On an almost perfect playing surface at The Smithy Row, Hurst Green Youth gave league leaders Ramsbottom United a mighty scare although defensive errors at set plays once again proved costly for the Green lads.
The visitors started the opening period brightly as the Green took a few minutes to adjust to a new sweeper formation, a role superbly performed by captain George Young. However, once the midfield trio of Will Reed, Max Hutchinson and Cory Longton got a stranglehold on the game, chances began to flow for the Green.
The first of these fell to Tom Reede on 15 minutes as his blistering pace took him beyond the last defender only for his attempted chip to drift harmlessly past the far post. However, the Green were not to be denied as five minutes later an excellent Young delivery found the head of Ollie Shipston six yards out. Shipston’s powerful header produced a fine diving save by the Ramsbottom keeper and fortunately for the Green Dec Barnes was on hand to gleefully smash home the keeper’s parry high into the roof of the net.
The Green almost extended their lead after 25 minutes following fine work by Tyler Baron on the left wing. Baron’s cross was inch perfect for Shipston but somehow the Ramsbottom keeper produced a wonder save, acrobatically tipping Shipston’s diving header over the bar.
After half an hour the Green deservedly increased their lead as telepathic play between Shipston and Reede sent the latter scampering clear of the last Ramsbottom defender. This time Reede made no mistake as he rifled home a right foot shot into the far corner of the net to send the home support into raptures.
Half Time: Hurst Green 2, Ramsbottom Utd 0.
Unfortunately, Manager Alex Young’s half time team talk appeared to have fallen on deaf ears as within the first five minutes of the second half, the Green conceded two goals following identical defensive lapses from two routine corners. For a few minutes this devastating blow appeared to have knocked the stuffing out of the Green lads. Keeper Ben Armer had to be at his very best on at least two occasions, producing fine diving saves to help prevent the Green from going behind. However, the Green rallied once more and on 55 minutes Shipston was only inches away from getting on the end of a terrific Barnes cross. Five minutes later came the pivotal moment of the game as Shipston raced towards the edge of the box only to be unceremoniously upended by the Ramsbottom keeper. Most of the crowd anticipated a red card for what appeared a dangerous challenge, however, the card was yellow and worse was to follow as within a couple of minutes the Green had conceded again from another set play. The visitors grabbed a fourth on 70 minutes following a short corner routine and with ten minutes remaining, a fifth goal duly arrived with a neat finish from the edge of the box. In the final minute, substitute Tom Jacques almost grabbed a late consolation for the Green as he unleashed a terrific shot from the edge of the box, only to be denied by another fine save by the Ramsbottom keeper.
Full Time: Hurst Green 2, Ramsbottom Utd 5.