Scarborough Athletic 2
Bridlington Town 1
TOWN suffered what could be a knockout blow on Boxing Day as Athletic took the initiative in the NCEL title race
In a relatively tame derby encounter, Bridlington were second best in too many areas, and it would have been a huge injustice had they scrambled a late point.
Winger Ollie Banks’ double meant that momentum is with Boro, who overtook Town at the summit for Christmas and moved clear for New Year.
The Seasiders had enjoyed the upper hand in recent derby battles, winning the last three encounters, but from the off it was clear this was a different Scarborough team to the one which rolled over last season.
The pitch was in remarkably good condition considering the heavy rain of the previous week, but it was still not ideal for a swift passing game. But while Brid seemed to freeze, Boro looked more confident in possession and they would have been out of sight had they not missed a penalty with 25 minutes to go.
Newcomer Banks was lively in his first East Coast derby, Tony Hackworth showed nous and strength but on the whole, Boro’s win was a team effort based upon hard work and doing the simple things right, rather than any great flair.
Wayne Aziz made a good tackle to thwart Hackworth in Scarborough’s first venture towards goal before an offside flag denied Tom Adams a clear shot at goal.
Bridlington’s first tentative steps forward saw Nathan Cook’s cross easily gathered then Carl Stewart headed a difficult chance wide.
Cook picked up the game’s first booking, needlessly shown a yellow card for kicking the ball a matter of yards away after he was penalised.
A horrible mix-up between Frank Belt and Mark Wilberforce almost gifted Athletic the lead, but the full back got himself out of jail, hastily hacking the ball to safety after he had tapped a back pass behind his keeper.
Scarborough had started the better and looked more comfortable on the ball on the heavy pitch. Bridlington seemed to lack belief in their own ability which meant they were hitting uncharacteristic long balls too often.
When they did get the ball down, Josh Greening led a quick break out of their own half, which led to Denny Ingram’s flying header clearing the danger as Craig Hogg waited to pounce on Stewart’s cross.
But it was Athletic who were in control of the game. Ollie Banks blasted over after a knock down by Hackworth, then Aziz was penalised for a foul on the Boro captain, but Sam Denton’s free-kick couldn’t beat the wall.
Belt joined Cook in the book after a lunge near the halfway line, despite not actually connecting with an opponent, but there were few complaints about referee Matt McGrath’s decision to point to the spot on 25 minutes.
With Brid still reeling from his decision not to give Chris Batchelor a free kick, play went on and Banks darted into the box but was pulled back by Tom Fleming. It was something of a surprise that Banks himself put the ball on the spot, but he comfortably found the net, sending Wilberforce the wrong way.
Town could have no arguments about being behind but they did at least try to impose themselves on the game a little more. Greening was looking their biggest attacking threat and he earned a free kick on the by-line which ultimately came to nothing.
A couple of corners were fruitless too but Cook at least managed to fashion Brid’s first shot on target, a low effort blocked by Steve Wilson at his near post.
Denton was booked for arguing when James Bennett tripped Greening, another wholly avoidable card, and then all eyes were on the official again when Ryan Blott tumbled in the area following a corner, but two penalties in one half would really have knocked the stuffing out of Brid.
Ash Allanson sent a 25-yard shot straight into Wilson’s arms, then at the other end Banks’ header was safely fielded by Wilberforce after a deep free kick.
Chris Jenkinson blocked another Hackworth attempt and then Stewart saw yellow for a cynical rake of the studs down Banks’ calf.
A fairly limp first half showing forced Mitch Cook into a change at the break, with his son being replaced by Tom Lee, a change which freed up Batchelor to operate in midfield.
But Boro started the second half looking more likely to find the net. Blott’s low shot was saved by Wilberforce and Bennett spurned a glorious chance on 52 minutes when he fired over after he was set free by Adams.
Town defenders produced a series of blocks as they desperately tried to protect their goal with the home team turning the screw. Adams was a whisker away from turning in Bennett’s low cross at the back post and at 1-0 The Seasiders were still in the game.
They steadied themselves and suddenly it was the Boro defenders called on to earn their keep. Andy Milne headed away a decent Stewart cross and Denton was required to cut out a centre from the opposite flank.
That was to be the big centre half’s last meaningful action of the day as he limped off moments later, following a collision with his own keeper, as both tried to prevent Jenkinson nipping in between them to meet Greening’s cross.
Next came the five-minute spell where the game sparked into life. On 62 minutes Boro seemed to have spurned several chances to get a shot away before Blott worked the ball out to Banks who side-footed past Wilberforce.
Brid needed a quick response and manager Cook raised a few eyebrows by replacing Stewart with ex-Boro striker Scott Phillips. He was straight into the action, launching an effort over the bar from 20 yards after Tom Fleming teed him up.
Then they got a stroke of fortune. A lucky bounce off a Boro defender put Greening in the clear and he thumped the chance past Wilson from 10 yards.
Hopes of a comeback were shattered within 60 seconds when ref McGrath pointed to the spot again. Aziz tripped Blott just inside the box and once again Banks stepped up, looking to complete his hat-trick.
If his first penalty was calm, his second was too casual and Wilberforce dived to his right to keep Brid’s feint hopes of salvaging something alive.
He followed that up with the best save of the day, at full stretch to push Bennett’s curling shot round the post for a corner.
Last season’s match-winner Billy Logan was thrown on for the out-of-sorts Hogg but he couldn’t prove to be a lucky charm this time around. With a little of that luck, someone might have met Belt’s teasing cross which seemed to take an eternity to drift through the area and wide of the far post.
But Brid hardly deserved a draw. Banks had another chance to take the matchball home when he benefited from more good work by Hackworth but was way off target with his finish. Hackworth himself then dragged an angled effort across goal from the corner of the box.
The Seasiders needed to be throwing everything at Athletic, but with 90 minutes up they found themselves penned in their own half. Eventually they broke out and won a corner and a free kick but the quality of the set pieces was, as it had been for much of the afternoon, not up to scratch.
Batchelor and Fleming had last-ditch long range efforts, but one was simple for Wilson and the other sliced wildly wide, as Boro beat their landlords at home in the league for the first time.