Great Harwood went into the game knowing that a point would see them climb off the bottom of the NWCL 1st Division for the first time since the middle of September. Mid-table Trafford came to the Interlink Express Stadium having won just once in their previous eight games, although that was a 5-0 win over 2nd placed Newcastle Town.
Persistent rain throughout the afternoon and evening made the pitch very slippery but the players of both teams made light of the conditions with some slick, passing football. Harwood were quickly out of the traps and a snap shot from 25 yards by recent acquisition Steve McDonald, whizzed inches past the post after 20 seconds.
A free kick on the Harwood right led to the evening’s first goal on 24 minutes, and for once, the Robins enjoyed a slice of luck. Lee Sculpher looked to be offside towards the far post, but the cross went towards the front of the area where McDonald shot home at the second attempt. Trafford responded by upping the pace and after a cross was punched out while under pressure by goalkeeper Bobby Harris, the ball fell to Graham Vaughn 25 yards out who hit a first timer into the bottom corner with Harris looking a little winded after the earlier incident. Harwood’s lead had lasted only 6 minutes but the set back didn’t affect their play for the remaining 15 minutes of the half, as both sides battled to get on top. The half time whistle blew with the Robins having had slightly more possession than the visitors.
The second period began with Harwood kicking towards the Clayton end of the ground but it was Trafford who appeared to be getting on top. As Salford had done earlier in the week, the visitors enjoyed plenty of possession and displayed a liking to the excellent Accrington pitch and treated their handful of supporters to some fine passing football. The Harwood players refused to buckle under the pressure and ran themselves ragged in an effort to re-gain the upper hand.
For about 20 minutes midway through the half, the Harwood goal was under siege as the Robins found it difficult to get out of their own half. Trafford created several excellent chances but Harris was in devastating form, saving two certain goals with world class saves. One save in particular at the foot of the post saw the ball rebound to a Trafford forward just 2 yards out, but a brilliant block by Neil Smith prevented a goal.
As we’ve come to expect from this team of workaholics, Harwood regained their composure and gradually got the better of the skilful Trafford midfield. A great save by Martin Campbell in the Trafford goal denied substitute Ed O’Neil and a few minutes later, the excellent Darren Rogers was thwarted. Sensing a win, Harwood pushed further and further forward with the midfield players having taken over the middle of the park completely.
On 87 minutes, a great piece of footwork by Rogers enabled him to create a half chance on the edge of the box. His shot beat the keeper all ends up but struck the top of the post and bounced out towards the edge of the box. Ed O’Neil was onto the loose ball in a flash and hit it first time into the net as the keeper struggled to his feet after diving for the first shot. The ground erupted as the Harwood players mobbed hero O’Neil. Without any thought of sitting back in defence, Harwood continued to attack, only stopping to count down the seconds near the Trafford corner flags. The win was greeted with dancing on the terraces by the Harwood faithful who have had much to cheer about over the past month with four wins from six games. The win not only lifted the Robins above Atherton Collieries, it put them within one point of Formby with a game in hand.


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©2009 J Fenton