THE DOLLY BLUES continued their tough start to the season with a defeat away at Skelmersdale United.
After narrowly earning a draw against highly-fancied Farsley in Saturday’s opener, City came unstuck against perennial play-off favourites Skem on Tuesday night.
It was a tight first half that saw just a couple of chances at either end and again the Dolly Blues were guilty of wasting theirs and were duly punished in a dominant second 45 for the home side.
Indeed it could have been a landslide as chance after chance went begging as the Dolly Blues struggled to maintain possession.
City manager Mick Hoyle felt that there was a foul in the build up to the opener and that the free-kick that provided Josh Hine with his headed goal was a little unfair but there was nothing unfair about the finish as Hine showed good strength to win the ball in a crowded box and finish on 24 minutes.
Perhaps with his previous decision in mind referee Darren Strain denied the home side a what looked like a stonewall penalty moments later when Craig Carney bundled over Hine in the box.
Hoyle was unhappy that his side were frivolous in the final third and he had a point as City yielded territory and possession far too often when a shot presented itself.
They did carve out one golden opportunity for Dave Swarbrick as he beat the offside trap after drifting in from the flank but drilled his shot too low and into the feet of Skelm ‘keeper Sam Ashton.
This was a tough evening for City’s midfield as they again strived to support Joe Bunney as he ploughed a lone furrow up top, especially as Rob Wilson and Simon Wills toiled on with suspected broken nose and ribs respectively.
City were missing Neil Wainwright and skipper Neil Marshall due to ill-timed holidays and their replacements in coach Michael Stringfellow and Craig Carney both looked a little short of match fitness and practice.
A somewhat unfortunate second dug the knife in the Dolly Blue spirit as a Kenny Strickland cross from the right looped into Stefan Holden’s top corner on 67 minutes.
Zach Clark worked tirelessly down the left but simply came up against an immovable force in excellent right back Lewis Field while Swarbrick was City’s most potent creative weapon and he hit the post with a long-range effort before superbly dragging City back to 2-1.
He drifted across the pitch with the ball, beating men at will, played a one-two and smashed a serving shot off the post and in from 25 yards with the 90 minutes just about up.
Frustratingly the two-goal cushion was restored moments later as City failed to react to a Skem surge from the restart and were punished by Joe Evans.
Things are yet to click into place for the Dolly Blues this season and the hole left up front by Danny Hattersley is proving a huge one to fill for two young strikers in Bunney and Tom Kilifin.
The FA Cup presents the perfect opportunity for them to push on and make their mark as City travel to Ashton Athletic on Saturday in the preliminary round.
Skelmersdale United: Ashton, Field, Hardwick, McIntosh, Rendell, Strickland, Hickey, Evans, Jackson (Burnett 82), Hine, Bellew. Subs not used: Stoker, Paxton, Peet, Simpson
Lancaster City: Holden 5, Parkinson 5, Elderton 5, Gregson 5, Stringfellow 5, Wilson 6 (Kilifin 64), Swarbrick 7, Wills 6 (Rothwell 50), Bunney 6, Carney 5 (Clark G 86), Clark Z 6. Subs not used: Wheeler, Hudson
Referee: Darren Strain
Star man: Dave Swarbrick – City’s wildcard. Creative quick and has goals in him, a terrific strike