Bridlington Town 1
Northern Counties East League
IF MITCH Cook went to a casino on Saturday night, it was a sure bet that he would have won.
On the tables you need a mix of skill and luck, and on Saturday afternoon the Town manager proved he had both.
At 0-0, and desperately needing a goal, it is a brave manager who removes his two leading scorers and his most creative midfielder. That bravery either turns out to be genius or foolishness, and here it was proved to be a masterstroke.
With Craig Hogg and Josh Greening, and their 34 league goals this season, withdrawn, Billy Logan, who had been shunted up front to replace them, bundled in a winner with five minutes to spare.
A crucial goal as it took the Seasiders back to the top of the league, and with three of the top six losing, it means Town must now be bookie’s favourites to win the title.
All their rivals have played more games, and Staveley who are perhaps best placed to ruin Bridlington’s dreams, still have the distraction of the FA Vase.
In truth, the result was harsh on Liversedge who more than matched the hosts for an hour and looked to be comfortably holding on for a point as their ambitions reined in as the game was in its dying stages.
Logan was the hero with another late winner, something he is making a habit of, but in the first half it was a new face at the other end of the pitch, who earned the plaudits. With regular keeper Mark Wilberforce unable to change work shifts and his deputy Paul Fraser away, in stepped Ben Escritt, an unknown name to most in Queensgate, but he looked assured in the number one jersey.
Within three minutes he made an excellent dive to cut out a dangerous low cross from the left by Alex Hallam.
His opposite number Daniel Knight set the tone for the afternoon when he redeemed himself after a dodgy kick by turning Tom Fleming’s measured effort from the edge of the area round the post and then confidently collecting the corner.
Escritt endeared himself to the home fans further when he stood tall and blocked with his feet as Robert Boardman was one-on-one, and Liversedge were looking useful opponents, working hard and neat in possession.
Town had not played for two-and-a-half weeks and it showed, with most of the team looking rusty. Operating with Craig Palmer as a deep midfielder, behind Fleming and Nathan Cook, they were struggling to get enough bodies forward - a point emphasised when Logan flashed a cross-shot across the goal but there was no-one within yards of it to tap home.
Greening produced an acrobatic effort which tested Knight and Frank Belt stung his palms with a 30 yard free kick, which although fierce was straight at the keeper.
Escritt parried away another teasing cross after a mistake by Belt gave Liversedge a break down the right, and half-time arrived with the visitors looking good value for a point.
Brid made a tweak at half time, dropping Palmer back into a three-man defence alongside Wayne Aziz and Chris Jenkinson, who was making his home debut. This gave the full backs licence to push forward more but it brought no more joy than the first half.
On the hour mark, Craig Suddaby replaced leading scorer Hogg, who had been fairly anonymous, allowing Palmer to reacquaint himself with the striker’s role he played during his early days at Queensgate.
A great 60-yard pass by Cook freed Belt and his cross was met by another acrobatic attempt by Greening, and again Knight was equal to it, and he made another impressive save from the resulting corner.
Plan B seemed to have worked on 66 minutes when Palmer nodded in a deep free-kick at the back post but referee Michael Connell spotted a push elsewhere in the area.
And so to Plan C, which was removing Greening, bringing on Joe Danby at right back and letting Logan bring a fresh challenge to the Liversedge defence. Minutes later James Bennett made way for Stuart Rice.
By this stage, the away team were looking content with a point, but earlier in the half Boardman had curled a shot wide from 20 yards and Escritt had made another important stop.
Cook missed a header and David Boardman nodded towards goal from four yards out but the keeper stuck out a foot to block.
Into the last 10 minutes and Logan was looking most likely to break the deadlock, heading wide of the far post from a Danby corner, but clear-cut chances were few and far between.
Once Belt had arrowed another long-range shot wide after a quick counter-attack, it seemed Town would have to accept a point. But on 85 minutes, another corner from Danby from the right bobbled around in the six-yard box and Logan stooped to head in from practically on the goalline.
Liversedge’s resistance was finally broken and they had nothing left to throw at the Seasiders in the time that remained. Harsh on them, but you know what they say about teams who play poorly and still win...