Blackrod 2-3 Prestwich FC
Two identical goals directly from a corner by Sean Haslam and a beautifully taken one from Mike Neary secured three precious points for a Prestwich side fighting for survival in the top division.
With an extremely strong wind gusting down the pitch it seemed that whoever capitalised on it the most whilst it was in their favour would more than likely come out on top.
Captain Richard Steadman won the toss giving Prestwich the advantage first, and it proved to be the case as Prestwich dominated the early stages taking an 8 minute lead. Whilst it was a good playing surface the left hand edge of the hosts pitch was slightly elevated and it was from here that Haslam cleverly utilised both the slope and the wind to whip in a vicious corner above the keeper into the far right corner of the net.
Whilst the wind saw to it that the ball was largely in the Blackrod half it was also causing Prestwich problems in terms of the weight of pass to their strikers with the midfield trio of Stefan Rapacz, Matty Brennan and Tito Miguel frequently seeing passes intended for Near y or Haslam overrunning either out of play or to the keeper.
In fact as the half wore on it was Blackrod that were creating the better chances kicking against the wind, in the form of two very quick and skilful strikers they posed a real threat and Prestwich got lucky when one particularly nice move down the left saw one of them strike a post. Growing in the ascendency the hosts put Prestwich under increasing pressure and only a terrific last ditch block by Brennan stopped an almost certain goal him hurling himself in front a player about to strike from close range.
Just when Prestwich were thinking more about hanging on to their lead till half time they doubled it on 40 mins, when Haslam repeated his earlier feat from another corner, the hosts must have been thinking of ‘groundhog day’ as it was virtually an identical strike to his first, and it remained 0-2 at the break.
Prestwich started the second half strongly and should really have put the game to bed when a neat move down the right saw Haslam centrally positioned on the six yard box with just the goalie to beat, his shot went straight at the keeper though when either side would certainly have resulted in a goal.
It was an opportunity Prestwich could have been left to rue as Blackrod began to enjoy similar prolonged spells in the Prestwich half. On 55 mins their main striker who was a constant menace scored an absolute peach of a goal, using the slope on the left like Haslam but some 35 yards out from goal he unleashed an early shot that picked up speed with the wind and rocketed into Mike Hudsons net giving him absolutely no chance.
The game became very open now with Blackrod pressing for an equalizer but Prestwich looking just as likely to score on the counter through one of several penetrating link ups between Neary, Miguel and Haslam. Recent signing James Barlow (pictured) who has been so impressive at left back in the last two games was also offering a threat frequently overlapping in support.
Prestwich made it 1-3 on 67 mins with a beautifully taken goal by Neary, making the space for himself with fine control he turned inside the last man to fire home from 10 yards out.
Blackrod pressed and pressed but Prestwich’s defence martialled by Steadman stood strong and they were largely restricted to long range speculative efforts, but Hudson who has been in impressive form all season was masterful in his positioning and handling of some tricky wind assisted efforts.
Blackrod did manage to snatch one back from an almighty scramble following a corner but there were seconds remaining and it proved to be too little too late.