Billinge fall to a 3-1 defeat against Knutsford

St Helens Star: Billinge's James Webb Billinge's James Webb

Billinge fell to a 3-1 defeat to champions Knutsford at Barrows Farm on Saturday but they only have themselves to blame.

Poor first-half defending and a failure to convert a number of guilt-edged chances was to blame.

The damage was done in the first-half as they went in to break 3-0 down It was such poor defender that gifted Knutsford the lead when a routine ball into the box fell at the feet of Joel Swift.

He wasn't closed down and slotted the ball between defender Andy Goulding's legs and past Aaron Cameron in the Billinge goal.

Swift almost grabbed a second two minutes later when Mohammed Jarad’s pass sent him clean through, but Cameron was quickly out and stopped his shot on the edge of his box.

The response from Billinge was good as Graeme Green broke down the right but his cross just eluded onrushing fellow striker Chad Whyte.

on 17 minutes good play by the same combination resulted in a penalty for the Storks.

A ball out of defence was headed on by Green, Whyte burst through one challenge only to be felled by Knutsford keeper Mark Higgs.

It was a definite penalty; the only decision the referee Mr Ali Ebrahimi had to make was whether Higgs was last man and he felt there was enough cover and only issued a yellow card.

Unfortunately the normally reliable Green hit his spot-kick against the outside of the post.

Two minutes later Whyte again beat his defender only to see Higgs knock his goal-bound shot away from danger.

Knutsford made Billinge pay for their missed opportunities when slack work in the centre of Billinge's midfield allowed Ebbie Rezayan time and space to play a great pass through for Joe Woolley who calmly took the ball around Cameron and slotted into an empty net.

On the half-hour it was three as Jack Woolley was allowed acres of space to head home at the back stick.

Billinge should have reduced the deficit on 34 minutes when Green found Whyte with a peach of a cross but the striker - with the whole goal gaping headed over from four yards.

Three minutes before half-time Knutsford had their captain Richard Smart shown a straight red.

He'd had a little dig at Green moments earlier and from the resultant free-kick, as Green peeled off to the right Smart struck out at Green giving the referee no option but to produce a straight red.

From this free-kick Elliot Bradshaw expertly curled the ball around the wall but hit the side netting.

The second-half saw a much improved performance from The Storks as they got off to a superb start when, after 5o minutes Bradshaw cut in from the right, found Green in the box and the striker turned expertly and made it 3-1.

Billinge now began to dominate and on 73 minutes, after good work between Bradshaw and Rob Ablewhite, David Quigley fired just over the bar from 18 yards.

Three minutes a corner from Bradshaw was headed into the six-yard by Ablewhite; Green turned neatly but somehow blasted the ball against the bar and over from four yards. A minute later substitute Geoff Parr found Green in the box, the striker took the ball into the six-yard area but this time somehow hit the left upright.

There were further chances for Billinge as player-manager Gareth Fletcher headed over; Whyte had a shot saved before Green saw another effort well-saved by Higgs in the dying moments of the game.

At the final whistle Fletcher said: "We did a lot of things right today but if you don't put your chances away and come up with some slack defending then a team as good as Knutsford are going to punish you and that's what happened.

"We created enough chances to win two games so I have to be pleased with that and we look forward to next week's game away at Rylands."

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