Garstang FC 1 Shelley 2: Riversiders’ losing start to the new season

Garstang lost at the Riverside on the opening day of the season
Garstang lost at the Riverside on the opening day of the season

Garstang kicked off their 2019/20 league campaign with a 2-1 defeat against Shelley at the Riverside.

New manager Andy Payton was unable to call on the services of keeper Will Kitchen and Jack Swindlehurst but still had a strong squad from which to choose.

He picked a very attacking line-up with Ben Roberts and Jerome Jolly being deployed wide on both flanks.

The first half saw the visitors control more of the game although the half’s best chance fell to Ric Coar who, after being put through by a clever Roberts pass, was able to turn and get a good low shot away which was well saved by the visitors’ keeper.

Shelley looked very dangerous down the flanks as the Garstang wingers were not providing a lot of cover to Phil Nagy and debutant Joe Melling.

Garstang’s cause was not helped either by giving away too many fouls in midfield and the half was very disjointed.

Despite seeing more of the possession, Shelley were reduced to speculative half-chances as the game reached half-time with the score goalless.

At the break, Payton replaced Roberts and Jolly with Tom Graham and Freddie Mason, allowing Jonny Hothersall to be pushed up closer in support of the Coars who had been left isolated in the first half.

Both Mason and Graham seemed to make a positive impact on the Garstang performance as tackles started to be won further up the pitch but, even with more possession, the final ball sometimes was not up to the usual standard.

The game’s opening goal came on 52 minutes when Shelley launched a quick counter-attack and the ball fell to Craig Billington, who gave keeper Dominic Cheetham no chance when firing home from just inside the box.

Garstang continued to look for an equaliser without really creating a clear opportunity but they got back into the game when Ric Coar was able to charge down a clearance and tap home the loose ball.

At 1-1 the game was up for grabs and Garstang could have taken the lead when Ric Coar’s header crashed off the bar.

However, it was the visitors who scored the game’s deciding goal on 73 minutes when an unmarked Billington netted after a ball in was headed back across goal.

After retaking the lead, Shelley were then able to see out the game relatively comfortably.

Garstang can put this result behind them as they face host Steeton on Wednesday (7.45pm).