By Neil Leatherbarrow

Skelmersdale United took the honours in a West Lancs Derby thriller at the Community Ground on Boxing Day in which the destination of the points was in doubt until the very last kick as Pascal Chimbonda’s men in blue fended off a Burscough comeback bid after holding a 4-1 lead just after the hour mark.

Burscough went into the interval justifiably thinking they were on top and but for some poor finishing would have been at least two goals up, even though it was 1-1, unbeknown to the Linnets they were to prove costly misses as Skelmersdale stormed back after the break with three goals in eleven minutes to turn the game on its head and this period really was the difference on the day.

It was a whirlwind start from Skelmersdale and they took the lead after four minutes, left-back Omar Ibrahim got forward cut inside and hit a vicious right foot shot that was destined for the far corner but Linnets goalkeeper Jack Atkinson dived full length to his left and clawed the ball away for a corner.

From the corner a powerful header by Yacin Amarzou brought a fine reaction save from Atkinson, however the ball dropped straight to Skem number 11 Mark Bollongino who drove a low shot past the crowds in front of him and into the net to give the blue team a 1-0 lead.

The Burscough fight back wasn’t instant but by the 10th minute it was underway, Cian McDermott was creating Skem some big problems down the right and his cross found the head of Lloyd Dean but his attempt went wide, it was a warning Skem didn’t heed.

On 17 minutes McDermott lifted in another cross, this time to the far post, Dean was unmarked and he comfortably headed home an equaliser.

For a while Skem went on the attack and Atkinson made a good save from Kristian Knowles then saved at Andy Shalom’s feet when the striker was one on one.

The quarter hour before half-time saw Burscough on top, Jordan Barrow headed one right across the face of goal then Steve Rigby smashed a header against the Skelmersdale crossbar, before Matt Coughlan saw a goal bound shot saved by Ben Barnes. Burscough arguably should have scored twice and it was to cost them dearly.

It took Skem five minutes to get going after the restart but then they really hit the go button. On 53 minutes there was a right old scramble in the Burscough goal area, Atkinson made a couple of great saves however the third rebound fell to Shalom and from an angle he drilled the ball home to restore Skelmersdale’ lead. At 2-1 Skelmersdale went in for the kill.

On 59 minutes Shalom got his second to make it 3-1. A cross from the right found the Skem nine on the far side of the box; he sent a looping header over the clutching hands of Atkinson and into the net.

Burscough committed to attack but even that cost them, a long clearance from Skem found forward Yasir Salim he ran at Barrow who to his credit got in a tackle despite being at a huge pace disadvantage, the ball fell back to Salim who with just Atkinson between him and goal slotted the ball home.

At 4-1 surely it was all over, surely?

Skelmersdale fell back onto the defensive and it could be said it isn’t their strength, for Burscough David Dempsey made changes bringing on Charlie Ball and Luke Moran.

Skelmersdale did look fairly solid at the back though and clearly words by Pascal Chimbonda during the interval about the threat of McDermott had worked as he was nowhere near as effective in the second-half.

Ball pulled one back for Burscough on 80 minutes but there was still a mountain to climb but gradually the Linnets were building up momentum.

Skem were well marshalled by keeper Barnes and until the 5th minute of added time they looked unflustered, a penalty was given for a foul and Rigby made an easy job of scoring. You could visibly see the panic levels among the Skem players and supporters rise.

The game went on for another four minutes but Skelmersdale held out for three points that not only sent their supporters home happy, it leaves them just five points from safety with eighteen league games still to play, Pascal Chimbonda really can pull off his Houdini act. 

Skelmersdale won because they finished better in front of goal, Burscough probably had more possession and more chances on the day, but as any Skem supporter will tell you it is goals that count not possession. That is why they deserved to win. 

BURSCOUGH: Atkinson, Cannon-Noren, Parry, Barrow, McCulloch ©, Bell, Hamilton, Coughlan, Dean, Rigby, McDermott Subs Darr, Ball, Rhami, Moran L., Dowling

SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Barnes, Sesay, Ibrahim, Jabir, Digbeu, Ahmed, Amarzou ©, Knowles, Shalom, Salim, Bollongino Subs Bridge, Fall, Amaral, Grimshaw, Denton

Referee: David Gillon

Attendance: 273



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