Stocksbridge Park Steels came close but were not able to pull off a spirited comeback in a 2-1 loss to rivals Frickley Athletic.
In front of the best crowd of the season for Stocksbridge, Frickley took the early lead through a break finished off by Nyle Blake. They doubled the lead just after the start of the second half thanks to a Piteu Crouz stunner.
Last time out, the Steels got off to a great start. This time, it was the opposite. Not long after showing his threat by turning and shooting just wide, Blake burst through the Steels defence, evaded some challenges before firing past Ed Hall for the early Frickley lead. Stocksbridge got one back through a poacher’s finish by Luke Mangham but were not able to get that vital equaliser.
What became frustrating for Stocksbridge was that they would get a lot of the ball for the first half but not be able to do anything with it. They would regularly have over 60% possession but the Frickley defence was well organised and stood firm to stop any obvious opportunities. One long spell of possession where Stocksbridge tried to find a breakthrough ended with Kurtis Turner hitting well over.
Frickley had a game plan to work on the counter attack. It worked on their first goal and it almost worked for a second. Kegan Everington robbed Lee Cooksey of the ball and got all the space in the world to run at goal. Eventually he took his shot but it was at the near post and Hall saved it.
Stocksbridge did have a few half chances to get level. Josh Nodder surprisingly crossed a free kick in rather than having a shot and it almost paid off. Reece Fielding’s header however was right at Jordan Peirrepoint. Ross Goodison rose well to meet the end of a lofted cross as well but that would go wide.
The Steels did almost get one right before half time though. From their own counter attack, they played some very good football to finally break through and create an opportunity. It fell to Luke Mangham who unfortunately volleyed over, meaning Stocksbridge were one down at the break.
Frickley came out firing looking for a second goal in the second half. Crouz came very close with his cross-cum-shot which rebounded off the free kick. Michael Hollingsworth wasn’t far off later when his volley went over the bar, though the less said about Daniel Burns shot the better as that ended up in the gardens at the back of the Eco Power Environmental Stadium.
The visitors would make this pressure pay. Crouz cut in and curled the ball into the top corner in a goal that even some home fans might have to begrudgingly admire.
Stocksbridge needed to do something to get back into this game. Joe Lumsden was brought on for extra firepower and some chances did follow. Mangham’s flick-on header was close to a goal with Nodder trying to race onto it while Scott Ruthven looked to catch out the keeper by taking an early shot though that ended up wide.
In the end, it was the former Frickley man who got Stocksbridge back into this. It was a fantastic ball into the box for Mangham to head towards goal. That initial header was saved but Peirrepoint didn’t hold onto it and Mangham showed his fox in the box tendencies by getting onto the rebound and smashing it in.
With a goal in their pockets, Stocksbridge looked to get the goal that’d grab an unlikely point. A whipped in free kick was volleyed wide from a narrow angle by Joe Lumsden while a turn and shot by Nodder had the pace and power but not the direction needed to take it into the back of the net.
Controversy blighted the end of the game. Kurtis Turner took a shot from distance and it was well saved by Peirrepoint. Jack Tinker latched onto it and finished, sending the home fans into delirium and making a hero out of the new signing. However, the linesman ruled for offside and it was chalked off, much to the anger of the home fans and anyone of a Stocksbridge persuasion. This ruling meant there wouldn’t be any points for Stocksbridge in this match.
MOTM: Kurtis Turner