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Whaley Bridge 3-2 Billinge
Written by Kempes   
Sunday, 21 October 2018 15:40


Neither team were at full strength but this was without doubt Whaley’s best performance of the season in front of a fair crowd on a balmy sunny autumn afternoon at Horwich Park.

With a couple of influential players missing and with three 16 year olds in the squad it might not have been the result most would have anticipated against top of the league visitors Billinge FC.

Whaley set off positively influenced throughout by a class performance from a fit and dominant Jack Gregory playing his first full game of the season in centre midfield. Whaley were testing the Billinge defence from the off with menacing runs from both O’Donnell & the speedy Sam Leadbetter who combined well with a mature performance from Ray Dwolitka who competed to hold things up and link the play to deny the visitors any kind of foothold in the game.

Inevitably Whaley did open their account after 10 minutes when, subsequent to beating two players down the left, young Jacob O’Donnel crossed into the box for Jack Gregory to smash in hard and low from 15yards having busted a gut to get on the end of it. Whaley were quite rampant now with a well-balanced line-up playing some controlled attractive stuff all over the place culminating in a second when Leadbetter got past his marker yet again to deliver a hard, low cross that fell to Dwolitka to tap in at the far post for a deserved two goal advantage at this point.

Gilbride too looked like he was back to his best on the left of a middle 3 mixing hustle and bustle with some class possession and distribution alongside Gregory; the midfield as a whole creating some good final third percentage play. However, two very tight decisions didn’t go Whaley’s way. The first when, following another Leadbetter cross, O’Donnell took the ball past the keeper only for the referee to disallow a goal for handball; the second incident only moments later saw the referee fail to deliver a clear cut penalty when Leadbetter was ‘flattened’ as he went to chest down a through ball - had either decision been awarded it probably would have been game over.

So it was a great first half performance in which the visitors hardly troubled the home defence but the game certainly wasn’t safe with league top scorer Bowden and Dearden yet to come alive although Toseland and Captain Sutton had up to this point been well in control at the back.

As anticipated Billinge were more focused after the break, they looked sharper, passed quicker and created chances but were still mostly restricted to long-shots from outside the box that were generally easily thwarted by the solid hands of Tattersall. So the game became a more even affair with Whaley also coming close on occasions, looking dangerous from a several set pieces and with a Gilbride free kick headed just wide by Leadbetter.

Ultimately Whaley made the game safe(ish!) when Gilbride and O’Donnell linked well down the left to provide the cross that was again met by the advancing Jack Gregory whose strong diving header gave Taylor no chance. Billinge heads were down now and Leadbetter ran-riot for a while but failed to convert a couple of clear chances; choosing to shoot early with goalkeeper Taylor stranded out wide on the edge of the box the ball just missed the post… and finding himself free in the box following a Gregory through ball his shot was saved well by Taylor.

Billinge rallied to show a good degree of spirit and not a little pressure that resulted in a careless clearance that left Bowden with the ball on Whaley’s bye line, rounding his marker he blasted in from a tight angle giving Billinge a lifeline. It was end to end and Leadbetter again played through on goal chose to shoot rather than making sure by rounding the advancing Taylor; on another day Sam could have had a hat-trick. Rather than keeping possession in the closing stages the home side resorted on occasion to carelessly punting the ball up field once too often and ultimately it found its way back to Cook who shot hard and low through a packed box into Whaley’s far corner.

However, despite an unexpected additional 6 minutes of over time Whaley earned three deserved points.

Man of match Jack Gregory

Tattersall; Bailey; Sutton (c); Toseland; Gemmell; Drayson; Gilbride; Gregory (2); O’Donnell; Dwolitka (1); Leadbetter

Langford; Baldwin; Arnfield

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