Congleton 3 Barnoldswick Town 1
What a beautiful day for a football match at last, a slight breeze and plenty of sunshine. But the outcome was disappointingly familiar as Town suffered another North West Counties Premier Division away defeat.
Congleton did the early pressing but it was Town who produced the first threat.
Mark Threlfall and Aaron Hollindrake combined to set up a chance for Sam Howell but he shot over the bar. Congleton went straight down the other end to take the lead.
A slick move found right back Chris Middleton in space on the left corner of the penalty area.
He unleashed a tremendous shot that flew past Billy Carrington into the far corner. Worse was to follow for the visitors four minutes later.
Daniel Bruce broke clear and dribbled round Carring-ton as he raced out of his area, before crossing to the far post where Omar McKenzie had an easy tap in.
The visitors were struggling to keep the ball as Congleton looked to increase their lead by exploiting the open spaces.
The visitors pulled a goal back after 23 minutes. Derek Pollard’s cross fell to Threlfall.
His shot deflected off a defender’s legs into the path of Connor Smith who fired past goalkeeper Martin Pearson. Town suddenly looked the better team as they pressed for an equaliser, and three minutes later a Smith shot was beaten away by Pearson at his near post straight into the path of Carl Ellerton five yards out.
He managed to strike a shot goal wards but it hit the foot of the post with Middleton first to the ball to hack it clear.
The half closed with the visitors unlucky to be behind as they enjoyed their best spell.
Any hopes of a fightback were scuppered just two minutes after the break. Scott Sephton scoring from ten yards out after Carrington had beat-out a fierce shot.
Town made a double substitution after 53 minutes with Paul Walker and Pollard making way for Kieron Lee and Sam Reeves. The visitors though they should have been awarded a penalty three minutes later.
A long ball straight down the middle bounced high just inside Congleton’s penalty area.
Pearson and a defender plus Threlfall went for the ball. Threlfall won the header but suffered a blow from the right hand of Congleton’s keeper who had missed the ball. The referee waved play on.
With 20 minutes left the visitors made their last substitution when player-manager Stewart Airdrie replaced the cramp victim Howell.
In the closing minutes Middleton showed the explosive power of his shooting as another exocet rattled the bar.
Apart from the last 20 minutes of the first half when the visitors were the better team, this was a poor performance with players seemingly unable to shut the Congleton wide runners down effectively.
Perhaps it was a lack of match fitness?