Returning to action after three weeks without a game, Town turned in a good performance at Championship contenders Norton United, going down 2-1.
It was a good start for St. Helens, who grabbed an early lead when Ed Richardson finished off a crisp passing move to put the ball into the Norton net after only seven minutes. They might have increased their lead ten minutes later, but Andy Mawdsley could only head over the bar from Nathan Parish’s cross.
Norton played some excellent attacking football during the first period with Town defending well inside their own penalty box.
The home side equalised midway through the first half, courtesy of a Leigh Skellern shot which beat Ciaran Gibson at his near post. The home side looked to have taken the lead on the half-hour, only for a goal to be disallowed for offside.
That was a rare event for Norton, but Town had to contend with a series of dubious offside flags from the other assistant referee who, to their dismay, changed ends at half-time and continued to raise his flag all through the second period, which frustrated the Town attack who had enough to contend with, thanks to the unforgivingly heavy pitch and some heavy challenges.
The home side fought keenly for everything throughout the game.
They were, in fact, lucky to finish with ten men as midfielder Jon Beaumont was not given a yellow card for his part in an altercation which saw Town’s Connor Naughton booked, then shortly afterwards the Norton number 6 cleaned out the same man in a vicious tackle which should have seen him dismissed instead of the caution he received.
St. Helens Town had chances to take something from the game in the second half, but three weeks’ inactivity probably took the edge off leading scorer Andy Gillespie’s finishing accuracy as he fired narrowly over the bar twice, either side of Lee Cropper’s winner for Norton in the 80th minute and the home side’s celebrations showed what a relief it was for them to come from behind to collect the three points.
As for Town, they find themselves in twelfth place, with games in hand on all the teams around them in the table, ahead of this Saturday’s home clash with Abbey Hey.
This was an encouraging performance from Town, albeit in defeat, featuring a debut for Connor Naughton and a return to the club for Danny Hand.
There was also a promising cameo performance from substitute Jamil Saleh who might have scored an equaliser for Town in the closing moments, but his rasping drive was gratefully tipped over the bar by Norton keeper Danny Roberts.