A sell out crowd at the JMO Sports Park witnessed a thrilling FA Cup encounter that in the true traditions of the competition was in the balance until the very last kick.
Skelmersdale had taken the lead just before the interval, then their local rivals from up the M58 fought back and just when you thought a well organised Skem defence had done enough Bootle levelled with only eight minutes remaining on the clock. But it was Skelmersdale that had the edge and restored their advantage four minutes from the end, leaving the last minutes a tense wait for both sets of supporters.
Five minutes from half-time Skelmersdale found the key to unlock the Bootle backline. Jack Grimshaw got away down the right hand side and pulled the ball back from the goal line, the ball going right into the heart of the penalty area; Jason Carey crashed in and with his chest put the ball into the net. By virtue of finishing the half stronger Skem just about deserved the lead.
The second-half was expected to see Bootle on the offensive, but five minutes in it was Skelmersdale who should have doubled their lead. A long clearance by Barnes was headed on by Dan Mitchley putting Adegbenro in on an angle from the left side; however his right foot shot went marginally the wrong side of the far post. Skem would need that two goal lead by the end.
The large Bootle contingent in the crowd drove their team on but although they lifted balls into the goalmouth a well marshalled Skem defence limited them to efforts from distance.
The winning post started to appear in the distance for Skem with only eight minutes to go but a determined Bootle had other ideas. Barnes made a tremendous save from a close range shot but could only parry the ball away and it fell to a former Skelmersdale player to seemingly kill off Skem’s dreams, Hodkinson pouncing to equalise from inside the six yard box.
To their utmost credit Skelmersdale weren’t killed off though, they bounced straight back onto the attack.
On 86 minutes Alex Griffiths overlapped down the right wing and hoisted the ball to the far post, Grimshaw had lost his marker and faced with keeper Jones kept his cool to drive the ball inside the post. Skelmersdale celebrated and goalkeeper Barnes even ran the length of the pitch.
After the match in his interview with the Skelmersdale United website, Manager Paul McNally with a smile the size of Skelmersdale said of the winning goal:
“Fantastic response, what a finish by Jack, superb.” He added: “We had a few chances that I feared would come back and haunt us, you are not going to hold out against a team of their calibre for too long, I was gutted. Then a great goal wasn’t it.”
There was no question it was a great goal and a memorable one too, it showed the spirit McNally has built up at Skem and a good season lies ahead.
SKELMERSDALE UNITED: Barnes, Herbert Preston, Murphy, Grogan, Peet, Grimshaw, Carey, Mitchley, Griffiths, Adegbenro Subs Brodie, Glennon, Wainwright, Ellams, Croughan, Ellis, O’Neill