Chadderton 2 St Helens Town 5.
St Helens Town 2 City of Liverpool FC 2.
After their previous week’s disappointments, St. Helens Town came roaring back last week with a magnificent performance at Chadderton, running out 5-2 winners against a side who had beaten them twice this season at Prescot, then fought back to earn a creditable 2-2 draw against promotion-chasing City of Liverpool FC at Volair Park on Good Friday, writes Glyn Jones.
Tuesday’s win was totally unexpected, not only because of the two defeats already suffered at the hands of the Oldham-based outfit this season, but also because Town had gone down heavily 8-0 at Widnes three days earlier. Chadderton themselves were particularly buoyant, having won 2-0 at City of Liverpool in their Macron Cup Semi-Final (First-Leg) tie the previous Thursday, but St Helens threw the form book out of the window with a great display.
The first half-hour was a tight affair on a cold evening, but an Alex Gillespie free-kick on 33 minutes caused confusion in the home penalty area, a defender handled the ball and the deflection saw Curley nudge the ricochet past Smith into the net in a comedy of errors. Worse was to come for Chadderton as, virtually from the kick-off, the ball found its way through to Dale Korie-Butler, who rammed it home from a tight angle out on the left to put Town 2-0 up a minute later.
Chadderton managed to pull a goal back within two minutes, when their best player, Tuohy, bent the ball just inside the left-hand post, but Adam Fairchild in the St. Helens goal denied him just before half-time with a great save to preserve Town’s lead going into the break.
Hardly had the second period begun than Moss levelled for the home side, a fierce cross finding him handily placed right on the post to nudge the ball home, but after that, Town took control.
A corner from the left went through a sea of legs before Ant Whelan found the net on 55 minutes and St. Helens dominated midfield to stifle Chadderton before St. Helens wrapped up the game in injury time thanks to a penalty from Korie-Butler and a strike from Andy Presho, taking the final score to 5-2.
Good Friday’s game at Volair Park produced Town’s biggest home gate for 11 years, 539 turning out for the game with fourth-placed City of Liverpool.
The visitors were hopeful of securing all three points to keep up the pressure on the top three teams Charnock Richard, Widnes and Litherland Remyca, with Whitchurch Alport breathing down their necks in what looks to be a very tight finish for the two automatic promotion berths, with one club to go up from the play-offs.
The Purples, as the new club are known, had already beaten Town twice this season, 5-1 in the league game at Bootle FC and 3-0 at Prescot in the Reusch First Division Trophy Quarter-Final, so they were favourites to win this game.
They went ahead in the 17th minute when a corner caused confusion in the Town defence and Liam Dodd, who has been faultless since breaking into the side over the last couple of months, put through his own net, under pressure from Elliott Nevitt.
However, Town fought back and the lively Joel Douglas, a recent signing from Cammell Laird 1907, burst through the visitors’ defence directly on goal and was hacked down in the ‘D’.
The Purples’ wall was well-organised, but Alex Gillespie had spotted a crucial gap and, taking careful aim, fired St. Helens level at 1-1 on the half-hour.
Adam Fairchild, in the Town goal, is in superb form at the moment, and he pulled off the first of five cracking saves, this time from Nevitt, but shortly afterwards, referee Herzog awarded City of Liverpool a penalty for handball by Eddie Pegler after 40 minutes, which looked to be outside the penalty area and Fairchild had no chance of saving from John Connolly who scored off the inside of the right—hand post to send his team in at the break with a 2-1 advantage.
The rain, which had begun 20 minutes into the first-half, took a serious hold in the second half and the playing surface became very slippery and the ball extremely difficult to control. As a result, both sides found passing very challenging and City of Liverpool’s lead looked to be insurmountable but, to Town’s credit, they kept plugging away.
Both Gillespies, Andy and Alex, had given their all, but the introduction of fresh legs in Andy Presho and Michael Chojnicki by manager Alan Gillespie made a big difference and as has been the case in many games at Prescot since the beginning of March, Town were to stage a rousing finish when all seemed lost.
Against all the odds and against the elements, St. Helens launched a series of attacks that took the Purples by surprise and with six minutes left, Ste Rigby crossed a ball from the left, the City defence failed to clear and Douglas rammed it home emphatically to earn Town a deserved draw, the final score 2-2.
With a little more luck, they might even have gone on to win the game, but maybe that was asking too much; a draw was just about the right result, but not really what the Liverpool side had been hoping for.
Still, they might yet get promotion, since league leaders Charnock Richard are yet to visit Widnes, City of Liverpool and, on the last day of the season, St. Helens Town.
St. Helens next play Ashton Town at home on Thursday night (20th April) at Prescot, kick-off 7.45pm, followed by away trips to Stockport Town on Saturday at 3pm, then Holker Old Boys next Tuesday at 7.45pm.
Wins in all four remaining games would give them 65 points and a best-placed ninth place in the final table.
Even that would fail to make the play-offs or guarantee entry into next season’s FA Cup, unless the FA allocate extra places into their premier knock-out competition, but until shortly before the draw for the early rounds is released in July, nothing can be taken for granted. Come what may, next season promises to be just as exciting as this season, especially given that there is to be another reorganisation of the non-league system at steps 3 and 4, which will have a big knock-on effect at Town’s level.