ORMSKIRK travelled to Derbyshire to face Buxton for their first game in three weeks after losing two consecutive fixtures to the recent poor weather conditions.
With nine regular squad members unavailable through injury or work commitments, ‘Kirk could only take two substitutes and knew that they would have to put in a strong performance to come away with the spoils.
Playing into the strong, biting wind in the first half, ‘Kirk had to defend for much of it with Buxton able to use the wind to kick for territory and launch their attacks from inside the visitors’ half.
It was an even, hard-fought first 40 minutes up front with neither set of forwards taking a backward step in attack or defence, each side winning their own first phase ball and keeping play narrow due to the worsening weather conditions.
Strong ball carrying from Ryan Purcell, Dan Hitchlock and Mark Webster kept the home side’s defence honest and the front up tackling of Phil Davis and Martin Rothwell were particularly notable when Buxton were in possession.
Many of the enforced changes for Ormskirk came in the backs, meaning first starts this season for centre Alan Frost and youngsters Chris Bartolo and Tom Owens and although the backline play was slightly ragged in the early exchanges, everybody was giving 100% effort and things soon began to click.
Buxton’s main attacking weapon proved to be their powerful inside centre, his direct running meant that the midfield of Gaz Prytherch, Andy Healey and Frost had to show courage and technique to repel the numerous first half attacks.
When Ormskirk were in possession, the strong, elusive running of Luke Parker caused problems for Buxton, and twice Parker gained valuable territory with breaks from deep inside ‘Kirks half.
Unfortunately for Ormskirk, after a series of attacks from the home side, they did manage to break through for the first try of the game after 28 minutes courtesy of their inside centre. The score was converted and proved to be the only points of the half.
At 7-0 down and now with the elements in their favour, the Gingerbread Men were confident of scoring enough points to secure victory in the second period and got straight onto the front foot.
After 45 minutes Ormskirk got on the scoreboard, a show and go from fly-half Prytherch opened up the home side’s defence and the prolific try scoring captain darted over from close range to touch down.
The conversion attempt from Healey slid wide, leaving Ormskirk two points in arrears but growing in confidence as the half progressed.
Buxton weren’t in the mood to give up though and their big pack of forwards kept them in the game and meant Ormskirk would have to work hard to get the possession they required to win the game.
After 68 minutes a strong kick return from debutant Owens provided Ormskirk with good field position and after a couple of drives from the forwards, the ball was passed down the backline, good hands from centre Frost to Parker allowed him to release winger Pete Spengler who sped down the touchline to score in the corner, although the conversion attempt was again missed.
Buxton again came back at the Lancastrians and only some strong defence from Ormskirk kept them at bay to see the game out and record a hard-earned victory that cements their place in the upper echelons of South Lancs and Cheshire 2.
This was a really tough encounter for Ormskirk, especially with so many absentees but they stuck to the task at hand admirably and the lads who stepped into the squad all performed well and will now give coach Donny Sutherland a selection headache ahead of next Saturday’s visit of Ramsey to Green Lane.