SKELMERSDALE UNITED 3 FRICKLEY ATHLETIC 1
SKEM SHINE IN THE SUN
By Neil Leatherbarrow
The sun came out at the Uretek Stadium and Skelmersdale United shone for their first home win of the year, a victory that was well deserved. After taking the lead just before the interval, Skelmersdale absorbed some pressure from their Yorkshire based opponents before re-taking the lead with a spectacular strike and confirming their superiority with a third goal in added time. It was a tale of two defences and Skelmersdale’s was the better.
Frickley needed to win to give their hopes of avoiding relegation a boost and Skelmersdale needed to win to build on a much improved performance at Halesowen last week, so the mixture was right for a good game. When only three minutes had elapsed and both teams had come close to scoring it looked like the recipe was going to be tasty.
Seconds into the game Steve Irwin gave Nathan Randell a scoring chance and he was only denied by an excellent reaction save from Frickley goalkeeper Seb Malkowski, Frickley responding with a Jake Picton header that was tipped over the Skelmersdale crossbar by goalkeeper Joe Hilton.
In the tenth minute a Reece McNally cross got no touch as it fizzed across the Frickley goal then Steve Gillespie fired over the bar from 30 yards as Skelmersdale looked the more likely scorers, but it was still pretty even possession wise, play flowing from end to end. Hilton saved from a Macaulay Parkinson free-kick then Luke Mangham beat a home defender but wasted a good opportunity with a weak shot.
The “game changer” came in the 44th minute. Gillespie beat one man and advanced into the Frickley penalty area where he was crudely blocked by Nathan Valentine. Referee Mr Issawi pointing to the penalty spot, Gillespie had missed a penalty last week, so he handed over the duty to Irwin who drove the ball low into the net, just out of Malkowski’s reach.
Frickley were shaken and when they came out after the interval they were clearly in a determined mood. However, much as they huffed and puffed they didn’t make much impression on Skelmersdale’s defence and it was deep into the half before they did.
In the 73rd minute Parkinson put the ball low into the area around the penalty spot, Picton ran onto it in what looked a rehearsed move and fired low into the net with a first-time effort.
It looked odds on Frickley now, but again they still struggled to open Skem up and it could be said the hosts had the better chances. For Skelmersdale Bevan Burey shot wide and Remy Howarth had a shot blocked, while Zeph Thomas header over for Frickley and Valentine also cleared the bar, but this time via a lob.
In the 84th minute Skelmersdale restored their lead and the goal can only be described as spectacular. Just after Waide Fairhurst had wasted a chance for Frickley, Skem cleared long to the other end, a poor defensive header sent the ball dropping to an on the run Irwin who unleashed a dipping volley from 30 yards that left Malkowski grasping at thin air as it sailed into the net behind him to make it 2-1.
The second Skelmersdale goal rocked Frickley and they were now frantic, but they weren’t able to breach the organised Skelmersdale ranks. The best they could muster was a Thomas free-kick that was easily dealt with by Hilton, instead Skelmersdale counterattacked and Howarth crossed into the box, Randell coming in on the blind side and netting Skelmersdale’s third at the far post two minutes into added time. It is highly likely that the two teams will meet again next season in Division One North.
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Hilton, Jefferies (Burey, 54), McNally, Grogan, Vaughan-Muscat, Mooney ©, Howarth, Irwin, Randell, Gillespie, Bradshaw (Allen, 61)
FRICKLEY ATHLETIC: Malkowski, Stohrer, Parkinson, Valentine, Waters (Gooda, 86), Picton, Pugh (Fairhurst, 61), Ackroyd, Thomas, Mangham, Williams Subs (not used) Tate, Lawrence, Diggle
Referee: Daniel Issawi (Bolton)