IN THE first of what is scheduled to be three West Lancashire derbies this season, Skelmersdale United came out on top, putting them through to meet Prescot Cables in the Liverpool Senior Cup.
Fielding just one player that started the game in the FA Trophy the previous Saturday, United fought back from a goal down against a strong Burscough side at Victoria Park, the added bonus being that two 16-year-olds were the heroes – Charlie Stoker netted the winner, while goalkeeper Marcus Burgess made a couple of superb saves as Skelmersdale hung on in the latter stages.
Sixteen-year-old keeper Burgess started the game by proving immediately that he has the nerve to back up his undoubted potential by emerging completely unruffled from a third minute incident that would have left many more experienced keepers a jabbering heap.
A a cross into the Skem area from the left dipped suddenly and clipped the foot of the far post, a nightmare scenario for any goalkeeper, let alone a young lad making his debut.
Skelmersdale settled well and in the seventh minute only a smart dash from his line by Linnets keeper Tim Horn thwarted Mark Houghton after he was set up by a fine through ball from Jamil Saleh, this soon being followed up by a Gary Burnett shot that was also saved by Horn.
Burscough were having their moments too – a Liam Caddick shot whistled past the post from 20 yards. However, gradually the game developed into a midfield battle.
The deadlock was broken by Burscough in the 37th minute. John Kennedy played the ball to Caddick, who after dodging around a defender gave the hosts the lead.
It didn’t take Skelmersdale long to restore parity. A swift move down the right put the ball to Burnett, who instead of heading to goal unselfishly squared the ball to Dale Wright, he evaded a challenge and slotted the ball past Horn from 12 yards.
Burscough put Bev Burey on as substitute after the interval and he soon threatened to make an impact, sending a shot fizzing over the Skelmersdale crossbar, but this was counterbalanced at the other end by efforts from Houghton and Burnett that were both saved by Horn.
The game evolved into a fair footballing game, with not a bad tackle in sight.
On the hour after an exchange of passes Wright burst into the Burscough area, but Horn saved the Linnets. In the 72nd minute it was Burgess that saved Skelmersdale, blocking a Caddick shot with his legs.
The winning goal arrived in the 80th minute. Adam Birchall started the move with a determined run from his own half, then after combining with Joe Evans the ball was sent across the Burscough box to teenager Stoker.
He brought the ball down and switched it from left to right foot, before curling a shot around keeper Horn and into the net.
Houghton almost instantly made it three, but was kept out by Horn.
Burscough pushed hard to try and find a leveller.
Showing no signs of bowing under the pressure Burgess saved from an 83rd minute Chris Tyson free-kick then made a remarkable reaction stop from a Liam Duff close range attempt.
But Skem had done enough to book their place in the next round.