Ian Richards had a perfect start as Stocksbridge Park Steels manager after they beat Bridlington Town 2-0.
The scoring was opened when Lewis Whitham curled in after a fantastic attacking move. Luke Mangham doubled the lead in the second half when he volleyed in a perfect cross from Michael Trench.
After a fairly dull start, Bridlington almost made it a nightmare start for Richards. Andrew Norfolk was given all the space and time he could have ever wanted on the left wing and duly picked his man out with his cross. That man was Lewis Dennison and even though he was about two yards out, he headed into the side netting. Daniel Earl also headed over from a lofted cross.
Stocksbridge really should have had the lead moments later. Whitham gathered the ball in the six yard box but heroic defending from the Seasiders kept it out. Whitham got the rebound though but this time goalkeeper James Hitchcock was able to keep it out and make sure the game stayed goalless.
In the last game, Luke Mangham scored twice to down Yorkshire Amateur. Back on form, he wanted to add to that tally. At first it appeared he had a great chance when he was played clear, but his touch took him too wide and he could only shoot into the side netting. Not long after, Mangham came closer when Whitham played it to him on the edge of the box but Hitchcock comfortably saved.
While there was the odd scare from Bridlington, notably when Earl went clear only for Elliott Walker to outpace him and tackle him to stop any threat of a goal, the Steels were in charge. They would have their dominance pay off on the 33rd minute. It was a great move started by Jordan Lemon who found Nathaniel Crofts on the left with a great ball. Crofts cut it back for Michael Trench whose cross was not dealt with. Whitham gathered the ball and curled it in to give Stocksbridge the lead.
Stocksbridge looked to get a second before half time. Whitham almost had a second when he fizzed a shot right across the face of goal. Unfortunately, it went wide after no one got a deciding touch on it. Trench also had a free kick but he hit it against the wall and Stocksbridge would head into half-time with a one goal advantage.
The second half started off on a bad note. Walker suffered a clash of heads and was down for some time before he was forced to be stretchered off, with the crowd giving a big round of applause as he was taken back to the dressing room.
After that, the Steels side did look a bit shaken and Bridlington tried to take advantage of that. They started to have more of the ball and more of the chances, though nothing really clear cut. Much like the match against Yorkshire Amateur, they had plenty of the ball but didn’t cut through a solid Stocksbridge defence. The closest Bridlington came was from a corner which found its way through everyone before Jack Bulless fluffed his lines for the visitors. There was also alarm when Stocksbridge struggled to clear a Brid cross, but the resulting shot was well blocked by Reece Fielding.
Bridlington would soon learn the harsh lesson that if you don’t score, you’ll soon be punished. And that’s what happened. Trench put in a fantastic cross which Mangham volleyed in from the far post to double the Steels lead.
The Seasiders would get back into it and had a few near misses of their own. Earl caused a few ooos when his long range shot was a lot closer than it seemed, though it still went over. Trench followed up his two assists with a goal saving tackle as well with Earl looking certain to score when he went clear on goal.
The Steels did make a couple of mistakes which could have gone badly had Bridlington took advantage. A Brid corner was almost converted by one of the Steels own players as it ricocheted off a few before eventually being cleared. That was followed by a cross which Hall couldn’t claim and that would end up being headed wide.
While Bridlington were doing very well, Stocksbridge still showed some threat. They almost had a third when Scott Ruthven’s shot was blocked from close range and the rebound got stuck underneath Whitham’s feet. While it didn’t end in a goal, it kept Bridlington honest.
The clean sheet was kept though when Hall, who had not had much to do for the first 80 minutes, ended up on top when he dueled with Bridlington manager Brett Agnew. Twice, Agnew had close range chances which most fans had accepted were going to go in. Twice, Hall pulled off blinding reflex saves which made sure Bridlington’s total stayed as a zero. This would seal the game for Stocksbridge and made sure Ian Richards won his first game as Stocksbridge manager.
MOTM: Ed Hall