The new season started with a very eventful and nerve testing game that went to the wire before anything was certain.
After a very traumatic pre-season with struggles getting an actual team on the field, Prestwich managed to gather a decent eleven with the addition of the 49 year old Paul Mercer on the subs bench.
Up against a very competitive and at times over-zealous Wyresdale side Prestwich started quite well having the better of possession and some early half chances, but the game was littered with misplaced passes demonstrating the rustiness of both sides.
Prestwich settled first and began to mount some pressure on the Wyresdale goal. From and early corner Barrie Campbell, returning after a year out, saw a header bounce twice on the bar before going over. Shortly after a snapshot in the box was brilliantly saved by the keeper but the ensuing corner came to nought.
Wyresdale posed an intermittent threat, especially their lively centre forward but the Prestwich defence coped well with any threats and Alex Blake in goal had nothing to save.
Prestwich continued to threaten down both flanks and a good move down the left ended with James Barlow getting in behind and bringing another top class save from the keeper at the near post.
A counter-attack by Wyresdale shortly after resulted in them taking the lead, their centre forward taking the ball wide of Blake’s right hand post covered by two Prestwich defenders. He cut back and placed a shot just inside the far post for an excellent goal on 34 minutes, especially if it was what he intended.
Prestwich came back and laid siege on the Wyresdale goal but were unable to force the equalizer. That is until the 40th minute when Martin Hill took a well flighted free kick onto the head of Campbell who powered a header into the top left hand corner giving the keeper no chance.
The half finished at 1–1 with Prestwich wondering how they were not ahead, but football hinges on taking your chances.
The second half carried on where the first left off with Prestwich seeing more of the possession, but Wyresdale were a constant threat going forward.
Within 5 minutes of the half new signing Dale Beaumont who was the recipient of a very poor first half challenge was replaced by substitute Paul Mercer for his first appearance in the team for over 10 years. This caused a slight change of shape as he went to play alongside league debutant Harvey Rhodes who had thus far been working hard up front on his own.
The pattern of the game was more even with both sides having good chances but very little on target. About 60 minutes in a flair up off the ball saw a player from each side dismissed for violent conduct.
Both sides pushed forward trying to win the game and Blake had perhaps his first actual save to make from a free kick which he took with ease. As the game wound down the were signs of tired legs on both sides but nothing could have prepared the spectators for the last 8 or 9 minutes of play.
First a long ball into the Wyresdale box from Callum Pragnell evaded all of their defence and was pounced on by Rafael Straszewski who calmly placed a left foot shot into the bottom corner in the 88th minute for a 2-1 lead.
Wyresdale came back strongly and pressured the Prestwich back line and it paid off on 90 minutes when an attack down the right saw a cross played into the box and seemingly deflect into the far corner of Blake’s net for 2–2.
That seemed to be it but Prestwich came again in injury time and took the game to Wyresdale. A sequence of chances ensued and in the 94th minute after several efforts in the box had been blocked by defenders the ball fell to substitute Mercer who placed his shot into the bottom corner for what turned out to be the winner.
His celebration saw him move faster than he has ever been known to move even in his prime!
Over the whole game Prestwich did deserve the win but it was very hard fought and full credit must go to all the twelve players who took part on a day when the biggest struggle was to get a team on the field.
Next up on the 21st August is a home game against Old Blackburnians FC at Hopwood Hall (M24 6XH) with a 2pm kick off.
PRESTWICH v BOLTON WYRESDALE GALLERY
By Leo Michaelovitz