Skelmersdale United 2 GNE 0
After two wins in their opening two games, North End fans have had a reminder that this is a work-in-progress team with the FA Cup exit last week and now this defeat at Skelmersdale.
Patience was the key word over the summer whilst the new managers and team gelled, and this game showed that that process is far from complete. There was a lot to like about the way the team played at times – they were positive and occasionally attractively fluid between the penalty boxes. However a lack of understanding at front and back was also sometimes evident.
Both Skem goals came from GNE not getting to their man quick enough. In the 12th minute Ramirez Howarth, just signed on after his release from Blackburn Rovers, was able to cut inside from the left after picking up a long ball and afforded time to pick his spot in the corner, well out of new keeper Russ Saunders
The killer blow came in the 77th minute when from a corner the ball dropped to Andrew Owens at the edge of the area. He too was given the time and space to pick out a spot in the corner of the net away from the keeper.
In the first half, GNE had been the better side, but failed to turn that into a goal. Chris Baguley twice had shots from distance that just cleared the bar and a Courtney Meppen-Walter free kick curled just wide. Meppen-Walter also showed some lovely quality to beat a man and thread a lovely pass through for Dale Johnson
whose shot was saved at the near post.
Billy Hasler-Cregg perhaps wasted the best chance just before the break when Meppen-Walter softly dinked a lovely pass over the back line. Hasler-Cregg’s was in, but had to catch a volley right to score. Nevertheless, the net was expected to bulge, but the shot went wide.
In the second half, GNE were less productive, guilty at times of trying to force a leveller. They had an escape in 57 minutes when Owens was found unmarked at the far post, but headed against the upright.
Substitute Connor Martin
did catch a volley correctly and forced a terrific save from Jack Sims in the Skem goal, but Sims was to exceed that a minute later after GNE were awarded a penalty for a handball on 74 minutes. Baguley stepped to take, but Sims dived to his right and pushed the spot kick away.
Relieved to be reprieved Skem went straight to the other end and first hit the post, then from the corner Owens added the second.
That broke GNE spirit, and whilst they tried to push forward they were easily dealt with from then on.