Prestwich went into this crunch game with Little Lever fielding 3 new signings, none of whom had played a 90 minute game all season, in a 12 man squad. They knew a win would guarantee safety in the Premier Division for another year, but also that they were in for a battle with a Lever side under a relegation threat.
As expected Lever started the game at full throttle and pushed hard to pressure the Prestwich lads when they had possession. Their high press and aggressive approach resulted in early pressure on a Prestwich defence superbly lead by Richard Steadman and Barrie Campbell who won every header and tackle in a frantic opening 10 minutes. Prestwich posed a threat on the break through Sean Haslam especially but it was a foul on Matthew Brennan which saw a penalty awarded in the 13th minute allowing David Thompson to open the scoring largely against the run of play. The pattern of play continued in similar fashion but without Lever creating a serious chance and Prestwich always a threat on the break. The lead was extended in the 24th minute when Haslam latched on to a through ball, his first effort was well saved but he gathered the rebound and slotted home for 2 – 0. The rest of the half was a high energy but relatively low quality affair with neither side truly troubling the keepers.
With Lever desperate to get into the game they went to 3 at the back in the second half and started to play a high line which ultimately worked in Prestwich’s favour due to the pace and intelligent running of Haslam and for once some measured balls into the channels for him to capitalise on. The first of these in the 51st minute from Brennan put Haslam in down the left and with the keeper advancing to meet him he slid the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Lever put on fresh legs to step up the pace and Prestwich used their one sub to counter this on 55 minutes when Joel Hudson replaced Thompson for his first appearance in nearly 2 years. With the mounting urgency of Lever’s game they did start to carve out some chances forcing Mike Hudson in goal to make some decent saves.
With the game more open and swinging from end to end it was the tidier approach of Prestwich that won out when a delightful ball was chipped over the Lever defence for Haslam to run on to and outstrip the defence planting his hat trick goal into the bottom corner past a stranded keeper in the 76th minute. To their credit Lever never stopped working and brought a brilliant double save out of Hudson shortly before another quick move brought them some reward with a goal in the 83rd minute. Still they pushed but were caught again 4 minutes later when Haslam got free again beat a defender and the keeper to slot a left foot shot inside the right hand post for 5 – 1. Prestwich should have had 6 when Brennan had a typical surging run cut short in the box but Thompson( back on for Straszewski) had his strong penalty into the bottom corner superbly saved by the Lever keeper. As the game ran into the end of injury time some poor play at the back putting Hudson under pressure saw him scuff a clearance and present Lever with their second of the day, which overall their efforts deserved. Seconds after the restart the referee ended a very satisfactory game for Prestwich and a performance that was a credit to all 12 involved as they had to work very very hard for it.