Stocksbridge Park Steels started their pre-season campaign with a 1-1 draw against Retford United.
The Steels got the opener in the first half when Declan Slater tapped in after initial good work from Josh Nodder. Retford’s equaliser came just a few minutes in the second half when Jonathan Fusco slammed in from close range.
With this being Stocksbridge’s first game of pre-season, and Retford’s second, it was probably no surprise that it took a while for the Steels to get going. But when they did find the necessary rhythm, it was all Stocksbridge in the first half.
The game was sparked into life by Nodder. He showed some clever footwork to escape his marker on the right wing and get some space. He played a great low cross into Luke Mangham whose powerful shot was blocked. Mangham did get to the loose ball but couldn’t connect properly and Retford were able to clear.
The first goal looked likely to be Stocksbridge as they came close to scoring again. A Nodder corner almost looked like going in by itself only to be clawed away by the Retford goalkeeper Josh Womack while good play by Mangham on the right meant he was able to play a square ball to Slater who hit just wide.
The goal eventually came on the 20th minute. Nodder caught a Retford defender unawares and robbed the ball off him. No defender came close to him as he ran from the centre to the right wing before cutting inside. He tried curling the shot into the bottom corner but Womack was able to palm that out only for Slater to be there. He gratefully took the present and slammed it in for the opener.
Stocksbridge could have a second before the half was over. Lewis Whitham got the ball from 30 yards and did well to get the space and the ball out of his feet so he could fire an powerful shot. The only thing more impressive then Whitham’s skill and shot was the save which kept it out. Womack continued to be Stocksbridge’s biggest enemy in the game as he did well to keep Nodder’s free kick out before the half was over.
Retford barely had a sniff in the first half but they made sure to change that going into the second. They started putting serious pressure on the Stocksbridge defence. Danny Booth came close when he headed wide from a corner while Aaron Fell volleyed from inside the box after a good lofted ball, but Hall was able to get a hand to it and get the ball wide.
The goal for Retford followed. They swung the ball in from the left and the ball seemed to be in the box for an age until Fusco was able to smash in from close range.
Retford continued to put the pressure on as they looked to quickly get the lead and turn the tie on its head. Thankfully for Stocksbridge, they were able to hold on and get back into the game. Route 1 football almost paid off as a flick from Hall’s punt up the field found Slater, but he was once again foiled by Womack.
The closest the game got to another goal in a game that fizzled past 70 minutes was shortly after manager Chris Hilton rung the changes and brought three substitutes on. It was one of those subs Tom Whiting who linked well with Nodder down the left hand side to give the winger plenty of space in the box. His shot beat Womack, but not the Retford defender who blocked and it was cleared for a corner. The final chance of note in the game was from this corner as it missed everyone and fell to Robert Ludlam whose shot was saved by Womack, a phrase which ended up being the most said statement at the game.