The first game of the New Year was an absorbing contest against a very good Mancunians side who seem to be at their best when playing against Prestwich.
The game was an end to end affair throughout with both sides trying to create scoring opportunities and playing the game at a fast pace right until the end. The effort and work rate of both sides was a credit to all involved and though chances were made and missed at both ends the draw was perhaps a fair result but either side could have won it.
The early stages belonged to Mancunians who started the game well and created a few problems for the Prestwich backline of Steven Lorenzini, Richard Steadman, Barrie Campbell and Stefan Rapacz especially by using the width of the pitch well.
Prestwich had a couple of early presses forward but without really troubling Mancunians. Two very useful midfield players were creating chances for Mancunians but a very quick forward line were unable to reward their craft until on 12 minutes another attack was not dealt with on the right and from a difficult angle a midfielder broke into the box and produced a sublime chip over Michael Hudson who was slightly too advanced to stop it going into the net.
This spurred Prestwich who at last broke out of their slow start and began to ask questions of the Mancunians defence.
After a few missed chances with shots off target another break down the right by Martin Hill resulted in a smart save, Michael Neary hit the rebound against a defender then Sean Haslam pounced on that rebound to notch the equaliser on 18 minutes. Haslam was replaced briefly by Rafael Straszewski after receiving a blow in a painful area but returned after a 10 minute recovery.
The game continued to swing from end to end and Mancunians brought a good save from Hudson who blocked a one on one effort with his legs. At the other end a good effort by Hill missed the far post by a fraction with the keeper beaten, Matthew Brennan had an effort saved at the near post and Campbell had a header that looked goal bound but hit a defender on the line and was scrambled clear.
Prestwich did suffer a blow on 34 minutes when Lorenzini went up for a header and injured his ankle when landing. This prompted a reshuffle with Steadman moving to fullback, Rapacz to centre back and James Barlow coming off the bench to go left back. Despite further chances at both ends the score remained level at half time.
The second half continued in the same fashion but Mancunians did most of the early pressing and created several half chances. The Prestwich cause was further disrupted on 53 minutes when Steadman came off with cramp, Neary moved to right full back and Straszewski returned for what in the end was a match saving performance.
Mancunians still had most of the forward play at this stage as Prestwich tried to regain some momentum, again upset by losing Sam Holden with a muscle pull to be replaced by Pearse Connery on 63 minutes.
Prestwich had survived a few scares during this 20–25 minute period with some stoic defending, especially from the excellent Rapacz who foiled attacks time after time, and the ever reliable Campbell. Eventually Prestwich settled and started to push forward more, one attack down the right with now Neary, Callum Pragnell and Hill causing the defence lots of problems saw a chance headed on by Hill, hitting Haslam perhaps 3 yards out but he was unable to connect properly for what would have been a certain goal and the keeper smothered the ball.
An even better chance came after 72 minutes when Haslam got in behind the defence and was pushed over, then got up and blazed the resulting penalty high over the bar. Another chance minutes later saw him repeat the break in behind on the left but his attempted shot across the keeper was well saved.
Scares were still occurring with regularity at the other end but Hudson and his defence coped well until on 81 minutes another attack looked to have been cleared out to the left wing. The ball fell to a midfield player who struck it on the volley at an angle, fully 30 yards out and it flew past a stranded Hudson who had no chance, into the top right hand corner. If scored in front of Sky cameras it would certainly be a goal of the season contender, a worldy springs to mind.
This looked like it would be the deciding goal but Prestwich would not give it up and pushed forward with purpose having pushed Campbell forward to provide an aerial threat.
As the clocked ticked down another attack down the right by Neary and Pragnell resulted in a low cross which found Straszewski at the far post and on 89 minutes he rifled in the equaliser.
There was still time for a scare at the other end when a long ball caught out the Prestwich defence but a good chance was blazed over the bar. Both teams pushed for the winner in the last 2 or 3 minutes of injury time but it ended all square much to the relief of all on the touchline knowing it could have been lost.
This was a very enjoyable if traumatic game to watch and the Prestwich lads deserve a massive credit for not giving the game up when it looked lost and if this level of performance can be maintained a move up the table is almost certain.
Next up is Valley United FC at Adie Moran Park on 11/01/2020 with a 2.00pm KO weather permitting.