Skem fight hard as leaders sneak win
SKELMERSDALE United ended 2018 with a defeat but one which will give positives for 2019 after a narrow 2-1 loss at league leading Runcorn Linnets.
Paul McNally welcomed John Keatley and Joel Douglas into the line-up after recent unavailability while handing an instant debut to Matthew Coughlan after he joined from Witton Albion in the week.
Runcorn who had five former Skelmersdale players in their starting eleven claimed the first chance of the afternoon as former Skem defender Louis Corrigan’s curling free-kick in the opening minutes found the arms of goalkeeper Terry Smith.
Smith was called into action again in the fifth minute as he denied Freddie Potter’s header from a corner, Paul Shanley flicking an effort towards the far post for Linnets with Smith stretching to claim the cross before claiming a similar effort from Corrigan minutes later and at the other end, a long range shot from James O’Hara saw Dylan Forth collect comfortably.
A long range shot from Matthew Coughlan on the half-hour mark took a wicked deflection by the Linnets defence who breathed a sigh of relief as the ball found goalkeeper Forth.
United should have opened the scoring on 34 minutes, a lofted Coughlan pass saw Ben Giverin cross low for Alex Griffiths who drew a superb stop from Forth from pointblank range with Joel Douglas’ rebound blocked ahead of the line.
Six minutes before the interval, Kurt Sherlock forced a fingertip save from Smith from a tight angle before Aaron Morris headed over from a corner.
As half-time approached, Linnets appealed for a penalty as Shanley’s cross cannoned off the arm of O’Hara but the official signalled play on.
There was one more chance for each side before the break; an angled header was claimed by Smith from Shanley while Griffiths’ corner was tipped past the post by Forth.
The second half began with Thomas Grimshaw hitting a powerful shot just past the post ahead of Linnets breaking the deadlock on 51 minutes, Zach Aley rising to head Peter Wylie’s lofted cross past Smith for 1-0.
Runcorn pushed to extend their lead, Corrigan testing Smith with an angled shot which he gathered before clever work by Sherlock on 72 minutes saw him pick out Potter who looked to slot home for 2-0, but he was denied by a stunning goal-line clearance from Coughlan. United countered and should have cut the deficit as the combination of Griffiths and substitute Ronan Darcy led to Grimshaw firing narrowly over the bar.
An angled cross from Coughlan minutes later was spilled by Forth with substitute Sean Yeldrem achingly close to capitalising.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, United gifted Linnets the chance to double their lead, Molyneux upending substitute Ryan Gibson with the referee awarding a penalty, Corrigan stepped up and slotted into the bottom corner for 2-0.
United kept their heads up and instantly benefited from Paul McNally’s tactical change, a lofted pass from substitute Ronan Darcy saw Will Dunne flick on for newly designated striker John Keatley to slot past Forth for 2-1.
The final whistle sounded minutes later with Linnets celebrating the win and retaining top spot into 2019 while United despite ending the year bottom of the table, but did so with a positive performance.