‘A Bridge too Long’: Longbridge Town 6 – 0 Skelmersdale Utd

Match Report by Martin Stewart.

After back-to-back wins last weekend, a sizeable group of Skem supporters travelled up the M6 in search of another win for their team in the glorious late summer sunshine. This lovely ground rests in the suburban splendour of Northern Lancashire and with an equally handsome cricket ground backing onto the far side of the pitch, spectators had a full choice of sports to watch whist sipping an ice-cold beer.

Matt Potter made just one change from the team that did so well against Isle of Man, with captain Lee McConchie restored to centre half, that meant moving Thomas Fagan out to right back and Mikey Caldwell dropping to the bench.

In the fifth minute a long diagonal ball found Mitchell Marshall on the left edge of the Skem penalty area, he flashed a cross in front of goal which Morgan Homson-Smith couldn’t quite connect with, it was an early warning of a combination that would go on to dominate the game.

The opening minutes were cagey and Skem wanted to settle into their usual passing and probing style, but Longridge had already worked out that that ball to Marshall down the left was causing problems and were keen to exploit it as much as they could. On 13 minutes, Callum Preece became the first booking of the match, for a shirt pull in the centre circle.

Five minutes later and a shot from outside the box by Jack Anderton was seen late by Ben Barnes who managed to dive low to his right and push it wide. Having just been carded, Preece was withdrawn early by the manager and replaced by Ben Lightfoot. The change perhaps shifting Skem’s shape as they looked to three central midfielders now instead of two.

On 24 minutes came Skem’s best move of the half, Dana Amaral running all the way up the inside right channel with the ball, but with no support in the box his attempted cross was easily snuffed out by the home defence.

Longbridge were now beginning to be pen their opponents in their own half, Marshall skipped Malikai Fry out on the left and flashed another cross in front of Homson-Smith, this time he connected with it, but only to shoot over the crossbar. On 32 minutes both Anderton and Luke Smith saw shots blocked in the box by desperate defending and soon after Homson-Smith headed against the crossbar with Barnes stranded, there was a sense that a goal was coming……

Who knows what might have happened in the second half if Skem had made it to the break all square, but it wasn’t to be, on 40 minutes Finney Kent beat the offside trap to lay a chance on a plate to Marshall standing a yard out at the far post, it was the least the home side deserved. HT 0-1

If the first half could be described as a horror show, then the second half would leave Skem supporters hiding behind the couch with their hands over their ears. It took just a minute for Longbridge to extend the lead. Another of those diagonal balls to Marshall, this time his pass was into Jack Anderton who stroked home.

Seven minutes, and two more missed chances later, the home side effectively killed the game as a contest as Kent fed Homson-Smith in the six-yard box, he controlled the ball expertly before slipping it between Barnes’ legs and no doubt called ‘megs’ as the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Potter threw on Thomas Ward for Kristian Knowles who had had a quiet game by his standards. It was an attempt to stem the tide, but it was probably the substitution of Marshall a minute later that did more to calm nerves in the Skem defence. Fry in particular could relax and Skem started to at least see more of their opponent’s half of the pitch. Up to now the only bit of excitement the

travelling blues noisily backing their team behind the goal had had, was to shout for a back pass when Kier Berry picked up a knock back from one of his defenders. But now there were some signs of a fightback. Amaral found himself again in the box with the ball, with his marker strangely falling flat on his face, he tried to pick out Joel Ogiugo who had got forward in support, but it came to nothing. Then Ogiugo himself went on a charge down the inside left, beating the whole Longridge backline for pace he shot low, but Berry saved with his feet.

It was to be the last of a short-lived comeback, a flurry of substitutions swung the game back in favour of Longridge, who having not won a league game so far this season, were going to make sure they won this one in style. In the 80th minute, one of those subs Jeffrey Adubofour had three bites at getting his name on the scoresheet, each one cannoning off a defender.

On 85 minutes Barnes made an incredible save when already grounded, he managed to scramble back towards his line and reach out a long arm to paw away a goal bound shot off the line. Seriously Ben won’t look back on this scoreline with much fondness, but a lesser keeper would have conceded double figures on this showing.

On 88 minutes, another sub Leighton Hewitt was allowed to run from the halfway line, through the shell-shocked Skem defence and put his side four goals up. But even then the torture was not over. Hewitt added another, three minutes into injury time and with the ref about to blow the whistle for full time, the shout of ‘HOWZAT!!” came up from the cricket ground behind as Adubofour hit Skem for six.

A game to forget, even though it will no doubt give many on the Skem team a sleepless Saturday night. There are only 48 hours to recover though as Irlam come to town on Tuesday night, surely there are plenty in that side who will want to take an early chance to make amends.

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