Evo-Stik Premier Division: Stocksbridge Park Steels 0, Buxton FC 1
VICTORY in South Yorkshire on Bank Holiday Monday was more important for the result, coming as it did after five consecutive defeats, than for the performance which was sufficiently adequate to see off a poor Steels side but which created no illusions among the throng of visiting supporters.
Reinforcements of quality players is still an urgent necessity but there was a pleasing recovery, at least in the first half, from Saturday’s collapse.
Reverting to a 4-4-2 system, Sam Johnson and David Taylor were given their first starts of the season, while Steve Ridley returned for the injured Sam Liversidge as Scott Maxfield stepped back into central defence. Scott Hartley produced a faultless display on his 300th appearance for the club.
The teams started from the same base - defeat by four clear goals two days earlier - but it was the Bucks who opened brightly and led from the fourth minute as a result of a flowing move on the left.
Begun by Michael Towey, Taylor provided a searching cross which Johnson passed back and Kieran Lugsden thumped home his fourth goal of the season from 18 yards.
The visitors should have equalised immediately, but Ward’s seven-yard, downward free header from Adam’s pull-back passed narrowly wide of goal.
Thereafter, Buxton dominated for some 20 minutes and made several promising openings but couldn’t fashion a crucial second goal. Johnson, making a thoroughly good impression, played Taylor through but he over-kicked, then Ridley’s 25-yard snap shot was turned away for a corner before Martin Pembleton’s deflected shot was tipped over the bar by keeper Scott.
From the first of successive corners, Towey’s near-post flick header was saved.
In the second quarter of the game Stocksbridge had a more even share of the play without much troubling the sound visiting rearguard, steadied by Maxfield and featuring an outstanding Josh Wilde. Their most promising opening was created by Muldoon but wasted by former Silverlands loanee Adam, who badly mis-hit his shot.
The second half proved rather disappointing and drab, enlivened occasionally by meaningful bouts of action.
Early on, Lugsden’s individual approach resulted in an 18-yard shot just wide of goal, while at the other end Lovell’s header from a free-kick was cleared from the line by an airborne Grant Black.
In the final quarter, Hartley shone as Steels sought an equaliser.
He was at full stretch to keep out another Lovell header and was similarly extended by Ward’s powerful free-kick before Maxfield made a vital saving tackle.
The Buxton keeper made a late double save following a right-flank corner, but it was Steels’ keeper Ben Scott who had previously been exceptional in diverting a firm, low Pembleton close-in shot after substitute Chris Ovington had dummied a low Taylor cross from the left.
There was a lengthy delay just after the hour following injury to an assistant referee, but Shaun Waring took over and performed his duties expertly.
Buxton: Hartley, Black, Agus, Maxfield, Wilde, Pembleton, Towey (Stevens, 45), Ridley, Taylor (Parry, 77), Lugsden, Johnson (Ovington, 68). Unusued subs: Hadley, Cardwell. Attendance: 223.