Longridge Town’s game of two different halves

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Town played two different halves in Saturday’s game against Slyne with Hest and manager Lee Ashcroft says the second half team is the one he wants to play every week “one that plays with heart and desire”.

A lacklustre first half performance saw Town enter the break 3-0 down without having an attempt on goal. Two tactical switches at the break and the half time team talk did the trick as Longridge came out the better side in the second half but were unable to make up the deficit. Joe Melling pulled a goal back with Town’s first attempt on goal but Slyne added a fourth and it was game over. Town will be looking for a more consistent performance and a victory this week.

Lee Ashcroft said: “Two different halves today; the first half we were as poor as we have been all season and second half we had a go at them. The second half team is the one I want to put out every week, one that plays with heart and desire. We’re second highest goal scorers in the division, possibly top; we want to finish top scorers but our first half performance isn’t going to help us achieve that. If Sam’s (Marsh) header from under the bar goes in, it’s 3-2 with 20 minutes to go and it could’ve been a different story. There’s no easy game in this league.”

Ashcroft only made one change to the side defeated by Euxton Villa in their previous outing. Ryan McKenna moved into the centre of defence in place of Dave Woodruff and Jordan Bowen started in midfield. It was excellent for Town fans to see the return of Gary Longshaw who hasn’t played since late September through injury and Ashcroft said: “It was great to see Gary Longshaw back and get 45 minutes under his belt. Hopefully he’ll be in contention for the game on Saturday.”

Town seemed to be comfortable on the ball in the opening exchanges but out of nothing Slyne came forward; Jamie Hastings and Mark Murphy linked well before Murphy scored incisively after three minutes.

The early goal surprised Town and they never recovered. Slyne looked dominant and started to create chances and looked calm in possession. Slyne added a second, Sam Marsh lost the ball and Hastings put in a perfect cross for Ben Danvers who headed back into the bottom left corner leaving Ellis Hawksworth with no chance.

Hastings nearly got in on the action himself when a deep cross found him un-marked at the back post but he was fantastically denied by Hawksworth. Hastings then fired a shot in at goal which squirmed underneath Hawksworth and went out for a corner. The corner produced a third for Slyne. The initial header was headed up rather than out by Marsh; the ball was headed back into the mix and Liam Breslin took advantage.

Seeing things needed shaking up Ashcroft brought on Stu Garry and Longshaw for McDonald and Bowen. Garry went into the heart of defence allowing McKenna to play upfront with Sam Dean. With four central midfielders the wide positions were left open for full backs Sam Nightingale and Joe Melling to exploit.

The away side’s mentality completely changed and the roles of the sides were reversed. Town looked like the side they have been for most of the season and Slyne had the reverse fortune of playing like Town did in the first half.

In the opening minutes Town felt they should have been awarded a penalty when both McKenna and the goalkeeper challenged aerially but a free kick was given the opposite way.

Despite seeing a lot of the ball Town had to wait until the 71st minute for their first attempt on goal but it was worth the wait. Melling cut in from the right and from the edge of the area scored with a left foot drive which was just out of the keeper’s reach.

Two minutes later a Lennie Reid corner was headed over from under the bar by Marsh. It seemed easier to score than miss. Had it gone in it could have been a different story.

McKenna and Nightingale then linked down the left and they found Dean free in space but his curled attempt was well wide of goal. Shortly after, Reid’s long throw-in found Dean who flicked it onto Longshaw but his effort was just off target.

All signs of a comeback were gone on 81 minutes; from a Slyne throw in Breslin was played through on goal and he confidently rounded the onrushing Hawksworth and slotted into the empty goal.

Miscommunication at the back for Town nearly allowed Breslin in for his hat trick but his lob was wide of the goal. Breslin was free and then unselfishly put a dangerous ball right across the six yard box but the onrushing winger was unable to slide in. Reid had the last attempt of the game for Town but his driven free kick was well saved.

Town will be hoping not to concede early at Inglewhite Road this Saturday and avenge the result with a win.

Team: 1 Ellis Hawksworth, 2 Joe Melling (71), 3 Sam Nightingale, 4 Ryan McKenna, 5 Sam Marsh, 6 Rick Murch (16 Adam Thomas), 7 Conor Linighan, 8 Jordan Bowen (15 Gary Longshaw), 9 Sam Dean, 10 Lennie Reid, 11 Jonty McDonald (12 Stu Garry). Unused Subs: 14 Saul Hamer, 17 Dave Woodruff.