With all the games being called off so far into the new year, the pitch at Vickerstown had passed the 9:30am pitch inspection and a first game of the new year awaited at the hands of Vickerstown who were just 4 points above the relagtion zone. With 16 players available with no injury worries Smith picked the strong 11 of Joe Griffith who returned in between the sticks after missing the defeat against Blackpool Wren Rovers in December with a pulled muscle. The usual winger Richard Burns replaced Kevin Cox at the right side of the defence. Josh Roberts was partnered by Adam Thompson in the centre and Danny Kirk started on the left. The middle of midfield contained Ian Dickinson and Rick Wilson with Josh Brierley and James Green on the wings with Bob Milton sitting in just behind the lone striker Dan Birkby. And with only one forward in the starting eleven the two others in David Hogg and Chris Nation were named on the subs bench alongside young Jack Brierley.
From the first whistle both teams experienced some problems passing the ball around as very damp and uneven surface made it difficult to play the passing game and balls were soon being launched out of play. The first chance dropped the home side as a dangerous run the right was dealt with and Adam Thompson had to clear off the line with Griffith well beaten by the low cross. Hesketh Bank skipper Birkby then hit a first time shot from 20 yards which landed on top of the net after catching the Vickerstown 'keeper off his line. The very experienced Hesketh Bank midfielder Ian Dickinson soon went for an audacious strike from 35 yards which whistled just inches wide of the post with the 'keeper well beaten. Chance after chance being missed by the visitors and Brierley should have broke the deadlock just before half time as his close range header was somehow squandered away by the goalkeeper.
Second half didn't start where it ended, in fact Hesketh Bank twice escaped going behind as the Vickerstown winger had the ball in the net but to be twice denied by the linesman's flag. A third escape came on the hour mark as the home sides forward burst clear of Thompson's challenge and with only a goal almost certain the foot of the Hesketh Bank keeper came to the rescue. A double change for the visitors saw Kirk and Green both make way for Nation and Jack Brierley in aim to try and push for an opener with 27 minutes left to play. For the second time in the game Hesketh Bank had their goalkeeper to thank for as he yet again produced a world class one on one save with 75 minutes on the clock with the ball going out for a corner. The resulting corner was again saved at close range by Griffith who in the second half had put Vickerstown at bay and earned himself a man of the match award. Bob Milton was replaced by Hogg with just over 10 minutes left and even Hogg failed to make an impact as chances went begging with time running out as Hogg shot narrowly wide from just outside the area.
Missed Hesketh Bank chances were punished with 86 minutes on the clock as Joe Griffith was finally beaten by smart play from Vickerstown which saw Danny Cummings smash in from 6 yards despite the best efforts of Thompson to stop him. A one last chance came from a deep cross by Dickinson onto the head of Josh Roberts at the back post but his effort was cleared and the referee blew his final whistle.
Missed chances in first half was possibly the key to Saturdays defeat. And with 3 important away games against the leagues top 3 it didn't do justice to Smith's team as they will be looking to bounce back from the 4 defeats on the trot when visiting title challengers Fulwood Amateurs next weekend.
TEAM: Griffith, Burns, Roberts, Thompson, Kirk(Jack Brierley 63'), Josh Brierley, Wilson, Dickinson, Green(Nation 63'), Milton(David Hogg 77'), Birkby.
Man of The Match: Joe Griffith