Match Report: Shelley FC 1-2 Longridge Town
By Ellie Hamilton
Fletch shines on debut as Ince class wins 'Roses Battle.'
In the first of three vital games in eight days Longridge returned back over the Pennines after a hard fought victory over Shelley FC.
The Yorkshiremen boasted the league's second highest scorer in forward Craig Billington, as Town welcomed back Conor Linighan in defence and handed a debut to 18 year old Chipping lad Ben Fletcher, who joined the club from Padiham FC this week. Paul Turner started up front in place of the suspended Jay Hart.
Fletch started well, as did Town, and the home keeper made a great early save to deny Turner, before both captain Richie Allen and Tom Ince saw their efforts go just off target.
Centre half George Melling had a scare and had to be replaced after just 14 minutes with chest pains. The ‘big man’ was suffering breathing difficulties and was kindly attended to by the Shelley FC physio. Danny Gardner replaced George with Joe Melling now playing from the left, as Murphy dropped into a back three.
Town were almost punished in the reshuffle,as Billington shot wide when clean through on Lee Dovey in the Town goal, and Shelley had a good five minute spell whilst things settled down at the back for Longridge.
For all their good football, against a physical Shelley side, it took a set piece for Town to get the vital first goal.
Ince’s trickery won a corner on the left, and Fletchers far post corner was headed home by Ryan McKenna to make it 0-1 Town with 27 minutes on the clock. ‘The Horse’ celebrated in his traditional style to boos from the unsmiling Yorkshiremen in attendance.
Shelley had settled into the game though, a clash of styles if ever there was one, and Murphy was booked on 41 minutes for a trip 22 yards from goal.
Dovey set his wall, expecting an effort on goal, but a well worked set piece saw Bootland overlap down the right as the ball was played down the side, and he fired a lovely right footed effort past the stranded keeper to equalise for the hosts. 1-1, on the stroke of half time.
The teams went in at the break level after a good half of football, Towns passing style being matched by Shelley’s physicality. All to play for second half.
It was a bit more ‘up and at em’ for the home side who were now being encouraged from the bench in traditional Yorkshire style, a little odd considering their strong first half performance but Town were coping comfortably.
The game was constantly punctuated as the referee blew for free kicks in Town’s favour, but yellow cards were not brandished and this didn’t help the flow of the game as it all got a bit fractious.
Allen was showing his quality up front, Fletch was running the midfield, and Ince was now playing further forward after Paul Turner was replaced by Brad Wicks.
A glorious piece of football saw Richie slide Ince in one on one with 25 minutes left, but his left footed effort went just wide as the travelling support expected the net to bulge.
Shelley’s Billington, on an early yellow card, then caused a flashpoint in front of the home bench, slamming the ball into Fletchers midriff as he tried to take a throw in. No second yellow appeared, but a strong talking to for the big number nine.
A pinged ball out from Dovey then found Allen wide, who controlled it on his chest, turned inside, and laid a pass to Ince. Without breaking stride, the brilliant little forward fired home to make it 1-2 with 20 minutes remaining, and gave Town a deserved lead.
Some of the ‘motivational’ instructions from the home bench were now proving too much for several of the Shelley players, and Billington was given a second yellow with 10 minutes remaining. The final chance afforded him by the referee had not been taken, and the red card that followed saw Shelley down to ten men.
That was the signal for Town to play keepball. Luke McKenna had replaced an injured Joe Melling earlier and he, alongside Fletcher and Wicks were in control as the clock ran down on a battling performance from Longridge.
As the referee blew his whistle there were ‘handbags’ scuffles amongst players, and staff, but the lads made it safely to the dressing room leaving their beaten opponents out on the pitch, bemoaning pretty much everything.
In the distance the music blared out from the Away dressing room, job done.