TWO goals were enough to see Wigan Robin Park return to winning action against previously-unbeaten Alsager Town in the North West Counties league.
When Phil Howard opened the scoring on 27 minutes the Robins should have already been out of sight as they piled the pressure on from the kick-off.
Ryan Small, Dean Callaway and Howard all had opportunities to open the scoring with the latter missing a glorious chance when – with the open net gaping – he scuffed a shot wide from three yards.
However, moments later last term’s 42-goal hero made amends and got his season’s tally underway when some creative play between debutant Michael Case and Sean White led to him finishing coolly at the back post.
The relief on Howard’s face was replicated on the touchline and in the stands.
This led to more pressure as the Robins continued to cause havoc down Alsager’s flanks.
However, it was the visitors that finished the half the stronger with Robins’ keeper Jay Foulds having to be on his guard to field some long-range efforts.
The second period was all Robins as man-of-the-match Colin Quirk pulled the strings in midfield.
On 67 minutes Quirk found Case with a 50-yard cross-field pass.
The winger controlled the ball, beat his full-back before mesmerising two defenders and then sliding the ball home from 10 yards.
It was a goal that would not have been out of place next door at the DW Stadium.
Howard, Small and substitute Paul Cliffe all went close for Park, but the score remained 2-0 and three vital points were secured.
After the game manager John Neafcy was pleased with his charges’ performances saying: “We were again missing players but the lads who came in did superb.
“Ian Rowlands has only been with us a few weeks, he’s new to the area, just getting to know the lads but today commanded the defence as though he’d been here for years.
“Quirky was a different class in midfield and now Phil Howard’s off the mark - watch him go.”
The Robins have two more home games upcoming.
Tonight (August 20) Colne are the visitors, while on Saturday (August 25) Squires Gate are in town.
Kick-offs are 7.45pm and 3pm respectively.
This Sunday (August 26) the Robins have organised a Summer Fair at the Park Hotel in Bryn.
The event takes place between 11am and 5pm and provides great entertainment for all the family including a bouncy castle, tombola, stock sponging, crossbar challenge, tarot card reading and lots more.
ASHTON Athletic saw off Glossop North End 1-0, while Ashton Town lost 1-0 at Chadderton.
SOUTH LANCS COUNTIES
IN the Premier Division, last season’s champions, Highfield Grange got off to a winning start but had to endure a fight-back from Aspull before running out 5-4 winners thanks in part to a hat-trick from Gaz Evans.
North Star ran out 6-1 winners against Wigan Cosmos with Danny Gurhy also hitting a hat-trick, Halsall won 8-4 at Golborne Parkside, and there were two hat-tricks as Penlake beat Leigh Centurions 11-2.
Orrell Otters came from 1-0 down to beat Goose Green 2-1, Knowsley South ran out 3-1 winners against Horwich St Mary’s while, in Division One, Up Holland Rangers and Horwich St Mary’s Res fought out a 2-2 draw at Chequer Lane.
Ashton Villa twice equalised against Academy Sports before going down 4-2, Orrell Sorrento played hosts to St Cuthbert’s and despite taking a 1-0 lead they lost 5-2 with Ian Ward helping himself to a hat-trick, and Marus Bridge lose 6-2 against Knowsley South Res.
Garswood Utd Youth played hosts to Chequer Lane and triumphed 6-0 in their Division Two clash, Olympic Athletic were 4-1 winners against Aspull Res, Goose Green Res visited Parklands and won 3-0, Orrell went down 4-2 against Forefield Rangers, Up Holland Res came from 2-0 down to claim the points in a 3-2 victory against Standish Park Rangers and three second-half goals by Halsall Res saw them win 3-0 at Ince United.
In Division Three, St Helens Rovers beat Martland Mill 3-1. Mark Grimes put the Mill ahead but goals by Matt Cunningham, Karl Burroughs and Dan Hawkes did the trick for the Saints.
Ormskirk Royals shared the points in a 1-1 draw against PNG Athletic, AFC Rainford ran out 2-1 winners against Hindley Green Spinners and Digmoor Res took the lead against Lower Ince, only for two second-half strikes to deny them.
Mitch FC took an early 2-1 lead against Leigh Rovers but eventually lost 6-3 while St Cuthbert’s Res had a 9-1 win against Wargrave Rovers.
WIGAN AMATEUR LEAGUE Ashton Villa, top of the Northgate Vehicle Hire Division Three, made the trip to newcomers AFC Waterside and honours ended even with a 2-2 scoreline.
Waterside took the lead on 25 minutes when Steve Darton’s cross was headed home by Barry Kenyon.
As half-time approached, Dave Griffiths fired in what looked a certain goal but Waterside defender Dave Long made a brilliant save. Sadly, he was not the keeper and was shown the red card for his pains.
Si Parry converted the resultant spot kick but, amazingly, the 10-men raced to the other end of the field and were awarded a free kick.
Up stepped Turton, whose kick found Darton unmarked to head the home side back in front.
The second half saw Villa score within seconds of the restart when John Peet latched onto a wicked deflection to level matters.
Atherton George thrashed Billinge Community 8-1 with hat-tricks from Andy Tipping and Shaun Campbell, while Sporting Leigh grabbed their first win 5-4 in a thriller at Hurlston Hall.
Last season’s top scorer Martin Foster is back in the groove as his hat trick helped Black Bull beat Farnworth Town 5-2, while a goal each from Daniel Ratcliffe and John Horabin gave Gidlow Res and Winstanley Warriors a point apiece.
The top two faced each other in the Garswood Trophies Premier Division as Standish St Wilfs outpointed Winstanley St Aidans 3-2, AFC Scholes won a thriller at Leigh Rangers 4-3, but spare a thought for Rangers’ Sean Bradbury - who netted a hat-trick and finished on the losing side.
Digmoor got two second-half goals from Paul Sullivan and Steve Tomaselli to see off Shevington 2-0, Downall Green United beat Bickerstaffe 3-1 while Hindley Town came from behind to beat Pemberton 5-1 as Kieron Wright notched two.
Leigh Phoenix top Crystal Leisure Wear.co.uk Division One after a narrow 4-3 win over St Judes, Cherrybrook won 3-0 at Leigh Legion, Standish St Wilfs Res went goal crazy at Goose Green winning 6-2, while Aspull’s James Smith netted twice as his side won 4-2 at Foundry.
Ince just got the better of AFC Tyldesley 3-2 and Winstanley Res continued their good run with a 3-1 win over Ormskirk.
North West Gas and Solar Heating Division Two leaders are newly-promoted AH Leisure, who defeated Leigh Rangers Res 3-2, but Boars Head are second on goal difference after winning their local derby against Lowton Rams by the odd goal in three.
Punchbowl beat Foundry Res 3-1, Digmoor Res slammed Pemberton Res 6-3, Cart and Horses beat bottom side Wigan Rovers Res 4-0, Shevington Res drew 3-3 with Hindley Town’s second string and Bickerstaffe Res beat Up Holland 3-2.