Date & Venue: Friday 29 April at The Skelmersdale & Ormskirk College Stadium
Result: Skelmersdale United 7 Ossett Albion 2
Competition: The Northern Premier League Division One North (Step 4)
Hopping: I am here because this is the only league in action on Royal Wedding day, and Skelmersdale have a mathematical chance of sneaking through to win the league. They were certain to be trying for a big seven-goal win over an already-relegated side and hoping for Garforth to do them a favour by beating Chester.
This match in one sentence
For a few second-half minutes it seemed that the unthinkable could happen as Chester went a goal down and the score reached 7-1 here in a one-sided game.
Skelmersdale will have home advantage in both semi-final and final for the playoffs and Fylde will be the first opponents on Monday. Ossett Albion head for step 5 having conceded 134 league goals this season. It was long-serving Eric Gilchrist’s last game as the club’s manager.
The drama unfolds
Some of the early action is shown in the first two clips. The second captures the unconditional love from about nine young Ossett Albion fans, who pinned up their flag and sang more or less continuously and with good humour all afternoon
Skelmersdale, as expected took the initiative but needed a comedy own goal to open the scoring after 15 minutes. A good through ball combined with an unlucky rebound led to a delicious moment of confusion between centre-back Mark Ryan and ‘keeper Ash Connor. The ball was shinned towards the goal at just the right pace to trickle over the line and evade the defender’s lunging attempt to divert it out. 1-0
|Mark Ryan ponders the injustice of the world after opening the scoring ... for Skelmersdale|
Shaun Tuck missed the half-chance in the above pic and was to feature on the score sheet later but on 27 minutes he acknowledged a poor decision to his team-mates as he shot at the near post with two colleagues in acres of space at the back post. With the hindsight that is always perfect, it was the first “if only …” moment of the day. The ref was already warning Ash Connor about possible time wasting to which he retorted, not unreasonably perhaps, along the lines of, “Are you mad? Why would I waste time when we are in the game at only 2-1 down?”
Skelmersdale had a couple more chances before half-time and then, just before the interval, Kyle Armstrong scored as shown on the third clip. 3-1 at half-time
We established that Chester had taken a one goal lead at Garforth towards the end of the first half, so it looked as if this match might prove irrelevant, but Skelmersdale started the second half full of intent.
Tuck got his first with a header very soon into the second half. 4-1 The home side sustained the pressure and the fifth followed after 53 minutes for Chris Almond. 5-1 The movement and passing around the box was impressive and Connor was repeatedly frustrated by his colleagues’ inability to hold the ball up field. He got himself booked for kicking the ball away in frustration which meant his potential time-wasting capability was severely curtailed in the second half.
Here is another “if only…” moment, this time for Paul Woolcott.
Albion reminded their hosts of their presence with a half-chance for Richard Tracey (I think), saved by goalkeeper Tom Brocklehurst, but the general pattern of play was a tide of blue shirts heading towards Connor. By now the noise from the home supporters had changed and it seemed that news of Garforth’s fightback was filtering through.
Tuck curled a shot inches wide and Almond came close with two headed opportunities. The goal of the day followed as Tuck ran on to a perfect through ball and finished with aplomb. 6-1 When he headed in a curling cross to complete a man-of-the-match hat-trick, supporters started asking round for the Chester score and studied the league table in the programme. 7-1 We now know that one more goal at this point could have done it, and there was a distinct ripple of anticipation.
Sadly, it lasted only a short time as Cornally (I think) scored for the visitors, meaning that Skelmersdale needed two more in ten minutes plus an enticing six minutes of stoppage time. 7-2 They resorted to shooting from longer distances as fatigue began to take over and it gradually became clear that this was going to be a “so near but yet so far” day for the club. Great entertainment though for the passing neutral. Final score 7-2
Alternative activity of equal excitement for visitors to Skelmersdale
I can’t imagine that there would be anything that would do the same for your heart-rate. As a last resort, you could try turning up to Matalan’s head office in the town and announce that you are from OfPants, the government agency for underwear inspection, and here to carry out one of the new unannounced elastic stretchability verification visits. If you have a suit and a clipboard you might at least get a cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie in the reception area before you are rumbled.
A snippet from the programme
It’s a ranty programme in places, with comments about negative comments on the fans’ forum, the singling out of players for criticism during matches, the lack of support from townspeople for the club and the poor quality of the recent Real Madrid/Barcelona game. (Though they are all points well made and backed up with evidence.)
Columnist Frank Hughes points out that in terms of budgets Skelmersdale would be in about 8th place in the division, and that Chester’s resources and support are massive compared with others in this league. An anonymous accusation of lack of ambition has clearly hurt: “It costs a lot of money just to contemplate promotion, and if we lacked ambition we would just consolidate in this division. It would be much easier than working so damn hard and suffering from all the heartbreak.”
What I learned today
Liverpool Ladies are playing their FA Women's Super League games here.
Tunbridge Wells v Hythe Town in the Kent Premier League on Saturday. It's random.