THE Skelmersdale class of 2012 etched their place in the annals of club history at the West Lancashire College Stadium on Saturday as they reached the last 16 of the Carlsberg FA Trophy for the first time in the club’s history.
The victory that was based on a solid defensive performance and was all Tommy Lawson’s men deserved, doggedly fending off all their strongly fancied opponents from two divisions above them could throw at them in the first-half before breaking out after the interval and putting them to the sword.
The first-half was pretty even and could have yielded a couple of goals each by half-time, Guiseley probably having more of the possession, but Skelmersdale more than matching them for chances created, with both goalkeepers earning high praise.
In the 12th minute Guiseley produced the first danger, Rhys Meynell’s swinging ball behind the United defence being fired high and wide by Gavin Rothery.
At the other end Gary Burnett ran after a clever chip from Warren Bellew but was just beaten to the ball by an alert Guiseley goalkeeper Steve Drench.
The pattern of the first-half was set, like two boxers slugging it out as they exchanged punches.
Skelmersdale’s Mark Jackson had a penalty appeal rejected, then Skelmersdale goalkeeper Sam Ashton punched away Andy Holdsworth’s free-kick, Burnett and Kenny Strickland exchanged passes and the latter gave Jackson an opportunity that he couldn’t quite fully reach.
In the 25th minute a Josh Wilson shot created bedlam in the Skelmersdale defence, before the ball was spectacularly turned lover the crossbar by Ashton after Kevin Holsgrove shot from 18 yards.
Ashton made another quality tip over the bar from a Holdsworth free-kick, and then Bellew had a penalty appeal for a push waved away.
Ashton made another good save from a Wilson header, before down the other end Drench saved at Burnett’s feet.
The half-time brews had been well earned by the players.
After 48 minutes Paul Woolcott was almost clean in on goal but was denied by a last ditch Guiseley tackle, then substitute James Walshaw threatened the Skelmersdale goal.
The more it went on the more comfort Skelmersdale looked at the back, as a result Skelmersdale began to look more dangerous as an attacking force.
In the 58th minute Aaron Turner was the victim of a rash tackle on the right and left-back Louis Corrigan crossed the pitch to take the free-kick. Corrigan’s free-kick was vicious, from an acute angle it fizzed across the face of goal like a hand grenade, no one dare touch until Jack Rea at the far post had too, the result an own goal.
Guiseley stepped their attacks in an effort to save the game, but after a five minute salvo from which Ashton made a couple of saves Skelmersdale restored their strangle hold on the away forwards.
Late on Corrigan found the side netting with another free-kick and Holsgrove forced Ashton to save his cross-shot.
However, two minutes from the end of normal time Skelmersdale killed Guiseley off. Tom Hardwick found Bellew on the left, he played it to Mike Phenix, who seeing Adam Morning romping up the right in acres of space squared the ball.
Morning was still 40 yards from goal, he rounded two defenders, then switching feet slotted the ball low into Drench’s net. Sixty seconds of pandemonium followed, Skelmersdale had won.
It was perhaps apt that a local lad in Lewis Field was the Sportsmark Consultancy Man of the Match, on an historic day for the town.
Though, ultimately perhaps Tommy Lawson sums up the day and clubs feeling well: “It was a great occasion for everyone especially the players, Guiseley are a big powerful team that can physically bully you, we simply didn’t allow them too.
We got stronger after the break and deserved it, defensively we were solid and that’s what counted, it was great. Now we need to get our minds on the league, we have four big games over Christmas.”
l Skelmersdale: (4-4-2) Ashton, Field, Corrigan, McIntosh, Hardwick, Strickland, Turner (Morning, 73), Woolcott, Jackson, Burnett (Phenix, 73), Bellew Subs (not used) Saleh, Hine, Hughes
l Guiseley: (4-3-1-2) Drench, Clarke, Meynell, Rea, Ellis, Pearson (Dale, 81), Brooksby (Walshaw, 45), Holdsworth, Holsgrove, Wilson, Rothery Subs (not used) Parkinson, McWilliams, Giles