West Lancashire League - Reserve Division 1 Thornton Cleveleys Reserves 1
Garstang Reserves 4
Paul Bailey took his table topping team and very sizeable support to the Fylde coast to take on a Thornton Cleveleys side who were looking to fight off the threat of relegation, so a tough encounter was guaranteed.
Needing just three points from the last four games to win the title, Bailey had the luxury of selecting from an almost full strength squad with just Hay absent from the match squad.
The first half was played at “100 miles per hour” with neither side being able to put their foot on the ball and play stylish, considered football. Whilst the football was not pretty on the eye, Garstang’s work rate was superb from front to back.
Swindlehurst went close with a shot following a goalmouth scramble was well saved. The same player went close again shooting into the side netting from a tight angle following some nice interplay between Panepinto and Fawcett. Crook had a lob well saved when chasing on to a clever Jack header and Fawcett was cynically cut down when through on goal but the referee only brandished a yellow card. Jack fired the resulting free kick high and wide.
There were a number of further half chances for Garstang but nothing clear cut was created. Thornton never really troubled Curwen in the Garstang goal with the Garstang back three of Ireland, Baldwin and Miller in total control. Half time came and the scores were level at 0:0. It was clear Garstang needed to show more composure on the ball in the second half and to try to stretch the game.
Garstang started the second half in control with Taylor winning everything in the centre of midfield. Soon the Thornton keeper was called into action when Panepinto ran through the inside right channel and fired a shot goal bound which was well saved.
In a mad four minute spell starting in the 58th minute, Garstang broke the deadlock when Panepinto powered between the centre backs on to a through ball and got his shot away under pressure but only to see the Thornton keeper make a great save. Swindlehurst reacted first and calmly slotted home the rebound from eight yards to give Garstang the lead. Unbelievably almost straight from the kick off ,Thornton were level when Curwen who has been superb throughout the season misjudged the bounce a of a long punt forward and uncharacteristically allowed the ball to go between his hands into the empty goal and the game was even again at 1-1. From the resulting restart, the ball found its way to Matichechia wide on the wide right position and he whipped in a superb low cross into the six yard box and this was deflected into the goal by an outstretched leg of the Thornton defender to give Garstang the lead again.
Garstang extended their lead further with a carbon copy of their second goal. this time Swindlehurst whipped in a low cross from the right and again this was deflected into the Thornton goal by a defender to make it 3:1 and kill the game as a contest.
There was still time for the best goal of the game when Jack played the ball to Panepinto who in turn laid a great ball into the path of Fawcettt who finished with aplomb to make it 4:1 in Garstang’s favour. Shepherd and Sutcliff replaced Fawcett and Taylor respectively and Garstang played out the final five minutes in total control to secure the necessary three points to be crowned worthy champions with a further three games left to play.
The table does not lie and over the season Garstang have by far been the best side in the top reserve division. The team have been immense this season and without doubt a lot of credit is due to the management team of Bailey and Curwen, who have set the team up tactically smart to win the important games whilst also installing a tremendous work ethic into the team.
Managers Man Of The Match: Andy Ireland
Goal: Swindlehurst ( 58m), Own Goal (61m), Own Goal (68), Fawcett (79m)