Shelley 1 Longridge Town 2: Leaders earn a battling three points

Ryan McKenna headed Town into the lead at Shelley
Ryan McKenna headed Town into the lead at Shelley

Longridge Town were 2-1 winners against Shelley in the first of three games in eight days.

Town welcomed back Conor Linighan in defence and handed a debut to Ben Fletcher, while Paul Turner started up front in place of the suspended Jay Hart.

Lee Ashcroft’s players started well with Turner denied early on before Richie Allen and Tom Ince saw their efforts go just off target.

However, they were forced into an early change when George Melling was replaced after 14 minutes, suffering from chest pains and breathing difficulties.

Ashcroft introduced Danny Gardner, dropped Alex Murphy into the back three and had Joe Melling playing from the left.

Town were almost punished in the reshuffle as Craig Billington shot wide when clean through.

For all their good football, it took a set piece for Town to get the vital first goal.

Ince won a corner on the left and Fletcher’s far post corner was headed home by Ryan McKenna on 27 minutes.

However, they were pegged back on 41 minutes when Murphy was booked for a foul 22 yards from goal.

Lee Dovey set his wall, expecting an effort on goal, but a well-worked set piece saw James 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.

All was to play for in the second half but the game was constantly punctuated as the referee blew for free-kicks in Town’s favour.

Yellow cards were not brandished though and this didn’t help the flow of the game as it all got a bit fractious.

Brad Wicks came on for Turner, meaning Ince played further forward but he shot just wide when put through one-on-one with 25 minutes left.

Billington, on an early yellow card, caused a flashpoint in front of the home bench by slamming the ball into Fletcher’s midriff as he tried to take a throw-in but without earning a second yellow.

Town retook the lead with 20 minutes remaining when Allen controlled Dovey’s pass and passed to Ince who, without breaking stride, fired home to make it 2-1.

Shelley were reduced to 10 men with 10 minutes left as Billington picked up a second yellow.

That was the signal for Town to play keep ball after Luke McKenna had replaced an injured Joe Melling.

He, alongside Fletcher and Wicks, were in control as the clock ran down on a battling performance from Longridge.