Skem pull off a tale of the unexpected
IT had probably been coming after three consecutive draws but Skelmersdale United achieved their first victory of the season when arguably it was least expected.
Hosts Radcliffe started Saturday in top position in Evo-Stik Division One West, Skelmersdale started the day in bottom place, so any reasonable bookmakers would have made Skem long odds to win on the day, but Dave Powell’s team not only won, they became coupon busters at the same time.
It was a hard fought but ultimately deserved victory for Skem, initially defending solidly before hitting the league leaders with a goal straight after half-time and another in added time at the end, it was perhaps justice after they were so unlucky not to break their duck in a 0-0 draw with Colwyn Bay the previous Tuesday, as it was there was only one change to the Skem team, new signing Luke Duffy replacing the injured Will Dunne.
After an early foray onto the attack by Skem, Radcliffe threatened inside the first minute but Skelmersdale goalkeeper Terry Smith beat away a shot from Elliot Rokka, Radcliffe next going close on the quarter-hour when Ben Wharton headed fairly well wide from a right-wing corner.
Radcliffe were having more of the possession but Skelmersdale were making it clear they posed serious intent up front.
On 21 minutes home goalkeeper Ollie Martin made a good save low down from Kevin Edgar but soon Shelton Payne split the Skem defence apart with a superbly weighted ball, George West rounded Smith but from an acute angle his shot was cleared off the line.
In the 20 minutes before half-time Radcliffe asserted themselves well.
Rick Smith and Wharton both bringing good saves out of Terry Smith, Wharton wasting another opportunity, Skelmersdale were showing some spirited defending, blocking shots and putting their bodies on the line when required, they were to be rewarded, but were no doubt pleased to hear the whistle for the interval.
If they had had a bit of luck it was due after going so close in previous games.
Skelmersdale stunned Radcliffe less than a minute after the break.
Duffy played a ball through the home defence that left them stranded.
Sean Yeldrem created an angle from about 15 yards, dinked the ball over keeper Martin and it rolled just inside the far post. It was a very confident finish.
The goal gave Skelmersdale some forward momentum for a while and Alex Griffiths soon saw a shot turned around the near-post by Martin and Duffy also had a shot saved.
Skelmersdale were now limiting Radcliffe to shots from distance and even those attempts could be described as wasteful.
Yeldrem was only denied by a magnificent last ditch tackle when he looked set to make it 2-0.
Radcliffe had a great chance eight minutes from time, a free-kick was dropped at the far post but Matt Carr’s header was again poor and this was followed up by a Duke shot that curled just past the Radcliffe goal.
As added time approached Edgar gave the hosts a warning of what was to follow, a Skem counterattack resulting in an Edgar shot that had to be well saved by Martin.
When the referee was rather generous to Radcliffe with the added time given, five minutes, it made no difference, Radcliffe had run out of ideas and created very little.
In the third minute of added time Skelmersdale killed the game off.
Griffiths strolled forward and put a neat ball through to Edgar, this time his shot went under Martin, it was 2-0 and the Skelmersdale supporters went into celebration mode.
The win lifts Skelmersdale up to 18th place in the table above Chasetown and Clitheroe.
They have picked up five points out of the last nine available and that is a huge boost to their hopes.
In his after match interview manager Dave Powell was smiling, he said: “I am so proud of the lads, they have become tighter and tighter as a group and working so hard for the club to deliver results.
“It is a platform that we can move on from, but it is important that the lads realise that we have got to carry on working and carry on applying ourselves and working our way up the league.
“We must never think we can’t get better, that’s a key thing.”
Skelmersdale are a very young team but in a way that is helping them at the moment, they are playing some excellent passing, running football.
It is noticeable they are becoming more creative as confidence grows and now they have scored twice against a team that had only conceded five goals all season going into the match it can only lift them to better things. in pretty much every way,” the 27-year-old said after being doused in champagne by his team-mates and even kissed on the forehead by Rory McIlroy.
“Being part of team Europe from Monday to now has been the most incredible experience. When people say you make friendships and bonds that last a lifetime, you 100 per cent do, that’s not a word of a lie.
“I’m very lucky and blessed to be a part of this bunch of people, which is more than 12, 16 or 17 people.
“I think we had a lot of confidence in ourselves.
“We know how good the American team is, but we had a lot of confidence in our ability and how we’d planned all this and Thomas (Bjorn, European captain) let us play and let us do our thing.
“He had a plan on day one and stuck to that even when things weren’t going very well and we’ve just got a very, very good bunch of players and it was our year.”