Barnoldswick Town 3 v 1 Skelmersdale United

Match Report by Martin Stewart.

In this summer that doesn’t want to end, Skem took to the field again in sweltering conditions better suited to the cricket pitch next door. In truth this ground and the drive up to it, must be one of the nicest in the NWCFL, so to experience it on such a lovely day put everyone in a good mood at the start of this match.

The manager rang the changes in from Tuesday night, bringing in new signing Gabriel Ellis upfront, the 19-year-old has played for Skem before and is already a very experienced centre forward. Hero of Tuesday night Reuben Denton was given his second start, this time as support striker for Ellis, so along with Luke Byron this represented a more attacking approach than before.

The game got off to the worst possible start after only 3 minutes Andrew Hill was allowed to get a shot off that rebounded off the post and the rebound was put away by Geroge Chmiel to put the hosts ahead. After conceding ten goals in their last two games and now going a goal down so early, you could be forgiven for sensing this was going to be another tough day for the blues (who were actually wearing their new red away kit for the first time).

For the next 20 minutes not much happened. Skem struggled to do anything beyond the halfway line other than aim long balls up to the ever-willing Denton to run onto, whilst Barnoldswick looked neat and tidy but not dangerous as they already seemed to have accepted a 1-0 win would be a good day’s work.

The ref blew for a much-needed water break after 25 minutes, and the refreshment really seemed to make a difference. Just a minute after the restart, Dana Amaral shot over the bar after a great move by Skem and then at the other end Ryan Moore’s effort went wide when well placed to score.

On 34 minutes a good exchange between Ellis and Denton on the edge of the box, left Denton in on goal, but his shot was well saved, things were really hotting up now. Three minutes later and good work by Denton down the right, before he switched the ball inside to Louie Lancaster who let fly from 20 yards, only for his shot to sail just over the bar. Another minute later and an almost identical move left the same player with the same chance, but once again his shot sailed over. This was better from Skem, and everyone could sense a goal was coming.

They didn’t have to wait long either, on 40 minutes a great run by Amaral who fed Denton inside the box, this time he made no mistake and smashed the equaliser past Jakovlevs in the curiously named ‘Sewer End’ goal.

With their tails up now, Skem kept on coming, a long punt up the pitch almost found Denton as it dropped over the head of Kershaw who was struggling to get back and then just as half time came another chance fell to Denton in the six-yard box, which forced a great save from the keeper. HT 1-1

Just two minutes into the second half and Karamo Sesay was sin-binned for overly protesting a free kick award on the edge of the Skem box. Down to 10 men for 10 minutes, Skem didn’t relent though and on 55 minutes Luke Byron went on a scintillating run that started out on the right, took him past three challenges in the middle and ended up with him unleashing an effort from just outside the box that the keeper only just tipped onto the bar.

Just when it looked like they had got through being a man down, and with Sesay warming up on the touchline to come back on, a run down the right by Chmiel and a cross into the middle, Ben Barnes didn’t deal with the first shot and the rebound flicked off his fingers and onto the head of Brad Carsley standing nearby who headed home his team’s second of the game. It was a gut-wrenching

blow to the travelling supporters who were witnessing their team’s best performance away from home of the season. The lads kept going though, two minutes later Ellis had a shot cleared off the line and then Carsley hit the post himself. This was end to end stuff now. Time for another water break.

Straight after came a decision that turned the game. Amaral made a perfectly good tackle in the middle of the park, perhaps the full-blooded nature of the challenge tainted it in the ref’s mind though as he immediately sent the midfielder to the sin bin, Skem were to play another 10 minutes a man down.

This time it took only 2 more minutes for the home side to score and effectively end the game as a contest. A chipped ball into the box was met by Chmiel who spun confidently before slotting home. The experiment of sin binning at this level seems like a great idea, but without a proper structure in place to define what constitutes a sin bin offence it can really destroy a game. The challenge by Amaral, if it warranted punishment at all, could have just as easily yielded a yellow card instead, and in this intense heat would have been preferable to Skem having to fight with a man down for a second ten-minute period of the match. It was a poor decision by the ref and it killed the game as a contest and ended what had been shaping up to be a gripping end to the contest.

Crestfallen, Skem couldn’t muster much more in this game, even when they were restored to full strength, and Barnoldswick weren’t about to expend any more energy than they had to in a game they had already won, so after 20 more forgettable minutes the match ended.

So, another defeat on the road for Skem, but this was not a performance that deserved defeat. But for a bit more composure in front of goal and more sensible refereeing, Skem could have come away with a victory that nobody would have begrudged them. A draw was the very least they deserved, and it showed on the player’s faces as they left the field. Plenty of good performances for the manager to draw upon, and with two very tough away games ahead in the next week, he will need to let those players know they can get something if they perform like this again.

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