FACED with a team that had won six of their last seven games, Skelmersdale United showed many of the facets that have made their season such a memorable one.
For 80 per cent of the game they dominated with some flowing open football that was a delight to watch, then as their inform visitors gained heart from a goal on the counter attack, they showed just why they have conceded only 33 goals in 31 league games.
Tommy Lawson’s side are 14 points clear of second placed Ramsbottom United, who visit the West Lancashire College Stadium on Saturday.
After nine minutes Skelmersdale came extremely close to opening the scoring, Adam Morning cutting in from the left and putting in a shot that thumped against the foot of the post.
Bridge got their game together but still Skelmersdale held the initiative and in the 29th minute a fast exchange of passes between Paul Woolcott and Tony Evans put the ball to Josh Hine’s feet, but unfortunately Bridge goalkeeper Lee Dovey proved just why he is so highly rated by saving at the striker’s feet.
A minute or two later Lewis Field put Matty Hughes away down the right and when he pulled the ball back across goal, Evans and Hine couldn’t get the crucial finishing touch.
In the 37th minute Skelmersdale got the reward that their play deserved. Field cut inside form the right, leaving two opponents floundering he played the ball to Evans who saw his shot superbly saved by Dovey, however this time the ball ran to Hine who forced it into the net.
The final few minutes before the interval were frantic. First Field made a great run down the right again confounding the Bridge defenders, he found Hine, but Dovey saved Bridge again.
Bang on 45 minutes Bridge came close. Initially Sam Ashton saved from Mark Buchan then from the corner Kenny Strickland cleared a header off the line.
Three minutes after the break Skelmersdale made it two. A mazy run down the right from Hughes ended in a pass to Woolcott, he laid the ball off and Hine drilled the ball into the net.
Hughes had a shot cleared off the line, Dovey saved from Hine and Hughes was unlucky again.
With their first serious attack of the half Bridge pulled a goal back. The ball went over the top of the Skelmersdale backline Lennie Reid found himself one on one with Ashton and slotted the ball past the advancing goalkeeper.
The visitors’ goal didn’t have an instant impact, but it would later.
Strickland brought another top-class save from the appropriately named Dovey with a free-kick after a foul on the TMS Double Glazing Man of the Match Shaun Holden, then Evans headed inches wide from Field’s cross.
In the last minutes Hine went close again, but the story was about a last few minutes in which some long ball play from Bridge put some pressure on United. The nearest they got was Tom Hardwick clearing his lines after reading a situation well.
It ended a great week for Skelmersdale in which they increased the heat at the top of Evo-Stik Division One North, the nine points they have picked up in the last eight days, leaving the rival teams almost no option other than to win every game if they are to stop Skelmersdale.
l SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Ashton. Field, Holden, Hardwick, McIntosh, Strickland, Hughes, Woolcott, Jackson (Evans, 22), Hine, Morning Subs (not used) Burnett, Phenix, Wright, Bellew
l BAMBER BRIDGE: Dovey, Mahoney M., Thompson, Bonaminio, Lawlor, Kay, Waddecar, Wilkins, Johnstone, Buchan (Bell, 57), Marlow (Reid, 57) Subs (not used) Fitzgerald, Reynolds
l Referee: Joe Hull (Stockport)
l Attendance: 210