Evo-Stik Premier Division: Buxton FC 2, Northwich Victoria 3
BUXTON FC gave manager John Reed plenty to think about going into Tuesday’s match at Hednesford after this 3-2 opening-day defeat to Northwich Victoria at the Silverlands on Saturday.
Following a summer which saw the departure of influential stars Gregg Anderson and Mark Reed, the Bucks returned to league action with a less than convincing performance against a Vics team boosted by a number of new arrivals.
It was one such player, Kyle Armstrong, who gave the visitors a 24th-minute lead, profiting from a mistake by the usually reliable goalkeeper Scott Hartley to head Nathan Woolfe’s free-kick into the empty net.
Minutes earlier, Michael Towey had seen a penalty appeal waved away by the referee after he went to ground in the box.
It was left to an old hand, centre-back Tommy Agus, to draw the Bucks level eight minutes before the break with a scrappy goal, the defender’s outstretched boot winning the battle of bodies in the box to bundle the ball over the line from close range.
Buxton immediately upped the tempo and went in search of a second goal - Towey heading narrowly over the bar - but it was The Vics who had the last say of the half. Lewis Short set the ball rolling with a mazy run before laying off to Lewis Short, who in turn found Woolfe to his right.
His pin-point low cross into the box was finished emphatically by Michael Roddy, granted time and space to pick his spot to the left of Hartley.
The Bucks were unlucky not to be back on level terms again soon after the restart as Agus was denied by some last-ditch defending on the line during another melee in the Northwich penalty area, and then keeper Ben Hinchcliffe was forced to touch a dipping Scott Maxfield cross over the bar.
If the Vics’ second goal was well worked, the third was nothing more than a fluke off the head of Dominic Collins following a free kick. Hartley could only watch as the ball looped into the top corner of his net.
Kieran Lugsden, who had been largely ineffective, gave the Bucks a lifeline with a goal ten minutes from the end. Steve Ridley fired in a corner kick which was met by a stooping header from the Silverlands forward.
The fate of the match then seemingly rested in the hands of keeper Hartley. He denied substitute David Fitzpatrick with a good block at his near post, and saved the blushes of team-mate Sam Liversidge after the defender’s loose pass gifted Tony Evans a near-certain fourth goal. Then, with virtually the last kick of the game, the keeper almost headed a last-gasp equaliser after advancing forward for a set-piece.
So no fairytale start for the Bucks, but far too early to write them off.
Buxton: Hartley, Black, Ridley, Agus, Liversidge, Maxfield, Pembleton, Towey, Hadley, Lugsden, Parry. Subs: S. Johnson, Stevens, Wilde, Taylor, Colley. Attendance: 402.