Our defence has been very good over the last couple of months however we cannot make the two mistakes we made last night and expect to be winning matches at this level. The main emphasis at present is improving the service to the front line and increasing their quality and work rate as we are not creating enough chances at present. We will be working hard at this at training tomorrow night in order to get it right for Saturdays tough game home to Hemsworth."