Stocksbridge PS 1 Brighouse Town 0
By: Owen Harrison Photos: Chris Clancy
Brighouse Town failed to capitalise on many glorious opportunities to bury the game as Luke Mangham scored a volley from close range against the run of play in the second half to snatch all 3 points from the visitors, who sit 2nd in the Evo-Stik East Division.
Today’s visitors came into the tie with a turn in form since the 4-0 thrashing to in form Ossett United on New Year’s Day, sitting 4 points off runaway leaders Morpeth Town. Iwan Heeley’s goal on Saturday against high fliers Tadcaster Albion was Brighouse’s 63rd goal recorded this season which is the same amount of goals the visitors scored in the entirety of the last campaign. Their form speaks for itself, with 4 wins in 5 games, it was always going to be a difficult afternoon for the hosts who came into the tie on the back of a 5-0 thumping on home turf to Pontefract Collieries last week. A response was definitely needed after last Saturday’s disappointing performance meant that Stocksbridge have recorded only one win in five games which saw the Steels slip perilously closer to the relegation zone.
Before the referee even blew his whistle, the first action of Saturday afternoon occurred, as Danny Frost was removed from the starting 11 due to an injury sustained pre match. Due to this, James Morris started in his place, sporting the number ten yellow and blue home shirt. When the on field action did begin, Brighouse Town instantly went on the front foot. The Steels’ had to endure a spree of chances from the visitors early on; the best chance coming from the captain Aaron Martins after he received a high ball from Gabriel Johnson and nodded it towards the bottom right of the goal but Adam Kelsey’s finger tip save guided the ball away for a corner. Although Stocksbridge were defending with excellence and intercepting many final balls from Brighouse, the Steels’ failed to create chances in result of these defensive stops.
The first sniff of a chance for Stocksbridge came in the 10th minute when Brody Litchfield chipped a ball over the top of the Brighouse defence to create an opening for Luke Mangham, but he was unable to get to the ball and pounce on the opportunity. The Steels were only marginally better than the side who were thumped at home last Saturday. It was only because of the fact that the visitors were poorly executing chances was why the Steels were still level after twenty minutes of play. Another chance followed as Brighouse attacked with pace that the Stocksbridge full backs couldn’t handle. The ball was swung in low by Tyler Williams and although his cross wasn’t destined for the back of the net, it curved inches wide of nestling in the bottom right corner. A key performer for the Steels’ last week, Rory Coleman, was again called into action in multiple occasions on the goal line. Another glorious chance fell to Aaron Martins, whom scored in the reverse meeting at the Dual Seal Stadium which ended in a 1-0 home win. With the goal at his mercy, the Brighouse captain struck at goal, but Rory Coleman made a crucial stop to keep the game level with a half hour gone.
The first real sight of goal for the hosts fell to Scott Ruthven after a Rory Coleman throw in was headed down by Brody Litchfield to allow the Steels’ number nine to latch onto the ball, but his shot was fired wide into the side netting. The dominance of the visitors continued up until half time, with chances mainly falling on the right hand side of the pitch that Brighouse attacked. Tyler Williams drove in a low ball from the left hand side into the path of Brighouse striker Gabriel Johnson, who didn’t have many clear cut chances in the opening 45 minutes, but his shot was blocked, and again another chance fell to Aaron Martin’s who’s header looked to have beaten Adam Kelsey but Steels’ captain Liam McFadyen was called into action on the line to head it away from immediate danger.
On the stroke of half time, Luke Mangham was pulled down on the edge of the box, resulting in a free kick that was shot low tamely at the Brighouse wall from Scott Ruthven and with that opportunity falling short of beating the visitors goalkeeper Jordan Porter, the referee blew his whistle for the interval.
HT: Stocksbridge 0-0 Brighouse Town
The second half was no better from a Stocksbridge point of view. Chances were rare from the host’s and due to this, it allowed Brighouse, again, to create plenty of openings for goals, however, the league high fliers were unable to execute them with precision and accuracy, which allowed the Steels to have a small chance of bagging all 3 points against the in-form team from West Yorkshire. And that small chance they took. After great work by Brody Litchfield to earn a free kick on the right hand side, Rory Coleman drove a high ball into the box which the visitors’ goalkeeper parried away into the path of Luke Mangham who volleyed in from close range against the run of place to take the lead in a game that Brighouse, overall, dominated. But the main goal now was to defend this lead against a Brighouse Town side that looked increasingly likely to hit the back of the net sooner or later.
Minutes after the first Steels’ goal of February, Aaron Martins who was by far Brighouse’s man of the match today, beat Jordan Lemon to create a sniff of a chance but Mitchell Langton cleared the ball up field. Brighouse substitute Mohammad Ibrahim created a great chance on the 80 minute mark as he crosses in a high ball that fell in the path of Thomas Haigh who’s header strayed inches, possibly centimetres, wide of the far post that Adam Kelsey didn’t have his attention on. The resulting goal kick was intercepted by Edmonos-Green who started the charge up field again. Although substitute Thomas Robinson’s cross was tame, Adam Kelsey spilled the ball which created a goal mouth scramble that no Brighouse player could get the golden touch to, and because of that, it pinballed around the box treacherously before Edmonos-Green lashed onto the ball but his strike was too far to the right as another chance went begging.
In the final ten minutes, Brighouse continued to pepper the Stocksbridge goal with shots but good defensive play from the hosts together with poor accuracy on goal from the Brighouse forwards is why Stocksbridge continued to lead. Late on, Kane Swinburn did excellent work in beating two defenders but he didn’t supply the ball into Scott Ruthven and the chanced is therefore, wasted, and seconds after, on the opposite end of play, Liam Mcfadyen did well to head clear danger as Brighouse’s number 18 looked destined to run through 1 on 1 with Adam Kelsey. With the home fans checking their watches, the fourth official added on 5 minutes that left Steels’ fans on the edge of their seats. Thomas Robinson did well to counter attack after beating multiple Steels’ players attempts at intercepting the ball from the full back, but it came to nothing after the Steels’ kicked the ball out of play for a throw in. As Stocksbridge watched on in anticipation that they could record their first win since a crucial 2-0 away win to struggling Pickering Town in late January, their hopes of 3 points were nearly short lived as Sam Wright had a good opportunity to cross the ball into the box which would have been met by Mohammed Ibrahim’s right foot but he decided to take the shot on his own and it blazed over the bar to the cheers of the home crowd who knew they was ever so close to clinching a vital 3 points. And with Thomas Haigh’s late booking for a semi-professional foul on Jordan Lemon, the referee called it a day after a period of 5 minutes of injury time that put the home fans through a mix of emotions from nail biting moments to ecstasy towards the end of play.
Overall, the performance from the Steels was not so convincing, however, they may have recorded their biggest 3 points this season so far by beating a Brighouse Town team, who came into the tie at the Look Local Stadium positive of coming back to West Yorkshire with the points in the bag. For Brighouse, they are now 7 points off the runaway leaders Morpeth Town, who seem invincible at the moment. They next face midtable Frickley Athletic next Saturday in hopes that they can reduce the gap at the top to 4 points. Meanwhile, Stocksbridge have a much needed rest week after some tricky ties in recent matchdays. The Steels next game is on Saturday 2nd March at home to another high flying and inform team, Tadcaster Albion who sit 4th in the league which will be no means easy for Stocksbridge as they continue to fight for survival in the Evo-Stik East Division.
FT: Stocksbridge 1-0 Brighouse Town