Hat trick hero Lee Ashcroft inspired Town to a 3-1 victory over struggling Hesketh Bank. The victory ended the rut and is a platform for the remaining few games.
Manager Ashcroft was delighted with the win and commented after the match: “Excellent! That’s what we are all about and that’s how I want us to play. First half we passed it ever so well, we’re not the biggest side in the world and that’s how I want us to play our football. We haven’t been playing like that as of late but it was like the first half against Coppull. It was a complete team performance. I’ll probably get the headlines but I’m the manager here and I’ve got to make sure the players are all right and the fans were excellent, like they have been all season. We take a few with us and that’s for them, that performance. Hopefully we can finish the season on a high after a glum period.”
When asked if the hat trick put him in contention for the next league game Lee laughed and said: “The last time I scored a hat trick, against Askam I didn’t get into the 16.”
Ashcroft, trying something new, gave a debut to Gary Basterfield, a young 19-year-old attacking winger who played in the friendly against AFC Blackpool, in place of Lennie Reid and started himself up front in place of Sam Dean. Ellis Hawksworth returned in goal and Rick Murch returned on the bench. Jonty McDonald was named captain.
Town were excellent in the opening 20 minutes and looked in control. The Hesketh defence seemed to struggle with Town’s attacking presence. After 15 minutes Basterfield switched the ball to Joe Melling who was in acres of space. Melling drove forward before his attempt was saved at the near post. Melling was looking to get his third goal in as many games.
Scott Harries and Basterfield looked unstoppable in midfield and terrorised the Hesketh defence. The home side showed glimpses of good football but were unable to match Town.
On the half hour Town had a quick free quick. Harries was found in the box but he lashed it wide. Basterfield was then found from a McDonald corner. He wasn’t able to put his attempt at the back post on goal.
Town’s dominance paid off as they took the lead after 37 minutes. A long ball bounced over the defence, Ashcroft let it bounce again before smashing the ball into the Hesketh goal.
Two minutes into the second half Ashcroft added a second. Harries ran with the ball before finding Ashcroft who nodded in his and Town’s second.
Shortly after things went from bad to worse for Hesketh Bank, an off the ball incident involving Jamie Wynne and Ashcroft saw Town awarded a penalty. Wynne then lost control, tried to punch Ashcroft and was subsequently sent off. Ashcroft stepped up and coolly converted to put the match out of sight of the home team.
The away side continued to press and looked to add to their tally. Basterfield and Harries linked well before finding McDonald at the back post but he couldn’t direct his header on goal.
McDonald then fired in a corner which nearly found its way into the goal. The ball fell to Basterfied who blasted towards goal but his shot was blocked. Shortly after, Ashcroft’s left footed attempt from the edge of the area beat the goal keeper but cannoned back off the bar.
A lapse of concentration at the back on the 74th minute allowed Hesketh Bank to get a spectacular consolation goal. A cross into the Town box was not dealt with and Aamir Tourawa improvised an overhead kick which beat Hawksworth.
Not long after Ashcroft played a reverse ball to Lennie Reid. His cross found Sam Dean at the back post which was saved and Gary Longshaw’s follow up was well blocked. Another crossed attempt by Reid found Dean but he headed over. Reid then came close himself after he was found by Harries. His curled attempt, however, was off the mark.
It was a solid team performance by Town which will give them confidence going into their next league match a week on Saturday.
Team: 1 Ellis Hawksworth, 2 Joe Melling, 3 Sam Nightingale, 4 Conor Linighan, 5 Sam Marsh, 6 Ryan McKenna, 7 Scott Harries, 8 Gary Longshaw, 9 Lee Ashcroft 37/47/50 (12 Sam Dean), 10 Gary Basterfield (16 Lennie Reid), 11 Jonty McDonald, Captain (15 Rick Murch). Unused subs; 14 Stu Garry, 17 Dave Woodruff.
Town’s next league fixture is away at Thornton Cleveleys (FY5 4QA) on Saturday, April 11.