An ultra competitive day in the SportsReach Football League saw the league’s top two go head-to-head in addition to a couple of other closely fought matches.
Separated by just a single point ahead of the game, reigning champions Lancaster traveled to free-scoring Great Eccleston for their third and final league meeting of the season – and one that could prove pivotal in the race for the league title. The two previous encounters had been suitably tense and frenetic with an early-season 4-4 draw that saw Lancaster equalise in stoppage time before the most recent meeting where Lancaster struck late to win 3-2. What would the third fixture have in store? The answer: a five-goal thriller. It was the away side who struck first through Tom Luxton, firing home his 16th of the season in all competitions and after a tense first-half, it remained 1-0 to Lancaster at the break. Knowing that their season might just rest on the next 45 minutes, Great Eccleston came out all guns blazing and equalised through Jack Sharples after 64 minutes. Momentum had shifted and Eccy completed a quick-fire turnaround by scoring again five minutes later, this time through midfielder Tom Shields. With ten minutes to go, the next goal would prove decisive and it was Great Eccleston who grabbed it through Sam Kelsall, to spark joyous celebrations. Lancaster typically came roaring back, showing the resilience and spirit which has made them such a strong and successful outfit in recent years, and captain Martin Lewis struck with three minutes left to provide hope of a comeback. But it wasn’t to be… Lancaster succumbed to their first league defeat in 21 months – a phenomenal record – as Great Ecc grabbed three crucial points to move top of the table.
Elsewhere, there was a rollercoaster of a match at Quernmore with Loko the visitors. The home side took the lead on 17 minutes through Will Fielding but Loko were quickly back on level terms by virtue of an own goal before taking the lead through Glen Hamner before half-time. Loko increased their lead on 65 minutes with Tom Atkinson grabbing his third goal in two games – giving the away side a 3-1 lead. But Quernmore refused to give in and staged a terrific late comeback scoring three goals in the final 15 minutes through Will Fielding again, Rob Barker and a 90th minute winner from (old stager!) Mike Thornton.
Finally, third-placed Fulwood traveled to Wray looking to make it three league wins on the trot. In a tight encounter with defences on top, it wasn’t until the final ten minutes when the game really came to life as Wray player-manager Mark Ellershaw struck his fourth of the season to give the home side a late 1-0 lead. However, a dogged and determined Fulwood side rescued a point in the closing stages thanks to a sixth goal of the season from Matty Leach.
League Results – Saturday 21st January 2017
Great Ecc 3-2 Lancaster
Jack Sharples 64, Tom Shields 69, Sam Kelsall 78 // Tom Luxton 27, Martin Lewis 87
Quernmore 4-3 Loko
Will Fielding 17, 76 Rob Barker 88, Mike Thornton 90 // o.g. 25, Glen Hamner 36, Tom Atkinson 60
Wray 1-1 Fulwood
Mark Ellershaw 80 // Matty Leach 87