Skelmersdale Utd 1 – 3 Kendal Town






By Martin Stewart

A lot has gone on since the last game, most notably the departure of Matt Potter and his team and the media storm that been kicked up by the announcement of Pascal Chimbonda as his replacement.

For his first game in charge the new boss had only had the benefit of one training session 24 hours earlier to assess his squad and pick from it, so there were multiple changes to the team sheet as the players took to the field in a literal storm to accompany the media one going on everywhere else in the ground.

Back in the starting line up were Malikai Fry, Joel Ogiugo, Kristian Knowles and Mark Bollongino, whilst dropping to the bench were Dana Amaral, Gabe Ellis and Sam Bradley.   Even amongst those that kept their place from the previous game there were a lot of shirt number and positional changes that made this whole feel entirely different from what had gone before.

In the early moments the players struggled with the changes expected of them as well as the swirling wind and driving rain around them.   After just 6 minutes a mistake in the heart of defence meant that Jacob Gregory’s run into the box wasn’t picked up by anyone, he was found by Bailey Kenny and expertly finished what was an easy chance to make it 1-0

Just two minutes later and an even bigger mix-up between Jay Howell and his defenders meant that his back pass missed them all except a gleeful Gregory who made no mistake from his second gift of the game 2-0 down and Chimbonda hadn’t been a manager for 10 minutes yet.

Kendal Town are a good side, they pass the ball around and are well drilled, football that the new Skem Utd will want to aspire to, but as the game started to get into its stride, the home side started to get to grips with them and play some football of their own.

On 25 mins, Bollongino stole the ball in the middle of the pitch, he quickly played it wide to Luke Byron who then put in a tantalising cross from the right.   Two minutes later an almost identical move with a good interchange of passes put Byron in down the right again, but this time his cross drifted over the bar, possibly taken by a strong gust of wind.

The visitors were already moving into ‘game management’ mode as you could sense a goal back for Skem might light the touchpaper of a comeback.  So much so that keeper Chris Cheetham got booked for time wasting in the 28th minute of the first half, surely some sort of record.

Kendal were now content to let Skem dictate the play and hit back on the counter and they were still proving very dangerous at that, Ben Barnes having to palm away a cross to the far post from deep.  Skem were now putting continued pressure around the Kendal Town penalty area but were still unable to create any meaningful scoring chances, a mark maybe of how well drilled the Kendal defence was.

Before half time there was still time for a long-range effort from Luke Byron to be spilled by Cheetham and scrambled clear, a long ball over the top from Kendal to put Ryan Winder in with a great chance of making it three which he blazed wide, a run down the right from Ben Lightfoot ending with an excellent low cross into the box that nobody picked up and Barnes saving with his feet do deny Gregory his hat-trick,  end to end stuff to entertain the many neutrals and media folk in the 147 crowd.  HT 0-2.

Chimbonda made four substitutes at half time, to show perhaps that he was using this game as a good chance to give everyone a go before the more important league matches coming up.   On came Amaral, Sesay, Ellis and Denton in place of Fry, Blanchard, Lancaster and Byron, with a change of shape to three at the back and three up front.

4 minutes in and Skem’s best chance of the night, a cross was chipped in from the right, Bollongino rose early above everyone else but his header was miscued to Denton who tried to acrobatically volley it home at the far post, only to send it into the side netting.  That was Bollongino’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Sam Bradley.  All five subs on and only minutes into the second half.

Skem were now dominating the play and starting to create openings in the Kendal Town back line, both Ogiugo and Knowles got to the byline to send dangerous balls skimming across the six yard box, Ellis was winning balls in the air to set up attack after attack and Denton’s constant work rate were causing problems.   You could sense that the next goal was going to be very important and either side looked capable of scoring it.

It came on 66 minutes, out of nowhere a long ball over the top from Kendal’s defence and Gregory left with the time and space to complete the easiest hat-trick he will probably ever score in his life.  In truth the finishing was expert for all three, but he was clean through with no-one but the keeper to beat on each occasion, Skem’s defensive weaknesses will be the first thing the Frenchman in the dugout will want to redress.

Skem continued to work hard for a consolation without really looking like getting one and Kendal continued to look dangerously like getting a fourth, but ten minutes from the end Ellis was fouled in the box and the ref pointed to the spot for what looked like a soft penalty.

Ellis picked himself up and put the penalty away superbly to give some hope but the late cavalry charge never materialised and Barnes had to make one more excellent diving save at the end before the ref blew his final whistle FT 1-3.

Not the result the fans wanted, but the new boss will have learned a lot about his team from this game and they will have taken something from him too.   One thing looks for sure is that he won’t be too afraid to make the difficult choices and there could be many new faces (some in the crowd here tonight) on show over the next few games, this time next month we could be seeing a very different United team with hopefully a very different set of results and performances.

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