Match Preview: Skelmersdale United (A)
Andrew’s Match Preview
Skelmersdale United v Colne
The Community Ground, Burscough
Saturday 4th March - 15:00
Colne travel 43 miles South-West to Burscough to take on fellow Lancastrians Skelmersdale United for a league game in the NPL West.
Skelmersdale United nicknamed the Blueboys, were founded in 1882, and their home ground is the JMO sports park. However, their pitch does not have the required accreditation and despite assurances from their landlords that the pitch would be brought up to standard, this was not followed through, and an agreement was reached with Burscough FC for a groundshare until the pitch standard is met. Their average attendance playing at the Community ground this season is just 170, the lowest in the league. Last season, the Blueboys were promoted to the NPL West after finishing runners up to Macclesfield in the North West Counties Premier division. This earned them an inter step play off away at Cinderford Town, which they comfortably won 5-1. Golden boot winner Michael Howard scored 4 times in the play-off, and he now plies his trade two divisions higher at Warrington Town. Until this season Skem hadn’t played the Reds since 2018/19, when Colne won both games 1-0 at home, and 2-1 away in the Evo-stick league first division west, which saw the Blueboys finish bottom and therefore relegated back to the North West Counties. This season, in the reverse fixture at Holt House back in October, an early goal for each side from Lees and Roberts looked likely to satisfy the two teams, but Skelmersdale don’t do draws and a Michael Grogan volley late on gave them the 3 points.
This season Skem have 39 points from 30 games, winning 13 and losing 17, and they currently sit in 9th place. At home they have beaten Prescot Cables 3-2, Mossley 1-0, Widnes 2-0 and Ramsbottom United 1-0. In the FA Cup, Skem knocked out Padiham in the extra preliminary round 2-1, but were then beaten at home to Prescot Cables 1-3. They were also knocked out of the FA Trophy at the first stage, losing on penalties away at Widnes after a 1-1 draw in 90 minutes. In their last home game, Skem beat bottom of the table Ramsbottom United 1-0, thanks to a Stephen Milne 2nd half goal. Last Saturday they travelled to Newcastle Town, and a Callum Lees strike in the 50th minute gave them their 9th away win of the campaign.
Skelmersdale United players to watch
Former Warrington Rylands lightning winger Elliot Morris, was voted North West Counties Premier player of the season for 21/22 scoring 23 goals and picking up 11 man of the match awards. He’s adapted well stepping up to the NPL West, and has scored 14 times this season in all competitions.
Attacker Stephen Milne joined the club in December from City of Liverpool. The former Warrington Town, Bootle and Rylands player has scored 4 times already in 12 appearances.
James Murphy joined United last month after leaving Ramsbottom. The former Chester youth striker made his name in the Welsh league and has also represented City of Liverpool. He was Rammy’s leading goal scorer this term notching 6 goals.
Joe Herbert has made 30 appearances this season at centre half. Joe has played at this level previously with Prescot Cables and Widnes and he rejoined Skem 3 years ago after a stint in Australia.
Portuguese mercurial midfielder Abdul Djabo has featured 26 times this season for the Blueboys. He began his youth career at Manchester United and Crewe Alexandra, before eventually finding his way to Macclesfield where he was loaned out to Skem for the 22/23 season.
Former England under 17 attacking midfielder Danny O’Brien signed for Skem on a dual registration with Bury in January. Danny was at Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic as a youth and has spent time playing professional football in Finland. The 26 year old has also spent time at Hyde United, Curzon Ashton and Atherton Collieries.
Max McCarthy transferred in from FC United in September. The 6 foot 5 striker who was previously on Stoke City’s books, has scored 4 times in just 7 appearances.
Often described as a tough tackling defensive midfielder, Sam Sheen was part of the Warrington Rylands team which won the FA Vase in 2021. An essential cog in last season’s promotion, Sam has played 23 times this season for the Blueboys.
Young keeper Joel Torrance was brought to the club on Wednesday on a loan deal until the end of the season from Salford City. The 20 year old was loaned to the Reds last season and played for 4 games, culminating in a sending off at Buxton in the FA Trophy.
Skem are managed by former player/coach Richard Brodie, who took the reins at the beginning of September, when Paul McNally left to take over at City of Liverpool.
Last time out for the Reds
Colne travelled to Cheshire last Saturday to take on 7th placed Witton Albion. Phil Brown made one change to the side that beat Glossop 3-0, with Glenn Steel returning to the heart of defence, as Lucas Weaver missed out due to a hamstring injury. Matty Kardacz moved back into a defensive midfield role to join Carney, Doyle and Stowe. New loan signing Jake Forshaw kept his place up top alongside Owen Watkinson. Witton set off on the front foot and were the better side for the first 15 minutes, but the game then followed a similar pattern to the Reds’ last away fixture at Prescot Cables, where each side cancelled each other out, albeit Albion were a step up in standard. Glenn Steel’s across the goal header from a corner was probably the best chance of the first half. Nothing changed in the second 45, with Colne’s best efforts coming from long range strikes from Anderson and Carney, which had Martin in the Witton goal at full stretch. Danny Kyobe replaced Forshaw 17 minutes from time and Wallbank left the field with a minor injury to be replaced by Tom Fagan. And it was Fagan who was unfairly penalised 3 minutes from time, when his harmless challenge on James Lawrie in the Colne box, had the ref point to the penalty spot. Substitute Harry McGee fired the ball down the middle of the goal as Burton dived to his left and the home side stole the 3 points in a game the Reds did not deserve to lose. Colne’s 12th loss of the season leaves them in 16th place with 31 points from 29 games. Rolls Royce Glen Steel once again proved to be a sagacious leader for the Reds and he was the clear man of the match.
Who’s on Ashh’s couch? - Tom McCann will miss out once again due to the concussion he received at Cables 2 weeks ago.
Jack Doherty is recovering from surgery on his ACL injury and will begin his rehabilitation when ready under the watchful eye of Accrington Stanley. This injury has ruled him out for the season.
Team news - Ellis Wallbank is expected to be fit after coming off on Saturday, and Lucas Weaver’s hamstring injury wasn’t as bad as first feared and he is available for selection. Cuan Bradley wasn’t available last week due to work commitments and he should return to the squad giving Phil Brown a squad of 17 to choose from. Sheikh Islam has been loaned to Barnoldswick Town to give him some playing time.
Skelmersdale United are in excellent form and are riding high in 9th spot. They have won 5 of their last 7, including their last 3, apexing last Saturday in a 1-0 win at Newcastle Town. A hard fought victory - as most of Skem’s wins are - the result was settled with a Callum Lees goal 5 minutes into the 2nd half, and despite Newcastle hitting the post 3 times late on, the Blueboys hung on to collect the points. Skem are a very hard working side, dogged and determined, particularly strong in the middle and adept at counter attacking, spearheaded by their talisman Elliot Morris.
The Reds have lost 3 of their last 4 away from home, but were desperately unlucky last weekend not to pick up a point at 7th placed Witton Albion. The defence looks much more assured now in a more traditional back 4 unit and the midfield is more solid and balanced. Up front is where Colne have struggled this season, but young Jake Forshaw has got a couple of senior games under his belt now and he will be looking to kick on and open his account. Captain and lead striker Owen Watkinson will be aware that Skem have the 3rd worse defence in the division, conceding 53 times, and he’ll be encouraging Weaver and Stowe to get forward and help him exploit that frailty. United haven’t drawn a game all season and a point wouldn’t be a bad result for the Reds with home games to follow, but Skemersdale haven’t exactly embraced their new surroundings this season and have lost there 11 times. If Phil Brown’s side can adapt quickly to the 4g surface, keep Morris quiet, and match Skem’s intensity and fortitude, there’s every chance they can pick up their 3rd away win of the season and give them a further breather from the bottom 4.
Admission Prices are:
Adults - £9
Concessions - £6
16-18’s - £3
Under 16’s - £2 or Free with an adult
Burscough Football Club
The Community Ground
Bobby Langton Way
Sat 11th March - Colne v Workington - 15:00 NPL West
Sat 18th March - Colne v Newcastle Town - 15:00 NPL West
Sat 25th March - Bootle v Colne - 15:00 NPL West
Today’s other NPL West games - 15:00
1874 Northwich v Macclesfield
Bootle v Kidsgrove Athletic
Leek Town v City of Liverpool
Newcastle Town v Clitheroe
Prescot Cables v Mossley
Ramsbottom United v Witton Albion
Runcorn Linnets v Glossop North End
Trafford v Widnes
Workington v Hanley Town