St. Helens Town went down 3-1 at the Barton Stadium last Saturday, but the scoreline did scant justice to a much improved performance, which very nearly produced a draw.
The game finished in sensational style, with St. Helens looking for a late equaliser. Two goals down, both scored by Winsford’s leading striker Andy Hurst (14 goals for the season so far), Ste Edwards was brought down in the 18-yard box in added time and the resultant penalty was put away by Alex Dunne. Then, in the dying seconds, with all eleven Town players in and around the home penalty area, Winsford broke the length of the field to score with the last kick of the match before Town keeper Lee Novak could regain his own goal line. The final 3-1 score flattered Winsford and it could so easily have been a 2-2 draw, as there was little between the sides after an entertaining contest.
St. Helens, missing the injured Carl Osman again, welcomed back Craig Fitzjohn after several weeks’ absence and with Phil Williams and Shaun Judge involved in early bursts, Town took the game to their Cheshire hosts. The best of the early chances fell to Edwards, whose shot brought a good save from Andy Jones after 19 minutes. Two minutes later, however, with their first raid of the afternoon, Hurst sprang the offside trap and calmly finished past Novak to put the home side 1-0 up. Hurst went close again on 32 minutes but Town finished the first half the stronger, with Phil Williams setting up Edwards for another chance, before his own effort was deflected behind by a grateful defence.
The second half was a repeat of the first, with Town having more chances than their hosts and Edwards set up Phil Williams who netted, only to have his effort disallowed for offside on 66 minutes. Alex Dunne replaced Lee Harrison in attack and almost immediately, the substitute found himself in space in the box but his shot rebounded from the near post. In another inspired substitution, Cole Ashton came on for Judge and a chance fell to Edwards, who narrowly missed a headed chance with the goal at his mercy. The action immediately switched to the other end and Hurst netted again on the break after 84 minutes. This only spurred Town on to redoubled efforts and in injury time, Edwards was brought down in the penalty area and Dunne reduced the deficit with a well-placed kick. Town were back on the attack again and sensing they could still get something out of the game, keeper Novak took a free-kick just inside his own half and the Winsford defence put the ball out for the corner. Novak then joined his colleagues in the home box but the move broke down and substitute Steve Warburton ran the length of the pitch and, drawing the recovering Novak, made no mistake to secure a 3-1 win, which left the spirited Town side with nothing to show for their efforts.
There were many positives for Ian Granite and his staff to take from this much-improved performance. Town host Silsden at Edge Green Street this Saturday(17th November) with a 3pm kick off.