TOMMY Lawson made five changes to his team for the trip to Valerie Park and they did enough and were well good enough to bring home all three points, from a game that Skelmersdale should have finished well before the final whistle.
On a poor pitch they had no choice other to abandon their flowing football and play an alien long ball game, but matters were not helped by having two goals contentiously disallowed, one of which definitely would have been given but for an assistant referee’s poor decision making.
The game opened with both teams having chances and in the first ten minutes Prescot’s Liam Dawson blasted over the crossbar and Joe Evans had a shot saved by Skelmersdale’s Sam Ashton, in between United’s Josh Hine saw Cables keeper Adam Reid pull off a remarkable save with his feet.
The game gradually settled down and it was clear that Skelmersdale had the technical advantage, while Prescot were going to work tirelessly to deny them, a move to their credit they kept going for the whole 90 minutes.
Skelmersdale took the lead in the 18th minute. Initially from a Warren Bellew corner Mike Phenix saw a goalbound header deflected wide for another corner, from Bellew’s second corner Prescot partially cleared, the ball dropping about 15 yards from goal into a central position.
However, Rob McIntosh a six foot plus defender showed he has plenty of skill and ambition about him by responding with a clever overhead kick that sailed into the net behind the Prescot backline.
The chances were now falling to Skelmersdale but they were being forced to battle it out for every scrap of possession as Prescot certainly know how to make best use of home advantage.
Phenix was denied by a last gasp Bobby Moore style tackle from Prescot’s Liam Hollett, then Mark Beesley sent a 40 yard chip at goal that Reid was able to chase back and save.
Then the first moment of contention arrived in the 44th minute.
Kenny Strickland lined up a corner on the left and the assistant stood six to eight feet away from him to allow him room to kick the ball, the ball struck the far post and from the lofted view of the stand it was clear it crossed the line before being scrambled clear.
The referee looked to his assistant and denied the goal, but the assistant couldn’t possibly have seen whether the ball crossed the line because instead of making up the ground to the corner flag after Strickland moved, he remained rooted to the spot six or eight feet from the line.
Skelmersdale needed the second goal if they were to rest easily, anyone can score a goal if they get lucky. So you need the safety margin.
In the 51st minute, Phenix went away down the right after Lewis Field put him away; his powerful cross went across the face of goal despite the efforts of Hine to get the merest of touches.
The next issue Skelmersdale had with the officials is less clear, Bellew’s 54th minute goal being wiped out by an assistant’s flag, whether it was offside or not we shall never know, but it was an extremely close call.
The longer the game went into the second-half, the more anxious Skelmersdale became and Prescot sensed it too as Hollett brought a save out of Ashton with a header.
In the latter stages Phenix put a shot just over the crossbar then Gary Burnett put a shot on the turn just past the far post, before Field ended a buccaneering run by slamming the ball against the post.
It wasn’t a great performance or a great game, there are at least half a dozen reasons you could suggest for this, but it was three points.
The value of the win being emphasised as the teams left the pitch when word filtered through that rivals Trafford had lost 1-0 at Bamber Bridge.
l PRESCOT CABLES: Reid, Shinks, Benn (Jeffries, 45), Murphy, Hollett ©, Webb, Evans, Lambert, Dawson, Gratton (Rimmer, 70), Edwards (Piana, 63) Subs (not used) Kelly, Dempsey
l SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Ashton, Field, Corrigan, Hardwick ©, McIntosh, Strickland (Woolcott, 79), Wright, Hine, Beesley (Burnett, 71), Bellew Subs (not used) Hughes, Griffiths, McCartney
l Referee: P. Mahon (Birchwood)