Bridlington Town 4
Barton Town Old Boys 0
Northern Counties East League
THE SIGHT of an ambulance on a football pitch will always mar anything that happens before or after.
So, while Town quietly and very efficiently sneaked their way to the top of the table, the afternoon will always be remembered for an horrific injury to Barton midfielder James Tomlinson.
A former Seasiders player, he suffered a broken tibia and fibula in an innocuous looking collision with Ged Dalton early in the second half.
The reaction of his team-mates told you something awful had happened and Tomlinson lay motionless on the pitch while he was treated by physios and then paramedics, before being taken to hospital by ambulance.
Sadly, that will be the lasting memory of this game - rather than the four excellent goals Town manufactured to put them into pole position.
Missing striker Craig Hogg, and with playmaker Ash Allanson only arriving in time for a place on the bench, Town seemed to be a little low on firepower.
But Robbie Hawkes stepped up with a sizzling first-half display and visitors keeper David Bramley will not have many busier afternoons this season. His first test was to parry an effort from Hawkes who tricked his way into a shooting position.
The pace of Hawkes and Josh Greening saw Town get in behind the Barton defence on numerous occasions but they weren’t able to fashion a clear-cut opening in the early exchanges.
Barton’s Ashley Lattimore showed quick thinking when he latched on to a weak Billy Logan header and tried to lob Mark WIlberforce first time, but his effort was too strong.
And in a flash, the hosts were ahead. Hawkes had shied out of a challenge with Bramley but made amends within 60 seconds.
He flicked the ball over full back Andy Williamson on the halfway line, raced clear and played in Tom Fleming, who struck the ball across Bramley and into the far corner.
A poor kick by Bramley allowed Hawkes to jink his way forward and smash a shot which the keeper beat away before he produced a double save to deny Greening.
The first was the most impressive, as he leapt to his left to push out a shot from the edge of the area.
A last-ditch intervention by Chris Garth stopped Greening from rounding off a lovely four man move, then Craig Palmer made an equally important intervention at the other end - an immaculately-timed tackle stopping Declan Marshall as he eyed a one-on-one opportunity.
On 40 minutes, a beautifully crafted move doubled Town’s lead, as Greening and Dalton linked up and Bennett had a simple task to tap into an unguarded net.
Barton responded by throwing on former Brid striker Gareth Owen before the break, but the momentum was with Town. Bramley likes to add showmanship to his goalkeeping, but it was effective as he thwarted Greening, after Fleming had powered down the left to latch on to a neat reverse pass by Hawkes.
The second half was just seconds old when Tomlinson slumped to the ground and the match was halted for 30 minutes.
The game resumed in a sombre atmosphere, but with Bridlington looking far more likely to score than concede. Former Town favourite Ash Dexter made a good block to deny Greening, when he had broken the offside trap and Bramley made a good save at his near post to deny Logan, who had grown into his role at right back as they game progressed.
Bennett headed off his own line as Barton managed a rare attempt on goal from a corner, before Tom Fleming was booked for dissent, although on this occasion he was penalised for a perfectly good tackle.
Another questionable decision followed, when Bennett saw a goal disallowed for offside. Six or seven passes led to Bennett being in the clear, but the flag went up, even though he had run from deep, and perhaps it was Greening who had caught the linesman’s eye, despite not touching the ball.
Another big call for the officials came on 71 minutes. Logan cushioned a ball on his chest expertly and got in ahead of sub Matt Hanson. Into the penalty area he charged, inviting a push in the back, which duly arrived as Hanson chased back.
Linesman Darren Whatling eventually put his flag across his chest and Nathan Cook drilled his penalty, left-footed, into the bottom corner.
Fleming was replaced before he added more games to his impending four-game suspension and new recruit Joe Danby made his first appearance of his second stint at Queensgate.
Barton’s best chance of the afternoon passed when Danny Brunton cleared off the line, Wilberforce made an excellent block from the rebound and then wriggled the ball out for a corner as he lay on the floor.
With the clock nearing 5.30pm, Town added a fourth. More great passing saw Hawkes race into the box. He deserved a goal for his efforts, but unselfishly squared for Josh Greening, to side foot home.
Barton and Hall Road, two teams who came to Queensgate and won in cup competitions in the first month of the season, have returned in the league a few weeks later and been seen off 4-0.
That, is what you call progress.