Stocksbridge PS 3 Gresley 2
By: Owen Harrison
Stocksbridge Park Steels fought off a late Gresley comeback to gain an important three points in their relegation battle in the Evo-Stik East Division, despite weather conditions taking a turn for the worst in the second half of what was a nervy but highly entertaining encounter at the Look Local Stadium which pitted the league’s bottom two clubs against each other.
Today’s visitors came into the tie at Bracken Moor on the back of a battling and morale boosting 2-1 victory away to fellow strugglers Wisbech Town on Saturday. However, that doesn’t overshadow their poor form as of late. With only one win in five games and four points claimed out of a possible fifteen, Gresley have slipped to the bottom of the Evo-Stik East Division with only 25 points tallied up this campaign. The Derbyshire outfit also have the worst goal difference in the league. 73 goals have been scored against the league strugglers this campaign whilst the so called Moatmen have only bagged 33 goals for themselves, seeing them plummet down the table into the bottom two with the threat of relegation to the NCEL Premier Division ever increasing. Meanwhile, the Steels came into the tie on the back of an embarrassing defeat to Belper Town last Saturday which ended in a 4-0 thrashing and Stocksbridge being reduced to nine men after Rory Coleman and Brody Litchfield were dismissed in the second half. They came into the tie one point above 20th placed Gresley, knowing a win would see them climb to a possible position of 15th in the league. It would definitely be a hard task though, especially since the Steels haven’t had it all their way in recent games, conceding 16 goals in their past 5 league outings. With only 3 points earned out of a possible 15 for the hosts, it was always going to be a highly entertaining tie under the floodlights at the Look Local Stadium since this game pitted the two worst forms in the league together.
As the game got underway, Stocksbridge looked an entirely different outfit to the one who came back from Derbyshire last Saturday being hammered 4-1 against high fliers Belper Town. In the opening ten minutes, chances fell on both ends of the field. A corner conceded by Jordan Lemon, was fired into the box by Gresley number three Mark Branch and although the cross from the far side of the field looked to have failed to meet a Gresley head, David Robson reassured himself that danger was aborted by tipping the ball over the bar for another corner that resulted in nothing as it was cleared up field by the Steels defence who were on their toes from the first blow of the referee’s whistle. The first opportunity for Stocksbridge fell to former Maltby Main striker Danny Frost, who’s shot from 25 yards out clipped the wood work after fans initially thought the ball was straying to the left hand side of the goal into the advertising hoardings. Moments later and Danny Frost could have had another opportunity to break the deadlock early on after Stocksbridge skipper Liam McFadyen sent a ball over the top of the Gresley defence into the path of the Ice Man but he was caught offside and he halted his run to avoid a free kick going in Gresley’s favour.
Danny Frost was, again, on the end of another opportunity on the sixth minute mark. Scott Ruthven laid off a nice pass into the path of the Steels number ten who angled his shot from the left hand side of the box to the right of Aiden Jeynes’ goal but his shot narrowly missed the bottom corner and his powerful attempt went out of play for a Gresley throw in.
A chance could have fell to Gresley if they were more precise in their final ball into the attackers after Jordan Lemon was caught out by Dexter Morris-Clarke in midfield but his pass lacked accuracy and it fell back into the possession of the Steels who began to pressurise the Gresley back line more and more.
With the Steels piling more pressure on league strugglers Gresley, the first goal was struck in the 15th minute of the encounter at the Look Local Stadium. A ball over the top of a bemused Gresley defense from midfield was met by the Ice Man Danny Frost who managed to bundle his way past Aiden Jeynes to see his mistimed and half blocked shot trickle over the line to the bellowing cheers of the jubilant Steels fans, who were there to witness the striker’s first goal in Steels colours since arriving from Maltby Main in January.
Stocksbridge looked impressive going forwards and falling back during the first period of play. Any danger that looked to be serious were quickly steered clear by the Steels defence. Notably, a Mark Branch corner from the far side was cleared impressively by the head of Reece Fielding, as the ball did look to have been heading for a Gresley player on the back post. The pressure became unbearable for the visitors from Derbyshire at times. Danny Frost ran towards the Gresley defence with speed to apply the pressure once more, earning a throw in as a result of his hard work. Although Stocksbridge were pressuring Gresley magnificently, they were also battling for every ball they could get. Notably, a stand out moment of when Stocksbridge’s soldier like character shone through was when Steels’ number two Ben Rhodes won a 50/50 challenge against Mark Branch that aborted danger once more in the Gresley half. I must say, that was a challenge that even Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos would be proud of!
As Gresley looked for an equalizer, the Steels had ambitions of their own with a second goal in their sights. The Moatmen skipper Mark Smith could have played a big part in the Steels’ ambitions of a second goal after he looked to have played a safe ball into the path of Gresley keeper Aiden Jeynes but his pass was too heavy and powerful and was inches wide from nestling into the bottom left corner of his own goal before being cleared frantically upfield by the Gresley number one. Moments later and Danny Frost fired wide a golden opportunity for the Steels to double their lead. The Ice Man was on the end of a through ball from the midfield but he got his feet in a twist which meant that he fired his shot nowhere near towards goal which ended up in the advertising boards to the right of Aiden Jeynes’ net.
But as the first half reached it’s midpoint, the Steels got their much deserved second goal courtesy of an own goal. After the ball bounced around the box with Gresley frantically clearing their lines to avoid a second from being struck, Curtis Turner fired towards the bottom left corner from outside the box but his low and powerful shot took a wicked deflection off Gresley number two Jacob Sturgess which turned the keeper Aiden Jeynes the wrong way. This was initially after an opportunity from a Steels player, in the build up to the goal, failing to beat the Gresley keeper first time around.
Ben Rhodes could have had Stocksbridge’s third after hitting a volley from 30 yards out but his shot dipped into the hands of Aiden Jeynes who was tested on multiple occasions in the first period.
The best chance of the first half for Gresley fell to Devante Reittie after his low and tamely hit shot from the left hand side of the box was cleared upfield by Mitchell Langton.
Few more chances remained in the first half, but one that was nearly took fell to Alex Wiles. After brilliant work down the right wing by Danny Frost, he laid the ball off to the Steels number 7 who, after a few seconds on the ball, took fire at goal, hitting a Gresley defender who saw it out of play for a corner to Steels. The resulting corner by Scott Ruthven connected with a Steels head well and as fans jumped up as they thought the ball was buried into the centre of the goal, Aiden Jeynes jumped up high and clasped the ball to halt the scoreline from getting any bigger.
HT-Stocksbridge 2-0 Gresley
As the referee awaited to blow his whistle for the second half, Gresley made two substitutions to find a way back into the game. The first action of the game was when substitute Kane Lee was took down by Mitchell Langton resulting in a booking for the Steels number 8 for a cynical foul. Kane Lee was then given another chance to bring a goal back for the visitors when Devante Reittie played in a through ball into a dangerous area but the substitute’s low shot failed to test David Robson.
In the 57th minute, a Mark Branch corner from the right hand side was cleared first time by Luke Mangham but the clearance upfield was not as far as Cameron Steele who started the Gresley charge upfield again. But like a Ferrari, Alex Wiles ran up alongside him quickly and pressurised the Gresley number 14, making a crucial block to stop Steele from launching the ball into the opposition’s half.
But the Steels’ two goal advantage came to an end soon after. The Gresley pressure applied from the opening minutes of the second half paid off with a goal. The ball pinballed around the Gresley box with the initial first shot saved by David Robson comfortably. It then fell into the path of another Gresley player who smashed his shot towards goal which was blocked by the Steels once more. But the block by the Steels fell into the path of Bradley Lawley, the Gresley striker sporting the number ten red and white away strip, who smashed his shot from the left hand side of the box into the top right hand corner from close range, clipping the under side of the bar on the way in.
As play begun again, Gresley looked more and more threatening attacking wise as the Stocksbridge defence kept on their toes to try and push the team over the line for the all important three points. Kane Lee was taken down in the box by David Robson who punched the ball away from danger when a cross was launched into the centre of the area. Kane Lee received treatment after he looked to have fallen heavy under the challenge of the young Steels keeper.
Minutes later and Gresley could have equalised. Devante Reittie played in Connor Deards for a one on one opportunity but he blazed his shot over the bar and into the houses at a difficult angle since the keeper was so close to the Gresley attacker.
But the Steels got their match winning third in the 80th minute. A corner was fired in as a result of Danny Frost’s 1 on 1 chance being tipped wide by Aiden Jeynes. The corner from the left hand side met the Ice Man’s head superbly but his shot was stopped right on the line after beating the goalkeeper, before the captain Liam McFadyen stepped up to poke the ball home and increase the advantage back to two goals.
As the rain started to pour heavily down on the Look Local Stadium, the Steels searched for more goals. Alex Wiles, one of several stand out performers on the night, played a through ball into Steels substitute James Morris who, 1 on 1, shot towards goal from outside the box but it was again saved by Jeynes who prevented a much anticipated fourth goal for the home side.
But late on and Gresley cued up a nervy finish to an entertaining encounter after against the run of play, Mark Branch’s free kick from the right hand side was met by the head of Bradley Lawley who managed to beat the Steels defenders surrounding him to plant his head on the ball and nestle it into the bottom right corner.
But ultimately this wasn’t enough to stop the Steels from earning a much deserved three points after a battling performance saw Stocksbridge rise to 15th in the league. Meanwhile, Gresley stay in 20th place, rock bottom of the Evo-Stik East Division after 31 games played by the Derbyshire outfit. Next up for relegation threatened Gresley is mid table Marske United at home on Saturday which is a must win if Gresley stand any chance of surviving in the division with many tricky ties coming up in the next few weeks against teams who are chasing promotion. For the Steels, a trip to Spalding United awaits them on Saturday, knowing that a victory could see Stocksbridge rise above AFC Mansfield and more importantly, steer further clear of the relegation zone.
FT-Stocksbridge 3-2 Gresley