Town suffered another narrow defeat, going down narrowly 2-1 at Stockport Sports, who were demoted from Evostik League One North last season. The only ‘full-time’ club in the North West Counties League are currently seventh in the table and beat Town 5-0 at Edge Green Street in the reverse encounter in September so, while St. Helens were disappointed not to get a share of the points this time, their performance was once again very encouraging.
Playing on a 4G pitch, Town matched their opponents in every department during a first half in which chances were at a premium. St. Helens began the game without regular goalkeeper Lee Novak, but stand-in Ryan Taylor proved a more than useful replacement. Carl Osman was also missing, but Shaun Judge returned in midfield and Ste Edwards in particular looked very lively and adapted easily to the artificial surface. As early as the third minute, Edwards had the ball in the back of the net, following good work from the ubiquitous Phil Williams, but the goal was disallowed for offside. The Saxons responded well and, six minutes later, the league’s joint top scorer John Marsden burst clear but could only fire over the bar. Marsden, however, was involved again on 15 minutes, when his cross from the corner of the box found Town defender Chris Williams and the centre back could only watch as his attempted clearance found the back of his own net to put Stockport 1-0 ahead.
Town came close to equalising on 19 minutes when Phil Williams crossed to Edwards, who narrowly missed from a tight angle. The remainder of the first half became a midfield battle with no opportunities for goals at either end but then, right on half-time, Town were given a free kick near the corner flag. Judge crossed and Sports’ defender Flowers missed the ball, but caught Chris Williams with an agricultural lunge a yard out from goal and the referee was right on the spot to award Town a penalty, which Judge buried in the bottom corner to send Town in level at the break.
The heavens opened as the teams left the field for the half-time break and it rained incessantly throughout the second half. Though both teams fought hard, the game was spoiled as a spectacle.. Consequently, defences were very much on top and there were few chances at either end. However, on 64 minutes, Taylor was called upon to save a pile-driver from 25 yards from the boot of Matthew Ward and immediately after that, Marsden nipped in to score the winner courtesy of a near post deflection.
Try as they might, St. Helens could not find an equaliser. Lee Crompton had perhaps the best chance with five minutes remaining, when his long distance effort from a free kick forced a save from Pullman in the home goal.
Town entertain bottom club Stone Dominoes on Saturday 15th December, kick off 3.00pm, hoping to increase the gap between the two sides and lift themselves out of the relegation zone.