A disappointing and frustrating afternoon for the Silkmen saw them hand the initiative to Holywell in the Cymru North title race, as they went down 1-0 in this Flintshire derby encounter. This result leaves the Wellmen firmly in the driving seat, and Flint know there is little room for any more slip ups in their remaining games if they want to keep the pressure on. Their only two league defeats, in an otherwise impressive campaign so far, have come at the hands of both of their main title rivals, at Airbus and Holywell, within the space of a few weeks, and could ultimately prove very costly. And in both of these games, the performance levels fell far short of the standards we have set ourselves, which is perhaps the most disappointing aspect.
For long periods of this game, we were very much second best to a Holywell side that played to their strengths and the conditions, and we were simply unable to get any momentum going. Having said that, we still managed to create a few good chances, and could have maybe snatched a draw with more clinical finishing. But at the other end we were also indebted to Rhys Williams for producing some excellent saves to keep us in the game at 1-0.
That all important goal for the home side arrived on 13 minutes, and was a soft one from a Flint point of view. Following an attack from the home side, the ball was cleared to just outside the box, and was picked up by Morgan Murray who hit it low back into the danger area. It evaded several defenders and fell to Jamie Breese who was on hand to tap it home from close range.
Flint continued to hand the initiative to Holywell by sitting deep and allowing them time and space to play out from the back. Breese almost doubled his tally on 28 minutes when he seized on a defensive slip wide on the right, and shot across goal only to see his effort slide just past the post.
Ten minutes later, Rhys Williams pulled off a fantastic triple save to keep his side in it. Breese had broken through the Flint defensive line, and as he was being closed down, he cleverly squared the ball to the supporting Danny Andrews who looked certain to score. But Williams had other ideas, and produced an excellent block from the initial shot, before reacting well to deny Brady McGilloway the follow up, From this save, the ball flew up into the air, and as McGilloway headed goalwards, Williams recovered quickly to get up, race across his goal and punch clear.
It wasn’t until the final five minutes of the half that Flint managed to create any chances of note, but when they did come, they were perhaps unlucky not to get back on level terms. First, Ben Wynne his a 20 yarder that struck the outside of the post, as the ball came back out to him from a clearance. Then, on the stroke of half time, Elliott Reeves was denied twice in quick succession. Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro slipped the ball into his fellow striker, but Shaun Pearson spread himself to block Reeves’ shot. As the rebound came back out to him, Reeves attempted to take it around the keeper, and as he was being crowded out by another defender just managed to get his shot away. Unfortunately for him, defender Michael Person, was lying prostrate on the goal-line and somehow managed to get his head to the ball to divert it away, in one of the most bizarre clearances you are likely to see. Perhaps that was an omen that it wasn’t to be the Silkmen’s afternoon.
In the second half, the home side set out to kill the game by breaking up play whenever possible, and looking to hit on the break. And this tactic was largely successful, with Flint unable to gain the dominance they wanted.
Two minutes in, a Jake Phillips free kick caught the Holywell defence off guard when he slipped it to Reeves, but once again the forward was foiled, this time by keeper Pearson’s trailing leg, which deflected the ball out as Reeves shot across goal. Having survived that scare, the Wellmen broke to good effect and sent Breese through on goal. Somehow, Williams got a vital touch to send the ball around the post.
Josh Jones was introduced off the bench as Flint looked to force their way back into the game. And no sooner had he arrived on the pitch than he was presented with a great opportunity, as a delivery from Lewis Sirrell picked him out in the middle of the box. He had more time than he realised, and opted to hit it first time, sending his shot over the bar with just Pearson to beat.
Shortly afterwards, Akpa-Akpro seized on a clearance following a free kick, but sent his shot just the wrong side of the post.
Then Breese got free again for the home side, and dragged his shot inches wide of the target, as Williams tried to narrow the shooting angle.
With five minutes remaining, Breese broke through once more, but this time a great last ditch tackle by Paddy Lacey saved the day for Flint.
With the game in added on time, one final chance presented itself for the away side to grab a point, and what a chance it was. The ball was delivered into the box, and in amongst a crowd of players, Sol Forde met it with his head, and to all intents and purposes it looked destined for the top corner, but somehow it ended up the wrong side of the upright, to the despair of the Silkmen and the relief of the Wellmen.
Report by Nigel Sheen. Photos by Damon Mead.] & Geoff Quinn (Full gallery available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/quinnys/albums/ )
Line Ups :
Holywell Town – S. Pearson, M. Hart, R. Edwards, M. Pearson, G. Evans, D. Sullivan, B. McGilloway, B. Cornish (M. Winslade 72), J. Breese (J. Williams 90), D. Andrews (c) (J. Pennington 90), M. Murray. Unused Subs – T. French (GK), S. Kersh, T. Bibby, S. Ashworth
Flint Town United – R. Williams, S. Forde, J. Williams (B. Hughes 74), A. Stephens (c), L. Sirrell, D. Harrison (J. Jones 64), J. Phillips, P. Lacey, E. Reeves, B. Wynne, J-L Akpa-Akpro (H. Peagram 81). Unused Subs – L. Murphy (GK), L. Lacey, M. Burke, M. Roberts
Flint MOM – Rhys Williams (produced some great stops to ensure his side remained in contention)