Stockport Sports 4 - 0 Squires Gate
Stockport Sports bounced back from their disappointing exit from the FA Vase at Bootle last weekend, by emphatically crushing Squires Gate at SSV
Peter Withe made four changes to his line up from last weekend, Callum Tongue making his first start of the season in goal, Ricky Anane returned at right-back, while Lee Madin and Matty Ward who were both cup-tied for the Bootle game, came back into the side to form Withe's favoured triumvirate in attack with John Marsden. New signing Josh Bardsley was named on the bench along with the returning Domaine Rouse and Nick Niagorian. Josh Symons missed the game having picked up an injury in training, while Raphale Evans is still a week away from being available for selection.
Right from the outset The Saxons took control of territory and possession, yet in spite of their dominance it was to be a frustrating opening 45 minutes for the home side. On 14 minutes Aaron Best's low cross resulted in Ward's 12 yard shot being blocked, and Marsden's follow up effort was turned away acrobatically by the visiting keeper Neil Beesley.
Marsden had a further opportunity on 21 minutes, picking the ball up in midfield he drove into the area before sending a vicious effort narrowly wide.
Melford Knight opened his account for the club in last weekends defeat to Bootle and he came close to adding to that in the half hour mark, his powerful header from 6 yards forcing Beesley into another fine save. Marsden turned the follow up home but was adjudged offside.
Marsden was to come close again just moments later, Kyle Hamid swung in an inch perfect cross from the right hand side which was met with a fierce header 10 yards out by the young striker, unfortunately for him his effort struck the bar and bounced to safety.
Just before half-time Ward had a great chance to give The Saxons the lead, Liam Irwin floated through a perfect long pass which sent Ward clear on goal. Ward screwed his effort across the keeper, but also agonisingly wide of the far post. There was still time for a further opportunity for the home side, Hamid's free-kick rebounded out from the wall and Anane struck a fierce, dipping drive from 35 yards that was only just over the bar. It would have been one of the goals of season had it gone in, and would have been no more than Anane deserved for his lively display throughout.
The second half started slowly, again The Saxons were in total control, but were struggling to break down the visitors resolute defence. That was to change on the hour mark when Marsden ran onto a long through ball and nodded the ball past Beesley who took him down just inside the area. It was an easy decision for the referee to give the penalty and judging it a goal scoring opportunity she also sent the visiting goalkeeper from the field. Marsden dusted himself down and clinically dispatched the resulting penalty for his 16th goal of the season.
Matty Ward wasted a fabulous opportunity to increase the lead on 65 minutes, the replacement goalkeeper saving his close range effort with his legs, Lee Madin followed up but could only head over from 6 yards out.
With 15 minutes to go Ward finally did find the net. A fabulous, flowing team move resulted in Marsden dribbling into the area, and showing that there is much more to his game than just goals, he picked out Ward perfectly with a square ball that was smashed in with glee by the wideman.
Two goals ahead Withe took the opportunity to introduce Josh Bardsley to the action for his eagerly awaited debut, granting Jamie Street a well earned rest. The young Australian central defender has been in fine form of late and Bardsley, as well as the returning Raphale Evans will have to work very hard to challenge him for a place in the team.
Within minutes of the second goal Marsden made it three. Callum Tongue had very little to do throughout the game, but his huge clearance was missed by the Squires Gate defence and Marsden was left to run clear and clip past the onrushing keeper.
Almost immediately Marsden scored again to complete a 20 minute hat-trick, his second of the season, and the third goal was the pick of his three. Best picked him out 30 yards from goal, the deadly strikers first touch was perfect, setting the ball nicely for an unstoppable strike that fizzed past the goalkeeper giving him absolutely no chance.
It was not The Saxons most fluent performance of the season, but they persevered and having scored the vital first goal capitalised on the advantage of an extra player to the full, punishing every defensive error the visitors made after the red card incident. Marsden's hat-trick moved him clear at the top of the league goal scorers chart, a position he will be looking to hold onto until the end of April. Marsden's goals will be vital as The Saxons chase promotion, having made a slow start to the season he is now showing why the clubs supporters and staff rate him so highly. He is now almost halfway to his personal goal target for the season, and on current form few would bet on him reaching or even surpassing it.
1. Callum Tongue, 2. Ricky Anane, 3. Aaron Best, 4. Jamie Street (Josh Bardsley), 5. Mike Tomlinson (c), 6. Melford Knight, 7. Liam Irwin, 8. Kyle Hamid, 9. John Marsden, 10. Lee Madin (Domaine Rouse), 11. Matty Ward