Great Harwood Town 3 Abbey Hey 1


Harwood went into the game on the back of a three match unbeaten run, their best of a turbulent season. The draw at Skelmersdale three days earlier had lifted them out of the bottom two for the first time in six months. Despite the Robins improved chances of avoiding the drop, and a pleasant evening, the Interlink Express Stadium saw its lowest attendance for a Harwood game, just 87.
The first half began at a surprisingly slow pace with neither side able to string more than a couple of passes together. Indeed Harwood looked particularly nervous in defence where a series of mis-kicks had the crowd biting their nails.
But the tension was lifted on 16 minutes when a free kick by Hill from the right touchline brought the first goal of the evening. Sculpher and Smith, Harwood’s two central defenders were up from the back and despite the former looking offside at the back post, the ball went to the front of the six yard box where Neil Smith turned it home at the second attempt.
Instead of building on the lead, Harwood failed to press home their advantage and after a ball into the Harwood box was punched clear by keeper Harris, Brocklehurst returned it towards goal, beating the winded keeper down to his right.
The second half saw the Robins come out all guns blazing and put the visitors under immediate and constant pressure. Darren Rogers was causing them all sorts of problems and it was he who restored Harwood’s lead seven minutes after the break. After beating the offside trap, he side stepped the keeper, but instead of sliding the ball into the empty net with his left foot, he turned, beat a defender twice, side stepped the keeper once again before lashing the ball into the net with the crowd reaching for the valium. By now it was one-way traffic as Abbey Hey were run ragged and lost their heads completely. The officials came in for terrible verbal abuse and the Harwood players came in for plenty of physical abuse, but the Reds stood tall and on the hour, Lee Sculpher made the points safe with Harwood’s third. Abbey Hey were than reduced to ten men after the linesman was abused and manager John Hughes found it necessary to substitute Rogers and Ed O’Neil after both players had suffered at the hands of the over-physical Abbey Hey team. The visitors had in fact tried to get the game moved to the Saturday afternoon and it was obvious to the onlooker that some of their players would rather be elsewhere. The Robins squandered several chances to make the game a rout and only the wayward finishing prevented a cricket score, but the three points moved them to the brink of safety.

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©2009 J Fenton