Blackburn goal clinches narrow victory

Harwood keep on promotion course

GREAT HARWOOD TOWN moved back into an outright lead at the top of the North West Counties Second Division as goals from
Harold Martin, from the penalty spot, and John Blackburn earned them a narrow victory over Ashton United.
With nearest rivals Warrington Town and Kirkby Town involved in the FA Vase on Saturday, Harwood moved into a two point lead but have now played two more games than Warrington – two points behind the Showground side – and five more than Kirkby, who are three points behind Harwood.
A vital pointer to Harwood’s promotion hopes ill come a week on Saturday when they line up at home to Kirkby in a re-arranged match. Kirkby have already beaten Harwood 2-0 on Merseyside but if Harwood continue to show the resolve and commitment they displayed against Ashton, and indeed a few days earlier in their league cup win over First Division Bootle, they need have no fears.
The useful Ashton side made sure that Harwood had to work hard for their victory but, despite a few anxious moments, Harwood gained a valuable victory in the face of adversity, clinching two vital points despite having to field a makeshift forward line.
With Leroy Allen having left the club for Second Division rivals Darwen, and Eric Geldard out through suspension, Harwood were dealt a severe pre-match blow when ir was discovered that Rochdale, who have first call on striker Peter McCrae, required hin for a reserve game.
So Harwood manager Malcolm Darling was forced to field a side without a really recognised striker. Mark Bennett has played in the front line previously this season bit is as much at home in midfield while his strike partner against Ashton was skipper Brian Moran, normally one of the side’s midfield kingpins.
But Bennett and Moran played together very well, keeping the Ashton defence busy throughout the match, although the best chance that either of them had, when Moran was on the end of a glorious move three minutes from time, was scorned, with the Harwood skipper hardly managing to make contact when the slightest of touches could have turned the ball home.
As it was, it proved academic, as Harwood clung on to take both points but the situation might have been different had it not been for a decision by the referee in the 61st minute which gave Ashton a free-kick for handball on the edge of the 18-yard box when it seemed, as Ashton claimed, that the offence had been committed inside the box.

Harwood’s line-up: Pomfret, Vercoe Astin, Martin, Jones, Blackburn, Moran, Burton (sub: O’Brien 80 mins.), Benko, McCrae Allen.

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©2009 J Fenton