March 07 2017 23:19:25.
By Keith Long
- Saturday Morning Team Make It Ten Games Unbeaten
Without several key players Beechfield United Saturday Morning Senior Team faced a tough challenge in their home game against Hazel Grove who had suffered only one defeat so far this season. At Salford Sports Village this high profile fixture ended 1-1 and United extended their impressive unbeaten run in the Saturday Morning League to ten games. But an excellent display by United was ruined when Max Leonard who had scored Beechy's equalising goal suffered an ankle ligaments injury. Winning a free kick the visitors heaped early pressure onto United but midfield man Liam Foster cleared the danger with a strong headed clearance. Creating a couple of positive moves involving Wes Pierce and Max Leonard Beechy came close to finding an early goal. After just five minutes United lost central defender David Harrison due to a back problem and he was replaced by Kyle Walton.
Beechy keeper Dan Lee was called into action in the 8th minute confidently dealing with a long ball hammered downfield when under pressure from the Hazel Grove number nine. The visitors who were good at retaining possession were a well organised outfit and their number ten got into a good position and looked certain to open the scoring but Daniel Eckersley rescued Beechy with a superb interception. Producing a surging run down the right flank was Max Leonard who neatly set-up the chance for Kane Brannigan but United's main striker saw his effort curl inches wide of the target. Winning numerous free kicks Hazel Grove were always a threat from these dead ball situations but Beechy dealt comfortably with the bulk of the aerial duels.
In a one-on-one with the keeper Max Leonard just couldn't force the ball past the keeper then Ian Black and Wes Pierce combined in a neat exchange of passes and Kane Brannigan ended the move with another attempt that was just off target. Beechy who knew they should have been at least 2-0 up were forced to make a second substitution in the 23rd minute after Ian Black limped off the pitch with a thigh injury and taking his place was Chris McCartney. Working hard to create a decent goal scoring opportunity was Hazel Grove's lively number ten but Beechy right back Andy Lord produced a brilliant piece of defending. Momentarily it looked as if United's injury jinx had struck again when keeper Dan Lee suffered a leg injury but after receiving treatment he was able to continue.
Hazel Grove varied their attacking options sometimes using the long ball tactic but they always had the ability to create top-quality football and on one occasion the visitors number ten hammered the ball into the side netting following a great counter-attack. Left unmarked inside the area Hazel Grove's number nine was gifted a free header after a throw-in but he only succeeded in diverting the ball over the crossbar. The pace of the game was always of a rapid nature and in the opening minutes of the second half both Kane Brannigan and Max Leonard had chances to put United ahead. Beechy were constantly issued a warning following another period of first-class soccer from Hazel Grove and United's back four of Andy Lord, Daniel Eckersley, Kyle Walton and Chris McCartney were at times tested to the limit.
Despite needing to show more composure United almost grabbed the opening goal when following a corner a header by Daniel Eckersley the ball dipped over the crossbar. Moving the ball with real accuracy down the left flank Hazel Grove took the lead when at the end of the move a goalmouth scramble developed and the visitors number six fired the ball low into the net from close range in the 63rd minute. But three minutes later Beechy equalised after forcing a corner when Liam Foster's header was pushed onto the crossbar by the visitors keeper and from the rebound Max Léonard had the simple task of tapping the ball into the net. Both teams continued to display a high fitness level as the action zoomed rapidly from end to end. Chances were on offer for both teams, Kane Brannigan shooting wide from a good position then the visitors number nine wasted an decent opportunity from eight yards.
Forcing a couple of successive corners Hazel Grove kept the pressure on United's defenders and a header by the visitors hit the base of the post. Dan Lee made a superb reflex save to deny an effort from Hazel Grove's tall centre forward. First time clearances by Andy Lord and Daniel Eckersley were required as the visitors forced more defending from an overworked Beechy back four. Max Leonard was the victim of a very strong tackle by the Hazel Grove number five who appeared to make contact with Max's ankle before the ball. Play was delayed for several minutes before Max who eventually went to hospital was carried off the pitch. Team Manager Graham Rothwell was forced into the action when he replaced Max and United had chances to clinch a victory. In the closing stages Kane Brannigan beat the offside trap and controlling a brilliant pass from Liam Foster raced clear but his lob over the keeper dropped inches over the crossbar. Sharing the Man of the Match Award were Wes Pierce and Liam Foster.