Match report: Ashton United 2 - 2 Bamber Bridge
Bamber Bridge secured a point at Hursts Cross on Saturday afternoon and will rightly feel they did enough to claim all three. That said it was a terrific match, a great advert for the Northern Premier League and a much improved performance from Brig against an Ashton United side riding high in 3rd position in the League. The match also marked a personal achievement for Club Captain, Macauley Wilson, making his 150th appearance for Bamber Bridge.
Brig started with a steely determination to put last weekend’s FA Trophy defeat behind them, and attacked with pace straight from the kick off. That fast start was rewarded on 5 minutes when following a great move down the right Michael Potts crossed from the edge of the area, the ball was headed out but only as far as Jack Baxter who fired it back in first time, the ball whistling into the bottom corner of the net.
Just one minute later and a Brig Free kick for a foul on Lewis Thompson, 5 yards outside and to the left of the penalty area was struck superbly by Sam Billington. The ball cleared the defensive wall and crashed back into play off the crossbar. Bamber Bridge were really on top and pressing the Robins back. Another sweeping move down the right with a low cross into the box found Lewis Thompson who struck it first time, but the ball sailed over the bar. From the goal-kick and completely against the run of play Ashton Utd equalised. A long punt up field, a fine pass into the box and the Robins No.7 swept the ball home from close range.
A free kick to the hosts minutes later was well tipped over the bar by Brig keeper Aiden Hunt, making his Bamber Bridge debut following James Pradics’ unexpected return to PNE. The goal had lifted Ashton and a shot from ex Brigger Joe Robins flashed just wide of the upright.
Brig responded and on twenty minutes, won another free kick this time to the right of the penalty area. Jack Baxter took it and the keeper was forced to palm it over the bar for a corner. That was taken short and played square to Chris Churchman who, from the edge of the box smashed a curling 20 yard shot in in the back of the net, the keeper diving left, getting a hand to it but unable to keep it out. A fantastic first ever League goal in a Brig shirt for Churchy and Brig were deservedly back in front.
Bamber Bridge were playing some of their best football of the season and looking to move the ball swiftly on a very wet and spongy pitch. A fine run down the right from Harry Scarborough who whipped in a low cross, Mackenzie O’Neil looked set to pounce but a last ditch tackle took the ball off his toe. And it was Scarbs again on 35 minutes who will probably feel he maybe should have added a third for Brig. As superb through ball sent the Brig striker racing towards goal, he side stepped the keeper but couldn’t get the ball out of his feet on the sticky surface, he twisted and turned as the home defence closed him down, the ball eventually being grabbed by the keeper and the chance was gone.
With half time approaching Brig broke out of defence and swarmed over the half way line with a 3 against 3 situation, unfortunately an attempted square pass was overhit and the ball rolled out for a throw in, at which point the referee signalled half time. Brig leading 2-1 and certainly the best 45 minutes played on the road so far this season.
As expected the hosts came out traps quickly at the beginning of the second half and Brig had to withstand some concerted pressure. The Lancashire Lads weathered the storm and started knocking the ball around again. A move down the left saw the ball played square to Lewis Thompson who fired in a low shot that was deflected wide of the post. Moments later and Harry Benns was found on the edge of the box, he side stepped the defender before firing in a hard low shot, the home keeper doing well to save and keep hold of the ball.
On 55 minutes Brig struck the woodwork for a second time. Harry Scarborough curling a superb shot from the edge of the penalty area that beat the keeper all ends up as he stood and watched the ball crash back off the bar. The curl Scarbs got on the ball was incredible and he was so unlucky not to extend the Brig lead.
Bamber Bridge were back on top and in full stride as Harry Benns won a corner from a smart move down the left channel, the corner was headed out but only as far as Jack Baxter who cut inside and unleashed a powerful drive, that the keeper could only parry, the rebound being fired over the crossbar.
On 65 minutes Brig made two changes, Mackenzie O’Neil and Sam Billington making way for Louis Holt and Danny Edwards. Unfortunately, before either player could settle into the game, in fact, almost immediately, The Robins drew level for a second time. A quick attack down the left, the ball delivered into the box and the Ashton No.7 Byrne, controlled the ball before firing a shot across the Brig keeper and into the bottom corner for his and The Robins second gaol.
The game was now in the balance with the home side sensing the chance of grabbing an unlikely winner. Brig rallied though and Michael Potts saw a shot curl over the bar after neat footwork got him into a shooting position at the left edge of the penalty area. Scarbs then won a free kick close to the corner flag, Potts played it into the feet of the advancing Chris Churchman who struck hard and low, the ball unfortunately hitting Harry Scarborough and rolling out for a goal-kick.
The game was swinging from end to end with both sides looking for the winner, and with 6 minutes time added on the home side came close from a left sided corner, a snap shot looked to be heading for the back of the net but was superbly cleared off the goal-line. In the last minute of stoppage time and Brig on the attack a challenge on Harry Benns left the Brig forward clearly in some distress on the ground. There was absolutely no malice in the challenge and it was clearly accidental but Harry needed to be stretchered off the pitch with what we believe to be ankle ligament damage. We all wish him a swift recovery.
The referee called full time virtually straight from the bounce ball restart and the points were shared. An excellent and entertaining match and a good point for Bamber Bridge from a really good team performance. After a run of seven away games from the last eight, Brig can now look forward to a rare Saturday home match next weekend as they entertain Basford United at The SFC stadium.
Match reporter: Alan Bateson