SKEM EDGED OUT IN CLOSE ENCOUNTER
BRIGHOUSE TOWN 1 SKELMERSDALE UNITED 0
By Neil Leatherbarrow
Skelmersdale United returned over the Pennines on Saturday night feeling a little hard done to. Playing their first game in Division One North since 2013, on balance of play they did enough to be able to say they deserved something out of a match that saw both sides go close to scoring a few more goals.
It is fair to say that had the score been 2-2 at the interval it wouldn’t have been an inaccurate reflection of the game, as it was it was goalless.
Brighouse started sharply. Though of the hosts three early opportunities the nearest to a goal came when Jack Sims tipped a Callum Robinson shot over his crossbar, but that was competently rather than desperately.
At the other end in the 19th minute, Richard Brodie was thwarted with Skelmersdale’s first decent effort, home goalkeeper Chandler Hallwood diving low to his right to push the ball for a corner.
Skelmersdale fielded just two players who had finished last season with the club, but signs that they are gelling into a team started to emerge and during the mid-period of the half and their hopes were definitely on the ascent.
Andy Owens and Brodie brought saves from Hallwood before Skelmersdale went really close on 24 minutes. Brodie sneaked onto a Smith free-kick at the far post, his effort hit the far post then the crossbar before it was scrambled clear, it was so close that you were left thinking “Did that just happen?” when the ball was cleared.
Seconds later, from a long clearance, Aaron Martin was put in by a Gabriel Johnson header at the other end. He elected to chip Sims, but the ball cleared the Skem bar. It was turning into a game of narrow margins.
Before the break the game took on an end to end manner. The best of the moves seeing Michael Vaughan-Muscat clearing off the line and Sims saving at his near-post, while Brodie and Lewis Codling combined to give Owens a half chance that was fisted away by Hallwood.
The outcome of the game was far from predictable as the spectators changed ends during half-time.
In the 50th minute Brodie was certainly unlucky. Again coming in off the left hand side, Brodie had a seemingly goal bound shot cleared off the home goal-line by Connor Griffin.
Four minutes later it all changed. Home number ten Johnson held the ball up then pushed it back to Griffin, he found Martin with his pass and the striker saw two efforts blocked, but the latter effort spun into space allowing him a clear powerful right-footed shot from 10 yards that fizzed into the net at head height.
The goal stunned Skem for a while and it took them a while to start imposing again but they gradually fought back.
The home team were able to defend and play more of a long ball game than they had earlier and for the most part they neutralised many of Skem’s attacks. Owens created the best chance himself, beating two men before his shot was saved by a diving Hallwood.
Although the score went the wrong way there were positives that could be drawn from a Skelmersdale perspective. Brodie is an obvious one, he really is a big unit up front and he is very useful on the floor as well as in the air, he will scare plenty of defences this season and was very unlucky not to find the net. Conor Smith works hard in midfield, he is creative and can play a good dead-ball kick. Defensively, Vaughan-Muscat looked good; he is a player that will put himself on the line for the cause. There is room for improvement, but there is clear evidence that it will be achieved.
BRIGHOUSE TOWN: Hallwood, Field ©, Grimshaw, Jones A. (Riley, 72), Wigley, Griffin, Underdown (Heeley, 45), Robinson, Martin, Johnson, Shaw (Worrall, 84) Subs (not used) Armstrong, Buchannan
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Sims, Crane, Roberts, Vaughan-Muscat, Jones C., Ventre ©, Burey (Stewart 61), Smith, Owens, Brodie, Codling (Bradshaw, 72) Subs (not used) Holmes, Randell, Jefferies
Referee: Michael Ainsworth