North West Counties League

Ryan Small in action for Wigan Robin Park
Ryan Small in action for Wigan Robin Park
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WIGAN Robin Park had to settle for a point in their top-of-the-table clash against Norton United on Saturday as the game finished 1-1.

The Robins will feel disappointed, however, as they dominated the possession, had far more chances and missed an early penalty.

In a strong swirling wind Wigan were first out of the blocks and Steve Edwards should have done better on ten minutes but he headed over from six yards.

Four minutes later Edwards latched onto a through-ball, pushed it past the keeper, only to be brought down by the Norton custodian Lloyd Parry.

The referee pointed to the spot but after speaking to his assistant spared Parry an early exit and showed him a yellow card to disbelief from the vocal Robins’ crowd.

Shaun Judge – who has never missed a penalty for Wigan – stepped up but put his effort wide of the left post.

The miss didn’t affect the Robins as they continued to press forward with Sean White and Adam Howard combining superbly on the left flank.

Chris McNally went close and Judge tried to make amends with a long-range shot, before McNally put Park ahead on 35 minutes.

Ben Kay collected the ball on the right and delivered a super cross that McNally met with his head to hammer home.

From the restart Norton had their first attack of the game when they carved open the Robins before Tom Winkle brought a world-class save out of Jay Foulds as he tipped the ball over the bar.

With the game entering stoppage time in the first half an apparently harmless Norton attack ended with Lee Crompton handling the ball to give away a penalty.

Winkle stepped up to undeservedly put the visitors back on level terms.

The second-half continued in the same vein with the Robins’ fluent football creating chances for Edwards, McNally and White, but all couldn’t quite finish.

On 65 minutes Robins’ talisman Ryan Small came on as substitute for his first senior start – after breaking his foot in five places – for 15 months.

His immediate contribution was to nutmeg a Norton player before putting a neat ball through for White whose finish was just wide.

As the game entered the last ten minutes McNally was denied when Parry saved at his feet, while at the other end Foulds had to be at his best to deny Paul Rutter a Norton winner.

However the last word went to Small who had a glorious chance to cap his return with a winner but snatched at his shot and put the ball wide of the upright.

After the game Robins boss John Neafcy praised his players.

He said: “I just told the lads to believe in themselves, put last week’s defeat behind them and play like they and I know they can.

“I thought the back four were tremendous and that gave us a platform to build on, and I think everybody at the game realises we deserved to win it.”

Tonight the Robins are at home to AFC Darwen in the Divisional Cup. Kick-off at the Arena is 7.45pm.

On Saturday they return to league action when they visit near neighbours Daisy Hill [3pm], before the Robins turn all attention to their Lancashire Trophy semi-final on Wednesday, January 18.

LAST weekend was one of mixed fortunes for Premier Division Ashton Athletic. The first team’s home game against Padiham saw Steve Wilkes’ side humbled 3-1 in awful blustery conditions, while the reserve side travelled to east Lancashire to play the reverse game.

However, they only managed a 2-2 draw despite taking the lead within the first five minutes.

The result still saw Athletic move to the top of the North West Counties Reserve League.

The most dramatic win of the weekend saw Dave Powell’s Athletic Under-17s Youth Development squad win a penalty shoot-out 9-8 against Atherton Town in the South Lancs Cup quarter-final, after the game finished 2-2 in normal time.

ELSEWHERE in the NWCL first division on Saturday, Ashton Town went down 2-1 at home to Chadderton as Harry McGill netted.