WEST LANCASHIRE waited fifteen years for it and those that braved the rain got more than their money’s worth, six goals, two fight-backs, three penalties (plus one that was given but never taken), controversy, the result in doubt until the very last kick and two teams that deservedly were greeted by rapturous applauding at the end as they left a battered West Lancashire College Stadium pitch shattered by their efforts.
The only losers on the day were those that didn’t go. Leaving one spectator to sum up the day up well at the end; “You would pay double to watch that.”
In the first ninety seconds Skelmersdale’s Mark Jackson shot inches wide and but for a terrific interception from Burscough captain Chris Tyson, his strike partner Gary Burnett would surely have scored.
Burscough had started nervously, but by the third minute they had settled that problem down. Louis Mayers won a challenge by the left corner flag and hoisted a cross to the far post, Will Jones got above everyone and headed the ball across keeper Sam Ashton into the net.
Skelmersdale stormed back and arguably but for Burscough goalkeeper Tim Horn, who had a magnificent game, they would have levelled. Dale Wright had a far post header saved, and then Mike Phenix brought a picture book diving save from Horn after Burnett set him up.
In the tenth minute a Louis Corrigan chip found Warren Bellew but Horn thwarted him, too.
Gradually Burscough started to cope at the back although Skelmersdale were still having the majority of possession.
The nearest Skelmersdale came for the rest of the half was a body jarring save by Horn at Burnett’s feet.
Burscough won a free-kick in the 28th minute. Darren Brookfield cleverly swung the ball to the far post and Niall Cummins wasted no time in making it 2-0.
The rest of the half saw Burscough have their best spell of the game, they now controlled affairs although perhaps significantly didn’t create a lot in front of goal. But it was difficult to see where Skelmersdale were going to get the necessary two goals needed to save their unbeaten league record.
The simple conclusion was that Burscough had adapted better to the monsoon that had fallen all through the first-half and had reaped the rewards.
Skelmersdale have not established their record start to the season without spirit and after they interval they duly set about Burscough and forced them onto the defensive, a style that didn’t seem to suit them as much as their first-half pressing game had.
In the 48th minute Jackson headed wide off a Phenix cross, then Bellew put a shot across the face of goal, then after a foul on the Ship Inn at Lathom Man of the Match Paul Woolcott, Louis Corrigan saw a free-kick clip the top of the wall and clear the crossbar.
In the 56th minute came the first-penalty. Burnett held the ball up and went down after a tackle from behind by Phil Quirk. Kenny Strickland struck the spot-kick hard to Horn’s left, but the keeper spectacularly palmed the ball to safety. The modern football word for it is a “Worldy” it was that good.
Burscough broke away in the 62nd minute and Skelmersdale’s Wright received a yellow card after he dragged back Jones, possibly the referee’s decision to play-on saving him from more serious action.
In the 64th minute Skelmersdale struck, but Burscough were far from happy.
Bellew entered the penalty area from the left and received a high tackle just as he released the ball, the ball went across goal and a whistle was clearly audible, Phenix met the ball at the far post and blasted into an empty net.
A goal was given. However, it might have been interesting to see what would have happened otherwise as the tackle was so high it might well have brought a red card.
Less than two minutes later, Skelmersdale equalised.
The ball was lifted into the Burscough area, it was headed clear to Woolcott some 30 yards out, and after dodging around a defenders challenge he unleashed a vicious skimming shot low inside Horn’s right-hand post.
Skelmersdale pressed on. Strickland saw a pair of free-kicks bring more good saves from Horn and Phenix went close again. In the 79th minute Skelmersdale took the lead. Phenix in the middle of the area was jumped all over by a Burscough defender and quite rightly a penalty was given. Skelmersdale captain Tom Hardwick grabbed the ball and fended off a number of verbal challenges from his team-mates before sending Horn the wrong way with the penalty.
Three minutes later, Wright fouled Cummins and he gave Ashton no chance from the spot.
Neither team had any intention of settling for a draw. Play now see-sawed from end to end.
After a slick passing movement between Burnett and Woolcott, Matty Hughes put a great chance just wide of Horn’s far post, then in added time Burscough substitute Jordan Williams put a 20 yard effort wide of Ashton’s right-hand post.
Neither team deserved to lose. It was simply a great game of football. It is not often that a game that is so long expected lives up to its pre-match promise, this did, in shovel full’s. It will long be remembered, long talked about and no doubt long argued over, a classic of its genre.
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Ashton, Field, Corrigan, Hardwick (c), Wright,Strickland, Phenix, Woolcott, Jackson (Hughes, 61), Burnett, Bellew Subs (not used): Morning, Hine, Simpson, McIntosh.
BURSCOUGH: Horn, Camozzi, Quirk, Williams P., Duff, Tyson (c), Brookfield (Caddick, 71), Lynch, Cummins, Jones, Mayers (Williams J., 71) Subs (not used) Rushton- Woods, Roberts, Wilkinson.
Referee: Joe Johnson (Liverpool).