Three points snatched away

Cleator Moor Celtic 2-2 Pilkington FC
North West Counties Division One North, 25th January 2020

On a heavy but playable pitch Pilks surrendered a 0-2 deserved lead in astonishing as they were pegged back to 2-2 very deep into injury time.

Only the man in the middle knows why there was an added 12mins in a game with no injuries and only 4 substitutions, even allowing for a fracas that saw a player from each side dismissed in the second half.

The first half saw chances for each side, first with a Laird header going over the bar in the 4th min followed in the 7th min by a shot on target from Cleator Moor going straight into the hands of keeper McLoughlin.

The woodwork saved both teams, first in the 9th min when a shot comes back off the Pilks post and then 2 mins later a Pilks effort from skipper Sephton where his header came back off the crossbar with no one around to tap home.

Further chances ensued for both teams; On 13mins Cleator’s Birdsall found himself through on goal only to be denied by a brave McLoughlin save. On 16 mins Pilks Cunliffe did well to intercept a goal bound shot resulting in a break from Pilks that saw Sephton, Laird and Taylor combine well to produce several shots on goal all blocked by the resilient Cleator defence. Cleator’s keeper Sharp was in scintillating form and denied Sephton several times on the half hour.

CM produced one effort on 42 mins that saw a fine shot from Luke Close tipped around the post by keeper McLoughlin.

The first half was certainly a tale of the two keepers.

Pilks were a different team in the 2nd half. Laird had the ball in the net on 53 mins but was denied by the assistant’s offside flag. The pressure was building on the opposition and on 60 mins Taylor got to the dead ball line, pulling the ball back for Sephton who’s shot is blocked.

The breakthrough came on 62 mins when a superb through ball from Taylor found Laird who finished superbly. Laird was again on hand four minutes later to get his 2nd of the game and Pilks were now in control.

Five mins later McLoughlin was called upon to deny an effort from close to keep it at 0-2 but then on 75 mins the game changed dramatically.

Pilks Marcus Giglio was dismissed after retaliating to a cynical foul from Birdsall who also saw red for his troubles. This marked the beginning of the troubles for the man in the middle.

On 76 mins the ever alert Laird turned brilliantly in the box and released a shot saved well again by Cleator’s keeper.

Then followed arguably the best save of the day when the CM striker released a shot bound for the goal but which was tipped around the post by keeper McLoughlin.

On 79 mins Pilks Taylor was cautioned for dissent and was immediately replaced by sub Taylor Prescott. As we entered what we all thought was the last ten minutes Sephton was clearly brought down in the box but was cautioned by the referee for simulation, a truly astonishing decision.

Cleator’s Luke Close pulled a goal back with three minutes left on the clock but nothing could prepare us for what was to come.

On 90+3 mins Laird nearly had his hat trick when a sharp turn in the box won him the chance to shoot, his shot just going the wrong side of the post into the side netting.

We reached 98 mins and all spectators were scratching their heads as to where the added time had come from but the official was not finished yet.

On the 100 min mark there was an almighty scramble on the edge of the Pilks box and skipper Sephton was felled and in the process handled the ball. The referee then incredibly awarded a penalty kick which Cleator converted to level the score.

Cleator Moor were joyous and Pilks were left stunned in disbelief.

Immediately upon the restart Pilks pressed again for a winner and in the 12th min of added time Pilks full back Atkinson was fouled and the referee awarded the free kick. Realising then the foul had occurred in the box he immediately blew for full time.

Pilks were furious at this injustice and had to settle for the draw.

Pilks: McLoughlin, Paul Meadows, George Atkinson, Jack Cunliffe, Miguel Gillam, Dom Whelan, Marcus Giglio, Luke Sephton (C), Phil Marsh, Matty Taylor, Callum Laird Subs: Taylor Prescot, Daniel Greene, Jack Davies