Garstang recorded their fifth consecutive league and cup victory against Longridge Town with a 3-0 win at the Mike Riding Ground on Boxing Day.
As has been the case all season, the Riversiders seem to play their best football against the stronger sides and will always be very competitive against anyone when at their best.
With Tom Graham serving the first of his three-game suspension, Tom Entwisle was recalled to the starting XI and Jake Salisbury up front as Ric Coar was unavailable.
Right from the kick-off, both teams set their stall out with Longridge playing three at the back while Garstang were set up to counter at speed with Salisbury up front alone but with Jonny Hothersall and Ben Roberts pushed well forward to play off him.
Lee Baker’s plan proved to be a masterstroke and was brilliantly executed as Longridge kept losing possession in their own half during the opening period, allowing Garstang to press them high up the pitch.
The Riversiders took the lead after five minutes when a half-hit backpass was intercepted by Salisbury, who calmly went around the keeper and sidefooted home.
Garstang looked dangerous with every attack as Roberts got free and played in Shaun Sailor, who was crowded out before he could get a clean shot away.
Longridge were, however, seeing more of the ball and when they moved the ball quickly, they were always looking dangerous.
A swift counter-attack saw a shot from the right fly past Will Kitchen’s far post with very little margin to spare.
Garstang almost extended their lead when Hothersall got behind the home defensive line and drew the keeper but his shot was somewhat telegraphed and the shot was comfortably saved.
However, any disappointment was shortlived when Jack Bennett hit a pass inside the full-back, which was flicked on by Salisbury, and Hothersall finished superbly to give Garstang a deserved two-goal lead.
Understandably Longridge responded and pressed hard to get back in the game but the Riversiders’ defence was resolute as Cam Ross and Kieran O’Connor were at the top of their game with Jack Swindlehurst and Dan Birch also performing superbly.
At the other end, Roberts’ pace and Salisbury’s intelligent, powerful running caused Longridge problems.
After another quick counter-attack, Salisbury shot ito the side netting after good work from Roberts as Garstang led 2-0 at half-time.
The sizeable travelling support expected a reaction from the home side and the first 25 minutes of the half saw Longridge put Garstang under a lot of pressure.
The home side pushed Richie Allen further forward and started to try and get behind the Garstang full-backs.
Bennett and Sailor were superb in midfield, breaking up play and launching quick counter-attacks but Longridge started to press a lot higher up the pitch and looked dangerous.
Baker replaced Entwisle with Phil Nagy and Swindlehurst was pushed into midfield to provide added protection in front of the defence.
Longridge thought they had reduced the deficit when the ball came off the post and the rebound was turned in by a player clearly offside.
Kitchen was called into action a number of times, making three vital stops, and with Garstang players throwing their bodies in the way of goalbound efforts, it was never going to be Longridge’s day.
As the match entered the last 20 minutes, the game became more stretched which created more space for Garstang’s rapid counter-attacks as Salisbury went close with a couple of good efforts.
The game ended as a contest when Garstang scored the third goal as Salisbury got to the byline close to the goal and pulled the ball back for substitute Billy McKenna to fire home and give the Riversiders an unassailable three-goal lead.
Longridge continued to press for a goal but, front to back, Garstang were immense and were able to withstand any further pressure.