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Skem pre­vail in FA Cup thriller

Game in the bal­ance un­til the very end

- BY NEIL LEATHERBAR­ROW SKELMERSDA­LE UNITED: REF­EREE: AT­TEN­DANCE: Sports · Soccer · Ben Barnes · Skelmersdale · Bonanza · Skelmersdale United F.C.

ASELL-OUT crowd at the JMO Sports Park wit­nessed a thrilling FA Cup en­counter that in the true tra­di­tions of the com­pe­ti­tion was in the bal­ance un­til the very last kick.

Skelmersda­le had taken the lead just be­fore the in­ter­val, then their lo­cal ri­vals from up the M58 fought back and just when you thought a well or­gan­ised Skem de­fence had done enough Boo­tle lev­elled with only eight min­utes re­main­ing on the clock. But it was Skelmersda­le that had the edge and re­stored their ad­van­tage four min­utes from the end, leav­ing the last min­utes a tense wait for both sets of sup­port­ers.

As you would ex­pect from a derby game be­tween two evenly matched teams the open­ing ex­changes were closely fought out but it was Skem that went clos­est to draw­ing blood when af­ter Mike Gro­gan had lofted the ball into the penalty area Mini Adeg­benro put a header low towards the cor­ner of the net, but goal­keeper Ryan Jones made a ter­rific save at the foot of his post.

From there the game see sawed and de­spite both teams best at­tempts de­fences were on top.

For Boo­tle a John Connolly free kick went close but Skem goal­keeper Ben Barnes tipped the 20 yard shot over his cross­bar, be­fore a Ben Hod­kin­son shot was turned away for a cor­ner by Barnes. For Skem Cal­lum Pre­ston made a surg­ing run that re­sulted in a shot 25 yards that whis­tled past the Boo­tle post.

Boo­tle had a good chance on 28 min­utes when a cross to the far post found Hod­kin­son but his header went wide.

Grad­u­ally as the half pro­gressed Skelmersda­le be­gan to get more of the pos­ses­sion for a spell but Boo­tle were hold­ing them off well.

How­ever five min­utes from half­time Skelmersda­le found the key to un­lock the Boo­tle back­line. Jack Grimshaw got away down the right hand side and pulled the ball back from the goal line, the ball go­ing right into the heart of the penalty area, Ja­son Carey crashed in and with his chest put the ball into the net.

By virtue of fin­ish­ing the half stronger Skem just about de­served the lead. The sec­ond-half was ex­pected to see Boo­tle on the of­fen­sive, but five min­utes in it was Skelmersda­le who should have dou­bled their lead. A long clear­ance by Barnes was headed on by Dan

Mitch­ley putting Adeg­benro in on an an­gle from the left side; how­ever his right foot shot went marginally the wrong side of the far post. Skem would need that two goal lead by the end. The large Boo­tle con­tin­gent in the crowd drove their team on but al­though they lifted balls into the goal­mouth a well mar­shalled Skem de­fence lim­ited them to ef­forts from dis­tance.

Prob­a­bly Boo­tle’s most dan­ger­ous moves saw Hod­kin­son fir­ing wide and Ben Cartwright fin­ish­ing a fifty yard drib­ble with a shot that Barnes did well to deal with.

The win­ning post started to ap­pear in the dis­tance for Skem with only eight min­utes to go but a de­ter­mined Boo­tle had other ideas. Barnes made a tremen­dous save from a close range shot but could only parry the ball away and it fell to a for­mer Skelmersda­le player to seem­ingly kill off Skem’s dreams,

Hod­kin­son pounc­ing to equalise from in­side the six yard box. To their ut­most credit Skelmersda­le weren’t killed off though, they bounced straight back onto the at­tack.

On 86 min­utes Alex Grif­fiths over­lapped down the right wing and hoisted the ball to the far post, Grimshaw had lost his marker and faced with keeper Jones kept his cool to drive the ball in­side the post. Skelmersda­le cel­e­brated and goal­keeper Barnes even ran the length of the pitch.

The rest saw Boo­tle lay­ing siege but it was too late, Skelmersda­le were not go­ing to let them back into the game again and it was the hosts that will look­ing at the sec­ond qual­i­fy­ing round draw on Fri­day lunchtime.

Af­ter the match in his in­ter­view with the Skelmersda­le United web­site Man­ager Paul McNally with a smile the size of Skelmersda­le said of the win­ning goal: “Fan­tas­tic re­sponse, what a fin­ish by Jack, su­perb.” He added: “We had a few chances that I feared would come back and haunt us, you are not go­ing to hold out against a team of their cal­i­bre for too long, I was gut­ted. Then a great goal, wasn’t it?”

There was no ques­tion it was a great goal and a mem­o­rable one too, it showed the spirit McNally has built up at Skem and a good sea­son lies ahead.

Barnes, Her­bert Pre­ston, Mur­phy, Gro­gan, Peet, Grimshaw, Carey, Mitch­ley, Grif­fiths, Adeg­benro Subs Brodie, Glen­non, Wain­wright, El­lams, Croughan, El­lis, O’Neill Aran Hodgkin­son 250

 ?? Pic­tures: John Driscoll ??
Pic­tures: John Driscoll
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