TWO goals in three minutes early in the second half by Ste Rigby gave St. Helens Town a deserved 2-0 win over Stockport Town in a feisty encounter at Volair Park on Thursday evening, writes Glyn Jones.
To quote a much-used football phrase, it was a “game of two halves”, the first 45 minutes being as dull as dishwater, producing only one chance of note, Joel Douglas’s goal-bound header hitting two defenders at point-blank range after 20 minutes.
The second half was totally different, mainly due to Stockport’s sense of injustice surrounding the award of a free-kick which led indirectly to Rigby’s opening goal.
The players had barely emerged for the second half when a challenge on the half-way line saw a Stockport player go in hard for the ball with Alex Gillespie.
The force of the kick on the ball knocked Gillespie off his feet, but it was certainly no foul tackle.
However, the referee, some distance away, saw things differently and awarded the home side a free-kick. The ball was moved quickly upfield and found Rigby unmarked. His deft shot bounced in front of Stockport keeper Dan Whiting and over his shoulder into the net and Town were 1-0 up inside 52 minutes.
Three minutes later Rigby again found the net, as he lobbed Whiting from 10 yards out.
Two goals up, St. Helens have a fine record of their own this year and though Stockport shut up shop at the back after the second goal went in, Town were in no mood to surrender their own clean sheet and the remaining 35 minutes turned into a pulsating 35 minutes of midfield battle, with neither side giving an inch.
There was an unfortunate undercurrent of anger, at times, which resulted in a brief incident which involved a number of players from both sides running in, but order was quickly restored.
However, Stockport player Aaron Dwyer did receive his marching orders near the end for a second yellow card after a reckless challenge.
There were ugly scenes at the end of the game as tempers flared and the teams had to leave the field separately, with the officials sandwiched in the middle.
The two teams are now separated by only three points in the table and St. Helens have a game in hand.
The two teams are yet to meet at Lambeth Grove on 22 April and it promises to be quite a game.
Before then, St. Helens Town are back at Volair Park, Prescot this Thursday evening (23 March at 7.45pm) when they entertain Chadderton, before another couple of home games against struggling Atherton L.R. on Saturday, 1 April and high-flying Whitchurch Alport on Thursday, 6 April.