HONOURABLE END TO SKEM’S SEASON
SKELMERSDALE UNITED 1 STAFFORD RANGERS 1
By Neil Leatherbarrow
Although they have finished bottom of the Evo-Stik Premier Division, Skelmersdale United have at least finished the season with a bit of honour. Their last five games of the season generating five points and Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Stafford Rangers at the Uretek Stadium probably reflected that relative run of form from Alan Rogers team.
An early goal from Bevan Burey had given Skem an eighth minute lead and they held onto it fairly well and might even have increased it before Stafford levelled thirteen minutes from full-time. A physically strong Stafford team had more of the possession, but the young Skem side had at least as many of the chances, so in conclusion, an honourable draw in the sunshine.
Jack Watts filled on the right-hand side after a midweek return from Dallas, Texas and his cross after two minutes was flicked on by Steve Irwin but Stafford goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse saved. Six minutes later it was another Watts cross that wasn’t dealt with properly by the Stafford defence that brought about the opener for Skem. The ball eventually dropped to the far side of the penalty area, Burey managed to get his foot over the ball and via a defenders back it looped into the far corner of the goal.
Skelmersdale were the better side for half an hour, but they were not creating too much mayhem in the visitors back line and it could be said that Steve Irwin did best with a shot that Whitehouse had to save low to his right. Stafford started to pose more of a problem as the half progressed. On 28 minutes Skem goalkeeper Joe Hilton had to be sharp to beat Izak Reid to a through ball and ten minutes later Stafford’s burley striker Kyle Perry lifted a bouncing ball over Hilton but saw it drop wide of the goal behind the keeper in the best of Stafford’s raids.
Stafford came out for the second-half committing more to attack and soon Hilton made a great reaction save from a close range Brian Barton header, sending the ball over his crossbar. Remy Howarth has grown well into a useful player for Skem since his arrival on a youth loan from Blackburn Rovers at the end of January, the winger making a name for running directly at defenders. This was his farewell game for United and he came close to leaving the home support with a goal to remember him by.
On 53 minutes Howarth got onto a Callum Grogan cross but shot wide of the target, then after a smashing pull back from Irwin, he was perhaps unlucky that keeper Whitehouse closed him down as quickly as he did in the six yard box. Stafford continued to push for an equaliser and Skelmersdale continued to look very dangerous on the counterattack. Kieran Morris headed wide for Rangers, then Perry did similarly with another header before a cross went right across the face of the home goal without a touch.
Stafford levelled in the 77th minute, Perry put the ball behind the home defence via an over head kick, substitute Levi Reid ran onto it and slotted past an advancing Hilton to make it 1-1. Six minutes from the end seventeen year old Hilton another probably making his final appearance for Skem, this time before returning to Everton made a superb double save. Perry smashed a powerful header that Hilton blocked and was then thwarted as Hilton sharply pounced on the rebound.
As the last moments of the season elapsed, Skem’s Burey went close with an angled drive from 15 yards, while Levi Reid put up a loud appeal for a penalty for Stafford. The latter would have been cruelty to the Skem kids, as it was the draw was the fair outcome of an entertaining game.
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Hilton, Watts (Dobie, 82), McNally, Grogan, Vaughan-Muscat, Stephens (Mooney, 45), Gillespie, Irwin, Howarth, Burey, Bradshaw Subs (not used) Jefferies, Cameron
STAFFORD RANGERS: Whitehouse, Little, Bowen, Morris, Bailey, Tolley (Heath, 45), Reid I., Sherratt, Perry, Barton (Reid L., 64), Batchelor (Taylor, 64) Subs (not used) Griffiths, Curtis