ALREADY hampered by having five men out injured the last thing Skelmersdale manager Tommy Lawson needed was a phone call telling him keeping deputy Ryan McMahon had rushed to hospital because of a family emergency, especially as one the five was his regular goalkeeper.
Too late to borrow a keeper he called on goalkeeping coach Andy Paxton, who has been registered for four years as emergency goalkeeper, significantly though, he hadn’t played in a game with as large a profile as first against fourth in a tight promotion race.
Skelmersdale started well and Ashley Dunn ran onto a helped on ball but put his shot wide as Matlock keeper Jon Kennedy closed him down.
Then Paxton was called into action in the 9th minute, comfortably dealing with a 25 yard effort from Danny Holland.
With team changes having an effect, Skelmersdale were not quite their usual well-oiled machine in attack, but were in top form in defence and they kept Matlock at arm’s length for the first twenty minutes.
Gradually, Skelmersdale began to find their rhythm and it was goalkeeper Kennedy who had to make a top save to keep out league debutant Rio Ahmadi’s diving header in the 24th minute.
The game became well balanced with defences beginning to dominate at both ends.
Matlock produced what proved to be their biggest scare of the game in the 32nd minute, when overlapping right-back Micky Harcourt latched onto a crossfield ball and fired a shot low against the Skelmersdale post.
By the interval Skelmersdale had threatened again with a Kenny Strickland dipper going just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Three minutes into the second-half, Paxton made his best save of the match, diving full length to his left to foil Oscar Radford as the left-back swept forward in an overlapping move.
The game became very close and tight then and it was only in the last twenty minutes that it opened up again, but by then Skelmersdale were starting to get on top.
A Peter Wylie effort was helped over the Matlock bar by Kennedy then the keeper bravely saved at Dean Astbury’s feet after Ahmadi created the opening.
The latter stages saw Skelmersdale become dominant.
Kevin Leadbetter had a powerful shot saved then Dunn suffered the same problem. Matty Hughes had a goalbound shot blocked. A goal was coming and it did in the 83rd minute.
A slick passing move started in the middle of the park and the ball went right, it was sent low into the penalty area, Dunn evaded his marker and drilled the ball low into the Matlock net.
Matlock reacted, opting for the route one method of salvaging the game, but to no avail, Paxton grabbed a couple of crosses and punched another clear, earning himself the Waldron enterprises Man of the Match award. The visitors didn’t get a clear cut chance and Skelmersdale moved four points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier Division table.
After the game Tommy Lawson was full of praise for Paxton, but reserved his best for the rest of his team, saying: “We won it because of our patience, we kept our cool, did what we had to do in defence and finished the stronger team.”
l SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Paxton, Wylie, Holden, Hardwick ©, McIntosh, Dunn, Hughes, Strickland, Astbury, Ahmadi (Tuck, 72), Morning (Leadbetter, 62) Subs (not used) Holt. Hibbert, Burton
l MATLOCK TOWN: Kennedy, Harcourt, Radford, Foster M., Haggerty, Yates. Needham ©, Ashmore (Leese, 83), Holland, Thomas (Gregory, 72), White Subs (not used) Foster A., Grayson, Leesley
l Referee: Steve Mycock (Manchester)
l Attendance: 191