Three points - a present money cannot buy

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Bridlington Town 3

Scarborough Athletic 1

AT THE start of the season, Scarborough Athletic made a very big boast.

They claimed they had ‘the best qualified and most capable management team in the division’, ‘probably the most prolific goal-scoring line up in the Northern Counties East League’, ‘some of the strongest and most creative midfielders, capable of controlling the style and pace of every game’ and ‘a defensive line-up to strike fear into most teams’.

It wasn’t a fan bragging on an internet forum, it was an official club statement. At best, it was foolish, at worst it was breathtakingly arrogant. It also succeeded in writing a team-talk for 19 other managers in this league.

Town chose to do their talking on the pitch, comprehensively beating their tenants with a display which showed the value of team spirit.

They made one change to the team which lost at Winterton before Christmas, Danny Brunton dropping to the bench and Billy Logan replacing him, which meant Frank Belt switching to an unfamiliar left-back role against the team he left a month ago.

On the bench was new signing Stuart Rice, who arrived having tormented Town as a Pickering player earlier in the season. He was to make the briefest of debuts in the second half.

Queues outside the turnstiles meant kick off was put back 10 minutes, but the delay did not affect the Seasiders, who launched the first attack of the game. Josh Greening made a foray down the right wing and won a corner, which was neatly worked back to Nathan Cook to try his luck from long-range, but his shot lacked power and was straight at Ed Eley.

With a 112-day ban looming over Boro’s danger man Ryan Blott, everyone was expecting him to do all he could to sign off in style. His chance came inside the first 10 minutes, when he wriggled free inside Brid’s penalty area and bobbled a shot away, which beat Mark Wilberforce but bounced back off the far post.

The game struggled to settle in the opening stages, with Boro keen to hit early balls to Blott and Brid’s passing game stuck in second gear.

And then the league’s leading scorer Craig Hogg burst into life. First, he pulled down Craig Palmer’s long ball but his acrobatic attempt at goal drifted wide.

Two minutes later he opened the scoring. With his back to goal, he let a pass from the right wing run across his body before turning and hitting a ferocious shot past Eley for 20 yards.

Boro replied immediately, winning a corner, and Chris Jenkinson got his head to Paddy Miller’s delivery, but Wilberforce scooped up his effort. It was the only time the visitors hit the target in the first hour.

Blott miskicked after a long ball was allowed to bounce on the edge of the area and Dean Windass fired a free kick into the wall, as the away team enjoyed possession but couldn’t convert territory into a decent chance.

At the other end, Gary Hepples made a crucial header inside his own six-yard box after good link-up play between Wayne Wallace, Greening and Hogg.

With Eley’s confidence seemingly in pieces after, Boro threw away a 3-1 lead to lose to Barton in their previous game, Brid continued with a shoot-on-sight policy. Wallace’s persistence set up Hogg, who blasted over the bar.

Boro were also shooting from distance, but more as a result of the dominance of Craig Palmer and Wayne Aziz in the heart of Brid’s defence. Blott’s shot was blocked and ex-Brid midfielder Nick McNamara was twice off-target.

On 39 minutes, the hosts doubled their lead. Wallace won the ball on the right flank, and found Ash Allanson who fizzed a shot into the bottom corner past Eley, who hardly moved.

Billy Law shanked a shot wide but Brid had the last effort of the half, when Hogg underlined Eley’s lack of self-belief by watching as he nervously beat away a shot which he should really have caught.

The same two players continued their battle at the start of the second half. Greening should have put the game out of reach when he ran on to Tom Fleming’s through ball but he couldn’t beat Eley and Hogg scuffed the rebound with the goal gaping, allowing the keeper to smother.

No such luck for Boro on 56 minutes. They looked for an offside flag, after Allanson split their defence, but a well-positioned linesman kept his flag down. Again, Eley saved the first attempt, but Hogg made no mistake second time around.

It was Town’s eighth goal without reply against their neighbours in 2011 and a repeat of March’s 5-0 drubbing was looking more likely than any of their fans could have imagined.

The visitors were reeling and it could have been worse as Billy Logan tumbled to the ground inside the area, but the penalty appeals were more in hope than expectation.

On 60 minutes, Windass made way for Jimmy Ghaichem after a dismal display lacking in any sort of effort. If a 42-year-old showing so little interest is the answer, what is the question?

Boro began to create more chances as they threw Tony Hackworth up front. The captain was head and shoulders above anyone else in a white shirt and went close twice in a minute, first forcing Wilberforce into a comfortable save and then heading over the bar from a long throw-in.

He then had a goal disallowed after ref Paul Thompson spotted a push in Palmer’s back.

Then came the referee’s big decision of the day. New signing Rice entered the field of play on 73 minutes and left it 60 seconds later, shown a straight red card for a lunge on Miller.

It was late, if only slightly, rather than malicious, but Miller was left with the stud-marks to show the referee as evidence.

It must be a record as one of the shortest debuts in football history.

Boro tried to rally against 10 men, but lacked the quality, and more worringly, the heart to make much of an impact. Wilberforce produced an incredible save from sub Chris Hewitt, but an offside flag had already been raised.

With five minutes to go, they did get a consolation, as Hackworth bundled the ball home from three yards from Hewitt’s cross.

Still, no fightback emerged, in fact it was Brid who went closest to adding to the score in injury time as Cook forced Eley into action again.

By derby standards it had been reasonably tame. Bridlington had won easily without being close to their best and again showed their ability to bounce back after a bad result.

For Athletic, it was a third defeat in a row. They may beat Bridlington in the return fixture in three weeks, they are not out of the title race.

But those pre-season words are looking sillier than ever.

Player ratings, fans’ reactions and pictures from the derby in Thursday’s Free Press