BLUES BLAST OUT OF THE BLOCKS
By Stevie R
Blues kicked off the season in style with a 4-0 victory away to Skelmersdale United.
After a pre-season of tinkering, manager Neil Baker went very much for the tried and tested in his first starting eleven with midfielder Charlie Walford the only new signing starting the game.
Sam Hall was ruled out through injury but Darren Chadwick did return to take a seat on the bench meaning Scott Lycett was handed the captain's armband.
This was the first set of fixtures in the EVO-STIK West and the honour of scoring the first ever goal in the new division went to Niall Maguire (pictured, below) who after just 80 seconds slotted the ball across keeper Chris Cheetham and in at the far post.
Less than five minutes later it was 2-0 when Dan Trickett-Smith (pictured, below) fired home a low bouncing shot from 20 yards to double the advantage.
Blues incredible start to the season continued when Tim Grice made it 3-0 in the 10th minute. Maguire turned provider and Grice slipped the ball past Cheetham from close range.
Things got worse for Skem in the 20th minute when Trickett-Smith burst through on goal and was brought down on the edge of the box by Calum Woods who was shown a straight red card.
Inevitably, the action calmed down somewhat but 0n 39 minutes Grice clipped the outside of the post with a snap finish from Niall Green's cross.
Danny Roberts was called into action to tip over a good effort before the half ended with Cheetham saving well to deny Trickett-Smith after a good Leek move.
Eight minutes after the break Skem should have had one back but after hitting the post, Roberts pulled off a miraculous save to get back and keep out the shot from the rebound.
Stevenson then saw his effort saved when through on goal when a square ball to Grice might have been the better option.
However in the 63rd minute, Trickett-Smith added his second and Leek's fourth with a super finish direct from a free-kick from 22 yards that Cheetham got nowhere near.
Sub Zeph Thomas should have made it five, but he put his effort wide with only the keeper to beat.
Seven minutes from time the home side were reduced to nine men when Connor Belger lost his head and was sent off after hurling a water bottle into the away dugout, an action he repeated as he was leaving the field.
There will surely be tougher challenges ahead, but this was the perfect start to the season for Blues who now face Droylsden in the opening match at Harrison Park on Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm.
1. Danny Roberts
2. Niall Green
3. Joe Kearns
4. Marc Grocott
5. Scott Lycett
6. Mat Bailey
7. Niall Maguire
8. Charlie Walford
9. Tim Grice (12. Zeph Thomas, 71)
10. Dan Trickett-Smith (16. Harry Brazel, 79)
11. Rob Stevenson (14. Jordan Johnson, 71)
Unused subs: 15. Darren Chadwick, 17. Ben Chapman
Man of the Match: Dan Trickett-Smith
View the match photos here.