Once again Prestwich found themselves on the wrong side of the score line when playing a team who adopted a high press and physical approach to the game.
Fielding almost the same side that had overcome Old Bolts two weeks ago, with only Martin Hill replacing an unavailable Matthew Brennan, they struggled to replicate the discipline and co-ordinated play that characterised that performance.
That is not to say the effort was lacking because it was not the case but very little went right for them on the day. This was typified in the first minute when Sean Haslam was sent clear and was unceremoniously brought down by the onrushing keeper only for the referee to inexplicably give a corner.
From the second of the resulting corners Sam Holden rose highest to guide Haslam’s corner into the net on 3 minutes to give Prestwich the lead. However it was not to last long as a Lever attack saw a clumsy challenge 25 yards out result in a free kick on 8 minutes which was expertly flighted over the wall into the top right hand corner giving Michael Hudson no chance.
It got even worse 2 minutes later when another attack resulted in a corner which saw a Lever head get there first to guide the ball into the net for a 2 – 1 lead.
That was the end of the first half scoring but not the drama as Prestwich pushed hard for an equaliser, putting pressure on the Lever defence but unable to create a clear cut chance until in the 15th minute they were awarded a penalty for a handball that the referee did see. However Callum Pragnell fluffed his lines by sending a weakly hit kick into the diving keeper’s hands giving him a relatively easy save.
Prestwich continued to push forward but Lever were always dangerous on the counter attack, Hudson having to make a smart save to push away a shot from the edge of the box and the backline of Steven Lorenzini, Joe Kosub, Richard Steadman and Tom Gibson having to be on constant alert to foil the hard working Lever forwards.
Prestwich had their own efforts prompted by Hill and Pragnell, with Michael Neary and Tito Miguel always threatening to cause serious problems down the wings but never being able to produce the telling pass or open up a shooting chance. In fact the best effort on goal came from Haslam who in a tight space on the edge of the box managed to fashion a shot that was heading for the bottom corner but lacked a little power which allowed the keeper to push it away for a corner.
Prestwich were hampered on 30 minutes when Holden tweaked a hamstring and was replaced by Rafael Straszewski thereby losing their main aerial threat. The pattern of the game continued with Prestwich having the greater possession but Lever probably posing the more potent threat, however the score remained the same at half time.
Prestwich always felt they could turn the game around and set out with a will to do so in the second half but it is fair to say that nothing really went for them. For the first 25 minutes of the half it was almost one way traffic in terms of possession and chances but none were taken and very little was put on target. Decision making and passes in the final third rarely carved out a clear cut chance resulting in many promising positions not showing any reward.
Prestwich were perhaps unlucky not to get another penalty when Haslam through again was barged in the back with the referee again strangely letting play go on and indicating a shoulder charge.
On 62 minutes James Barlow replaced a tiring Tom Gibson and 6 minutes later Chris Adams came on for Joe Kosub but the reshuffle at the back may have cost Prestwich the game as 4 minutes later in the 72nd minute a rare counter attack from Lever saw their sub get free on the left, outpaced Adams and slotted in the third past a despairing Hudson.
To their credit Prestwich kept pushing forward and did begin to create some chances but sadly all were scorned. Neary got free on the right and from a tight angle scooped his effort wide when a pullback may have brought reward. Other forays that were laid back always seemed to find a Lever defender and a great many crosses into the box did not find a Prestwich player. Haslam had a chance late on which fell to him in the box but he was unable to get over the ball properly and his shot drifted just wide of the post.
With Prestwich committing men forward to try and recover the game it was put to bed on 88 minutes when another Lever break saw the centre forward on a one to one with Steadman, managing to evade him he was able slot home Lever’s fourth. Earlier they had also hit the bar from an increasingly regular break as attack after attack by Prestwich was halted in its tracks.
The never say die attitude shown by Prestwich continued and was rewarded on 90 minutes when Neary played a chip over the defender and beat the keeper to the ball to slot home a richly deserved consolation goal for 2 – 4.
Prestwich though will look back on this game as a missed opportunity to build on the excellent result against Old Bolts but must also reflect on the reasons for not being able to turn their much greater possession into goals.
Next up is an away game v Rochdale St Clements at Burton Park OL11 5EX on 15/02/20 with a 2.00pm KO, weather permitting.