Ian Richards suffered his first loss as Stocksbridge Park Steels manager after falling 2-1 at home to Shildon.
The Railwaymen opened the scoring when Alexander White converted after a free kick hit the bar and it fell to his feet. They doubled the lead with a smart finished from substitute Michael Sweet. Stocksbridge made it a tense end for Shildon though after Reece Fielding headed in on the 83rd minute.
Shildon started off as the better side as they looked to prove why they have competing at the top of the table this season. After just a minute, Billy Greulich-Smith, who was coming off the back of a hat trick against Stocksbridge’s neighbors Sheffield FC, fizzed a shot wide when a Stocksbridge header landed at his feet. He was alive again not long after when his flick on inside the six-yard box was pushed onto the post by Ed Hall.
While Stocksbridge were penned back for the first ten minutes, they were able to grow into the game. Lewis Whitham was able to go onto a run though it was well-monitored by the defence so he could only hit it at Shildon keeper Shaun Newbrook. Scott Ruthven’s flick-on would find Joe Lumsden in the box who was then forced wide but was still able to force a smart save from Newbrook.
Both sides had great chances to go into the lead. Dean Thexton had a header that was blocked from going in by Elliott Walker while at the other end a well drilled cross from Josh Nodder missed everyone. Ruthven was able to get a bit of it at the end but couldn’t steer it towards the goal.
In the end, Shildon were able to take the lead. They had a free kick in a perfect position and while Thexton rattled the cross bar with that effort, White was able to follow it up and give the Railwaymen the lead.
The game would settle into a midfield battle for a while with the rain continuing to pour and make life difficult for the players. Despite that, the Steels had the better chances going into the end of the half. Ruthven continued to link up well with Lumsden and sent him through in the box again. The striker managed to hold off some very heavy pressure but Newbrook saved well again.
A big moment was when Ross Goodwin was able to advance into the box and was then tripped in the box. The fans screamed for a penalty but the referee disagreed, booking Goodwin for a dive instead. Whitham and Nodder would have efforts that weren’t too far off after this, but that decision continued to irritate the home fans.
Stocksbridge looked to continue the pressure they had at the end of the first half. Nodder teed up a volley for himself which was deflected into the arms of Newbrook while Whitham went on a run before hitting a shot over.
The best chance came to Whitham when he tackled a defender in the box but his shot from close range was saved and the scramble was eventually collected by the goalkeeper. Not long after, Nodder smartly allow the ball to go through him before drilling a shot just wide.
Shildon were looking to go get that second though and caused the Stocksbridge defence a lot of issues. Reece Fielding had to make a key challenge to stop Thexton from going clear and then White almost got his second after heading a corner goalwards but Sam Finlaw blocked it on the line.
But unfortunately for the Steels, Shildon were able to get that second after catching Stocksbridge on the counter a few times. They fizzed the ball across the box and substitute Sweet hit a powerful shot which left Hall with little chance.
Stocksbridge got right back in it though. The initial corner was cleared but it fell to Nathaniel Crofts who whipped it back in for Fielding who rose highest to nod it in and put the Steels right back into this game.
The Steels piled on pressure looking for a dramatic equaliser but were unable to get it. There were penalty calls when Crofts went down in the box but it wasn’t given and Stocksbridge fell to their first loss since August.
MOTM: Sam Finlaw