JUNIOR SPOTLIGHT: Kearsley strike grabs the headlines for Horwich St Mary's against Oxford Grove
IF you ever wanted to see a game packed with excitement, entertainment and lots of goals then you should have been down at Hatfield Playing Fields on Saturday.
There may have been between 20-30 fans on the sidelines but by the noise generated by them, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was a non-league match.
It was an extravaganza that had no room for the fainthearted, such was the frantic pace at the start.
Horwich St Mary’s Pumas started brightly with pacy striker Jude Healy causing all sorts of problems for the Oxford Grove defence.
He forced a save out of Josh Gold with the game only seconds old.
But it was the home side who dominated the early exchanges with striker Lucy Adams hitting the post.
Ali Hussain opened the scoring for the hosts after a minute as he found space on the left and shot into the net.
Josh Roberts had a great chance to equalise but it was well-stopped.
At the other end, Adams was again trying to get her name on the scoresheet but her shot was palmed down beforeHussain doubled his tally to make it 2-0.
St Mary’s battled back and midfield powerhouse Ross Kearsley shot over the bar with a good chance on five minutes.
They did not have to wait long to pull a goal back as Jude Healy showed talent runs in the family, following in the footsteps of his dad Northern Ireland player David Healy, with a fine goal using his electrifying pace on the counter-attack.
They were on level terms shortly after and you can guess who was on the scoresheet...Healy again with a great touch down the wing before blasting the ball home.
At the other end, striker Adams was causing all sorts of problems with her close control. Lucas Brett hit a rasping shot from distance that forced the Horwich keeper Robbie Froggatt into a fine save. He had to be at his best for a 10 minute spell in the first half to keep the hosts out.
However, there was nothing he could do about Jamie Riley scoring.
The first half had a common theme where Oxford Grove would score only for St Mary’s and in particular Healy to score again.
As the break drew close, Healy was stretching Oxford Grove on the counter-attack and created something out of nothing for Ross Kearsley and then another chance no-one was able to finish.
After the interval, St Mary’s came out all guns blazing and got their rewards with a goal by Healy within minutes of the restart.
Then Edward Whittingham was unmarked at the back post to make it 5-3 to the visitors.
During the interval, Oxford Grove coach Mark Horridge made a change with goalkeeper Josh Gold coming out from between the sticks and it was a move that paid off.
The skipper inspired the team to battle back and Huzaifah Rasul got the final touch in a goalmouth scramble with 10 minutes of the half gone.
Adams equalised when Gold’s shot was saved but the lively striker was on hand to score.
Nothing separated the teams at this point but it was up to midfield ‘guvnor’ Kearsley to stamp his authority on the game as well as trying to get on the scoresheet.
Healy was at it again, with another goal to take his tally to five for the morning and he proved that he has great talent in shirking off challenges whilst keeping control of the ball.
At the other end, Gold was doing his best to earn the plaudits and he levelled it at 6-6.
If there was ever going to be a winner in this game, it was going to be a spectacular effort and up popped Kearsley to grab the headlines.
Froggatt launched a huge kick upfield which Kearsley chased and then kept his nerve despite the attentions of the Oxford Grove defence to coolly slot the ball home.
It was a great advert for the Bolton and Bury Junior Football League and there were lots of contenders for man of the match ranging from Oxford Grove’s Adams, Gold and Hussain to St Mary’s Healy, their keeper Froggatt and the engine of the team Kearsley.