Match Report: Cleator Moor Celtic 3-6 Longridge Town
By Ellie Hamilton
Cleator suffer Hart attack as Town turn it on.
Longridge made the long trip up to Cumbria yesterday, and came through a difficult test at Cleator Moor to eventually run out 3-6 winners in a thrilling game.
Short on numbers Ashey had to settle for a strong starting 11, but was forced into shuffling the pack with midfielder Danny Wilkinson playing
on the left of a back three, and striker Richie Allen starting in midfield alongside Tom Ince.
Right wing-back Joe Melling started on the left to give Town their usual width, with Danny Gardner on the right hand side.
It was a bleak Cumbrian day and, after a three and a half hour coach journey, it was vital that Town were 'up for it' and started well. Sadly, it wasn't to be.
Cleator striker Leigh Dunn pounced on a defensive mistake after just three minutes, and curled a lovely finish low inside Lee Dovey's right hand post. 1-0 and the partisan local crowd were noisy in their celebrations as the League leaders were in town and were now 1-0 down.
If anything it sparked Town into life and Ince and Allen were pulling the strings in midfield.
After 10 minutes of strong Town possession, the deserved equaliser came as Hart and Turner linked well together to free the latter inside the area. Young Paul bore down on goal and fired a superb finish through the keepers legs to make it 1-1 after just 14 minutes. Back in the game, and it was end to end stuff at JBV Park.
Longridge were on top now, looking to get ahead, and seven minutes later Town striker Jay Hart made it 2-1.
It was another great passing move with Tom Ince again enjoying the space in front of the Cumbrian defence, sliding the ball through to Jay who finished past the keeper to put Town ahead.
The Home crowd were silenced even further 10 minutes later. Town had a free kick in front of the covered stand and Richie Allen stood over the ball, receiving 'friendly banter' from the sheltering crowd as the rain poured down.
Richie had the last laugh as, with Cleator expecting a ball into the area, he pinged the ball down the outside of Danny Gardner who
beat his man, yet again, before putting a slide rule pass across the goal to be met by the onrushing Turner. 1-3, and what a turnaround as Town players and supporters celebrated wildly.
There was no time to settle however, as Cleator Moor then scored two goals in four minutes to bring the game level. First the home side found themselves with a man over on the left hand side and that man was Tom Ward. The winger finished brilliantly, firing a cross shot beyond Dovey to make it 2-3.
Two shots on target and two clinical finishes for the home side.
Brad Rooney then equalised with a goal that would be described as a 'worldie' at any level of football.
Maybe he should have been closed down but, at 30 yards out the Town defence could be forgiven for thinking that there was little danger.
How wrong could you be, as Rooney fired an unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner of the goal, hitting the back of the net off bar and angle. To say the home crowd enjoyed it would be an understatement and Town were shell-shocked at 3-3 after 38 minutes.
It could've been worse as Dovey made a vital save on the stroke of half time, saving with his feet from Dunn as for a second it looked unbelievably that Town could go in at half time 4-3 down.
Three apiece it stayed however, as the referee blew for half time. A great half of football with three brilliant finishes from the home side matching three brilliant team goals from Longridge.
Dovey's save was a turning point, as Town came out for the second half looking confident after a 10 minute chat with Ashey.
It took just 30 seconds for the lads to restore their lead. Jay Hart putting the ball through to Turner who crossed low, putting it on a plate for Tom Ince to finish with a tap in. 3-4, and if Town could play their normal possession game you felt that Cleator Moor would tire after such a demanding first half.
That looked to be the case 15 minutes later as Jay turned in the box, beat two men and slotted the ball into the far corner of the goal to make it 3-5. Fair play to the Home supporters, who had been vociferous in support of their team, as they applauded the goal and began to appreciate the excellent football on show from both sides.
There were still 30 minutes remaining, but Town had broken the spirit and will of the Cumbrians and were now spraying the ball around in confident fashion.
Danny Gardner was having another excellent game, and was still beating his man time and time again, with Richie consistently roaming the field looking for the ball, playing triangles with Tom Ince.
With skipper Michael Morrison and George Melling the backbone of the side it was only a matter of time before Town put another past a tiring Cleator Moor.
It came with 20 minutes to play as Jay got his hat trick, firing a right footed shot past the keeper after great interplay with Ince. A hat trick for crowd favourite Hart, whose recent hamstring injury seemed a distant memory as he celebrated with back flips on a now sodden pitch.
What a difference scoring goals makes eh?! So 3-6, and the travelling supporters in a crowd of 121 could relax and enjoy the final part of this great game.
There was still time for Town to miss a penalty, after Jay was brought down by the keeper. Usual taker Tom Ince gave Paul Turner the chance to get his hat trick but the youngsters right footed effort was saved well by the Cleator Moor keeper, diving low to his left.
As the whistle went to end the game, both sides weer applauded from the field after a fantastic game of football, and a massive win for Longridge.
The travelling Town support had been rewarded for their dedication and, with the Town flag flying, were acknowledged by the team led over by Captain Michael Morrison. Brilliant spirit all round.
It was a great day, a difficult day on and off the pitch, but the lads that travelled did the Club and the Manager proud putting in a superb performance, showing great team spirit, and playing football in the right way.
The significance of the win, and the three points, won't be clear until May but, whatever happens between now and then, it was a proud day for everyone involved in the Club.
You can hear the manager's post match thoughts on the website and our social media channels later today.
Next week sees Town return to The MRG for the visit of Daisy Hill, a 3pm kick-off scheduled.