February 16, 2013 by Ben Willoughby
Chris Latham’s first goal for Greenalls inspired a second half comeback as PSO collect their third win in as many games.
Robbie Hanley and Ben Slater also scored as the Greens fought back from a poor first half display.
Dave Bush had some late adjustments to make to his starting eleven, with centre back Paul Dobson pulling out of the game with an achilles problem during the warm up.
Young full back Jack Hynes was moved into the middle to partner Jon Shakeshaft who thankfully for the Greens was fit after concerns with his calf. Scott Owen was brought in to the starting lineup as Bush shuffled the pack.
Second bottom Billinge made the early running in the game as Greenalls struggled to get any fluent football going on the small Community Soccer Centre pitch.
The first chance went to the hosts, as midfielder Danny Murphy’s corner was glanced over at the front post by striker Chad Whyte. Greenalls should have heeded this warning from set plays as they were made to pay later in the half.
Greenalls replied with a half chance of their own when captain Mark Hughes pounced on a loose ball in the box, but his snapshot went over the top of Scott Tynan’s bar.
20 minutes in Billinge built up a spell of pressure with a trio of corners taken by James Webb. Greenalls managed to deflect the first two behind, but the third corner told as Nathan Ogden rose highest from six yards out to head home.
It was a frustrating goal to concede from a Greenalls point of view, and their disappointment was being compounded by their inability to keep possession or fashion any chances.
The goal didn’t spark an immediate reaction from Greenalls, and in truth both teams got bogged down by a combination of the slow, small pitch and the midfield congestion. Robbie Hanley was often isolated up front for Greenalls, whilst neither team could seem to keep the ball and build any decent attacks.
It wasn’t until two minutes before half time until Greenalls would threaten Tynan’s goal again, as Hanley won a free kick just to the right of centre of the Billinge goal. Gareth Johns left footed strike was controlled but seen all the way by Tynan and the keeper took the ball comfortably.
Just before half time Billinge could have grabbed what may have been a decisive second goal on two different occasions. First Whyte’s well struck half volley was straight at Craig Clare in the Greenalls goal, and in stoppage time a Webb freekick from a similar distance to Johns’ was bent over the wall but luckily for Greenalls the bar denied him.
Similarly at Pilkington last week, the half time whistle seemed to galvanise Greenalls. Within five minutes of the second period they had carved out their best opening of the game. Hanley’s flick on from Owen’s cross was met by the clever movement of top scorer Slater, but his volley was just too high and landed on the roof of the Billinge net.
Just after this Clare was called upon again, as Murphy squared the ball to Whyte he was one-on-one, but Clare blocked the ball low down in what turned out to be a crucial save.
Slater then went close again for Greenalls as they began to play their football, Hanley’s interplay set Slater up and from 20 yards his shot again was just too high, but you could sense the momentum of the game moving towards the visitors.
In the 66th minute, Chris Latham ventured forward for Greenalls picking the ball up wide on the left. In an almost identical position to hitting the post at Pilkington, this time luck was on Latham’s side, as his swinging right foot cross missed everyone and flicked in off the far post. A sigh of relief on the Greenalls bench and a feeling that now they could go on and win the game. For Billinge, it was a huge test of character as they searched for their first league points in four games.
Greenalls boss Bush then decided to make a double substitution, one of them forced upon him as Johns was forced off with a knock. Danny Topping was also replaced, the two men coming on were Mike Evans and Danny Wilcock. – The latter was to have the final say on the game.
Four minutes after the visitors first, they netted the crucial third goal of the game. Chris Latham’s hanging ball to the back post was met by Hanley who headed back across the keeper and into the corner. – His first goal since rejoining PSO and his first goal since October. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
What followed was a series of tactical tweaks by Bush, as he rejigged his formation and players. Chris Latham ended up at left back and substitute Wilcock was used all across the front line, moving to partner Hanley in a 4-4-2 momentarily but eventually finding joy on the left wing in the more familiar five man midfield.
Eight minutes from time, Wilcock used his deft touch and fizzing pace to whip round Bilinge right back Andy Goulding who had a torrid last 15 minutes. The substitute was too quick and Goulding threw out a leg to take Wilcock down inside the box. The referee had no doubt in pointing to the spot, and as he did the week before, Slater stepped up and scored to give Greenalls a two goal cushion.
Greenalls played out the rest of the game including almost five minutes stoppage time with ease and without trouble. For 45 minutes three points looked to be evading Greenalls, but for successive weeks Bush’s men showed great character and persistence in the second half. Three wins on the bounce in all competitions and Greenalls are now looking up the league table again.