Misses are costly



A SUCCESSION of missed chances in the early stages of their match at Skelmersdale on Saturday left Harwood contemplating what might have been as the home side won by the odd goal.

Paul Goldsborough and Mark Bennett had a couple of good opportunities each and Eric Geldard missed a particularly glaring chance when he rounded the United goalkeeper but fell over the ball.

Skelmersdale took the lead shortly before half-time with a breakaway goal against the run of play and then dominated the early stages of the second half before Harwood again forced their way on top but just couldn’t turn their dominance into goals.

Geldard twice had a good opening created for him but on both occasions failed to make headed attempts on goal count, with one being straight at the keeper and another wide of the target.

“It could have been 4-1 at half-time” said Harwood manager Malcolm Darling, “but we missed chance after chance, they scored and we just couldn’t drag ourselves back into the game although we had more good chances later in the match.

“Our finishing was appalling and our failure to get any reward lies firmly with the attackers. The defence, and particularly Neil Callen, played very well and the midfield build-up was good. There was just something lacking up front.

“I am glad that was the last of our Saturday matches because we just can’t seem to turn it on at weekends, whereas in midweek we can produce some impressive results.”

Harwood’s line-up: Mottershead, Vercoe, Astin, Martin, Callen, Moran, Jones, Geldard, Benko, Bennett, Goldsborough. Sub: Darling (not used).







A MONSOON-LIKE downpour which saturated the pitch in the final 20 minutes wasn’t the only heavy weather at the Showground on Saturday.

In only their second home league match since they last recorded a North West Counties Second Division victory on home soil on November 23 rd, Harwood made desperately hard work of overcoming a Skelmersdale side severely weakened by the loss of goalkeeper Alan Robinson through injury as early as the fourth minute.

Granted, Harwood were without skipper Brian Moran, always one of their most inspirational players, because of injury, but until Paul Goldsborough broke the deadlock midway through the second half with a shot which found its way into the net off a post, Malcolm Darling’s side just hadn’t been able to make the most of the situation.

Tommy Knox, who went into goal when Robinson was forced to leave the field with a recurrence of a lingering injury, started off very shakily but Harwood didn’t pressurise him enough in those early stages and the longer the match went on the more Knox grew in confidence.

The only real chance of note that came Harwood’s way in the first half was a 30-yard free kick from stand-in skipper Harold Martin which hit the top of the crossbar after 15 minutes.

Besides that, it was Skelmersdale, who had given notice of their intentions as early as 34 seconds after the kick-off with a shot from Ian Hodge which went just wide of the target, who had all the notable first half opportunities.

In the 20 th minute, John Beesley broke clear but was but was thwarted by a very impressive save from Harwood ‘keeper Dave Mottershead and four minutes later, with Mottershead beaten, United’s Gary Simons shot just over the bar.

The scoreline remained blank at the interval but after the break, it was Skelmersdale again who looked the likeliest to take the lead.

In the 54 th minute, Hodge broke clear, was fouled on the edge of the 18-yard box and the resulting free-kick was held by Mottershead and 10 minutes later, Harwood’s Eric Geldard lost the ball halfway inside the United half, Simons broke upfield and brought another great save from Mottershead.

But two minutes after that, Harwood were ahead thanks to a great piece of opportunist finishing by Paul Goldsborough, who had looked Harwood’s liveliest striker all along.

Simon Vercoe on the right wing crossed inside to Steve Benko, who lobbed the ball over to Goldsborough on the left hand side of the penalty area.

He took it forward and from an acute angle, shot across the face of goal and the ball went into the net off the right hand post.

That breakthrough revitalised Harwood and, as the rain lashed down, they began to apply the kind of pressure that Knox should really have been put under much earlier.

Goldsborough shot wide of the target three minutes after his goal after Neil Callen had headed the ball down to him from a corner and a minute later, Benko was just wide with a low snap-shot from 25 yards.

Skelmersdale, bidding for promotion and rather better placed than Harwood before the match as the sides met for the first time this season, still looked dangerous when they broke forward and Harwood really needed a second goal to put the issue beyond doubt.

Nine minutes from time, Mr Darling brought on substitute Neil Burton for John Blackburn and Burton eventually did the trick, although it was a minute into injury time before Town scored their second.

It looked as if they would have to be content with a 1-0 scoreline at best-and frankly that would have been a fairer reflection of the play-but 60 seconds into stoppage time added on for stoppages, Harwood added to their tally.

The move that led to the goal was again started by Vercoe on the right, who crossed inside for Benko.

He couldn’t make contact with the ball but it fell for Burton, who lobbed it into the goalmouth, wrong footing Knox in the process.

With Goldsborough and Mark Bennett in attendance just in front of goal, Bennett applied the vital touch to make it 2-0 and complete a victory which aids Harwood’s outside chances of promotion considerably.

It wasn’t by any means their most convincing show of the season but the result was right and it will be a morale-booster for the Showground side.

GREAT HARWOOD TOWN: Mottershead, Astin, Miller, Martin, Callen, Blackburn sub: Burton 81 mins), Geldard, Benko, Vercoe, Goldsborough, Bennett.

SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Robinson (sub: Johnston 4 mins), Jackson, Holmes, Perkins, Burgess, Simons, Lawler, Hodge, Thompson, Beesley, Knox.

Referee: G Barnish (Rochdale)

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©2009 J Fenton