Ladybridge 2 Haslingden St Marys 1
LADYBRIDGE may not have been at their high-scoring best but managed to grind out a result against one of their main Division Two rivals and stay top of the league.
Heading into the game, the Lostock outfit were the only local side with a 100 per cent record so far in the West Lancashire League.
It was a tag that manager Dave Walker was determined not to lose as he targets promotion with his new-look side.
In a tight first half, there was little between the sides but Ladybridge just edged it in terms of possession and chances though they failed to covert.
Several close offside decisions went against the hosts in a frustrating but entertaining first half.
Gaz Whiteside was a constant threat on the break using his speed well down the left flank to out-pace the centre-halfs.
He was unlucky not to open the scoring when he blazed over midway through the first period.
It had taken the hosts a while to settle into their rhythm in the first 45 minutes but they grew in confidence as the half progressed.
At the back, Paris Nuttall had to be on his guard a couple of time in the early exchanges and pulled off a spectacular stop to keep the scores level at 0-0 at the break.
The defensive quartet of Ross Ellison, Will Robinson, Alex Smith and Liam Green were rarely troubled as Ladybridge looked like a well-drilled outfit.
In the second half, the game continued to be a tight affair but again Ladybridge did most of the pressing.
However, it was visitors who broke the deadlock with a great solo effort curling into the net giving Nuttall no chance on 50 minutes.
Ladybridge responded well and after being denied by three excellent saves from the Haslingden keeper, they finally got back on level terms on the hour mark.
Wing wizard Danny Edmondson raced clear only to be scythed down by the chasing defender.
As the last man the defender was given a straight red and Matty Woods stepped up to fire home the resulting spot-kick with ease.
Ladybridge then pushed on with the man advantage and had multiple chances to go in front, the closest when right-back Alex Smith hit the post after a great run.
Whiteside almost added to his tally of three for the season but he had a goal ruled out for offside.
However, they did not have to wait long to take the lead as midfield dynamo Jordan Coop stepped up to curl home a stunning 25 yard free-kick which was worthy of winning any game.
Ladybridge continued to push and Edmondson had a wonderful chance to put the game to bed three minutes later when sent clear only to see his shot rebound back off the post.
Ladybridge were then reduced to 10 men when Green picked up a second yellow but they held on for the final 10 minutes and could have increased the lead in the final minute when Aaron Thorpe was sent clear only to see his shot saved by the St Mary’s keeper.
It ensured Ladybridge recorded their fourth win in four games.
Manager Dave Walker said: “It was not a fluent performance from the lads but they dug deep and ground out a result against a good, physical side.
“We were missing some of our more experienced players but the result shows the strength in depth we have available at the moment.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Ladybridge had to settle for a share of the spoils in a goalless draw with Furness Rovers as they stayed top of the table.
Walker’s side dominated the game but failed to convert any of the chances that came their way.
The closest Ladybridge came to breaking the deadlock was when Whiteside’s overhead kick was harshly disallowed.
Walker said: “The fact that the team feel a little disapointed with the result shows how dominant we were in the game and also the confidence we have in the squad at the moment.”