Squires Gate 3 – 2 Skelmersdale Utd

By Martin Stewart

Two more new signings were made in time for this game and assistant manager Hassan Salim named both in the starting lineup. Ricardo De Frutos Griman is a big defender and he was in at centre half in place of the suspended Omar Mbowe. Omar Ibrahim is a pacy, skilful wingback and he replaced the injured Anis Zaknoune. Also back in the side were Jack Grimshaw and Thomas Fagan.

The pitch at Squires Gate when its at its best in the middle of summer still can be bobbly and tricky to play on. After a week of heavy rain it had already cut up with a sticky top surface of mud that was going to make things difficult.

Skem got off to a great start, settling straight into their passing game and it only took 3 minutes for the first chance, a corner from the right being headed just over by Mark Bollongino.

Four minutes later and Jack Grimshaw played in Ibrahim as he burst down the left side, he got into the box and played a low ball across the penalry area where Yacin Amarzou was waiting to slot the ball home from six yards.

Just as Skem fans were starting to settle back in anticipation of another good afternoon in this must win six pointer, the players started to let the pitch get to them. Passes went astray and flicks and turns got stuck in the mud.

The hosts soon got on the front foot and Ben Barnes had to make a total of six smart saves over the next ten minutes to keep the scores level.

On 26 minutes he made another brilliant diving save from a 30 yard volley, but just two minutes later though he could do nothing as a comedy of errors infront of him left Nathan Cliffe with a soft shot that dribbled past him into the corner of the net.

Awoken from their slumber by the goal, Skem started to get straight back at their opponents and it took just two minutes to restore the lead. Another good passing move through the middle left Bollongino in the perfect position to drill his shot high into the net from just inside the box.

The lead lasted just a minute, as Cliffe was allowed to repeat his earlier effort this time catching his shot perfectly to send it past Barnes and score the third goal in just three minutes of the game.
United just couldn’t get going again but did manage to force a free kick just before half time with which Knowles hit the post HT 2-2

The early minutes of the second half saw more sluggish performance from the visitors as the pitch seemed to sap the strength from their legs. An easy clearance on 54 minutes turned into a scoring chance for Cliffe when De Frutos Griman slipped in his own box. The striker didn’t waste the opportunity to put Gate 3-2 in the lead.

Things went from bad to worse on the hour mark when a through ball was chased by the speedy Kyle Campbell. Ben Barnes raced out of his box to clear but was adjudged by the ref to have fouled his man and as last man was sent off the pitch.

A goal down and down to 10 men Skem also had to contend with who would replace Barnes in goal. In the end the giant figure of Nelson Digbeu took the shirt and gloves.

Ironically with 10 men, United did see more of the ball, but the hosts were not about to relinquish their advantage and sat back to try and force Skem forward and create opportunities for them to counter.

Deep into added time, once such counter had defenders struggling back to halt the attack. Bollongino fouled his man but it didn’t look like he was the last man. Despite this the referee brandished the red card to make Bollongino the fifth Skem player to take an early bath in as many weeks, a new problem for Pascal to deal with. FT 3-2.

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