(NWCL 2nd Division)


Harwood welcomed back Harris, Dean, Fisher and Rogers for the derby game at the Arbories while Padiham fielded ex-Harwood trio, Pickup, Denning and Hill. The home side began well but the Robins soon got into their stride on an excellent playing surface. With both defences looking tight, chances were at a premium but James Dean should have scored midway through the first half when he overcame a challenge in the box to leave him one-on-one with Rob Batty in the home goal. Dean went for power but although Batty produced an outstanding save, the ball flew straight to the head of Ed O’Neil with the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately he could only direct the ball towards a defender who’d got back well to guard the line.
A similar attack at the other end produced the opening goal. Hill took advantage of a lucky ricochet and advanced towards Harris before side-stepping him and placing his right footed shot into the empty net.
The goal was against the run of play following Harwood’s best 15 minutes of the game but they almost equalised before the break when Dean, with his back to goal, teed himself up to fire in a brilliant overhead kick which Batty pushed over the bar in acrobatic style. Padiham enjoyed plenty of possession for the rest of the half without looking too dangerous.
The 2nd half was just as tight as the first with defences keeping on top. Both midfields were endeavouring to play football and there was some fine play by both teams.
Although no quarter was asked or given, the game was played in a good spirit but the referee tended to be too fussy and brandished the yellow card on several occasions. Dean being most unlucky after receiving one for what appeared to be a fair tackle. It was the Harwood forward who looked like equalising midway through the half when a great one-two put him in the clear after beating the offside trap. Advancing towards the area he completely lost his head and fired ten yards high and wide.
With the Robins pushing up, gaps were inevitably left at the back and a fine break down the Padiham right, involving the excellent Steve Pickup, ended with a cross which found an unmarked forward to seal the game.
With time running out manager John Hughes made a surprising substitution, taking off O’Neil and Rogers, although the latter did suffer a leg injury ten minutes earlier. They were replaced by defender Jim Thompson and midfielder Dave Anwar. The side refused to throw in the towel but never looked like getting back in the game and in fact, Padiham looked the more likely side to add to the score. A long shot which was dropped onto the goal line by Batty was the only time that Harwood came close to scoring late on.
So it was five defeats in a row to leave another excellent following dejected once more, although the side certainly played much better than of late.

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©2009 J Fenton