Atherton LR 1

Prestwich Heys 2

LABURNUMS were left cursing the form of Heys’ goalkeeper Michael Smith as his acrobatics denied the home side the point their efforts surely merited.

On a dismal winters’ afternoon of high winds and heavy rain both sides battled determinedly in the conditions to serve up an entertaining encounter but Heys took the vital points to maintain their push towards the top end of the table and leave LR languishing in the drop zone.

If the Atherton side can continue to show such spirit then they will surely be in with a shout of hauling themselves away from trouble but they will be ruing the missed opportunities in this derby fixture.

LR made light of the heavy conditions as they battled uphill in the first half with early sighters from debutant Luke Hincks and Jesmond Ncumbe failing to bother Smith in the visiting goal.

However it was Heys who drew first blood when Alfie Belcher was toppled in the box and Max White despatched the resultant penalty.

LR sought a swift response and Ryan Rodders drew a smart save from Smith but as the half drew to a close and the rain intensified the visitors had the lead.

Just four minutes into the second half and the challenge doubled in scale for Laburnums as a misplaced pass set Heys on their way with a quickfire attacking move, Will Shawcross breaking down the left and whipping the ball into the box where White flashed his shot over the exposed keeper from the penalty spot. 2-0 appeared a long way back but LR stuck to the task and almost had a response when Nathan Strong’s shot from the edge of the box was smartly clawed behind low to his right by Smith. The Heys’ stopper saved his best until fifteen minutes from time though as Jake Ambrose’s shot from inside a packed area was parried by the keeper who then recovered swiftly to deny Aaron Rodgers on the rebound with a sensational double save.

His opposite number Ryan Kirkman didn’t enjoy such fortune moments later though as he slid out to claim the ball at the feet of the Heys’ attacker only to receive a hefty clout for his pains as the players slid into each other in the greasy conditions. Following lengthy treatment Kirkman was groggily helped from the field with central defender Danny Ashburner taking the gloves for the remainder of the game.

Within minutes Ashburner had proved his worth with a smart save to parry a Heys’ shot and then as the match entered its closing stages LR finally had the breakthrough they merited, Hincks’ corner met by a towering header from Rodgers into the bottom left corner of the goal to set up a grandstand finish.

Heys continued to look dangerous on the break with ex-LR favourite Theo Kidd off the bench and denied by another fine Ashburner save, but LR piled the pressure on themselves to no avail as the final whistle ended a performance of encouragement but sadly fruitless.

LR are on their travels over the festive season with trips to Daisy Hill (Boxing Day) and Ashton Town (29th) before returning to Crilly Park on 6th January v Lower Breck.