Pickering Town 3 Barton Town Old Boys 1 - North Counties East League Premier Division
Left foot, right foot, head; a classic hat-trick from Pickering Town’s top scorer and main threat, Liam Salt, was the most striking difference between the sides sitting seventh and eighth respectively in the Premier Division of the NCEL.
Town’s first competitive game in two weeks saw Manager, Dave Anderson make a number of changes. With Declan Marshall slotting in at right back, Alex Sherwood, originally brought to the club as a forward last Summer following his goal-scoring exploits for the Humber Premier League’s Hornsea Town last season, moved up top. Gareth Barlow continued his extended role as skipper, Ash Dexter’s centre back partner at the expense of Craig Suddaby who was joined on the bench by Simon Spencer, who had made way for Sherwood. With the return of Tom Bennett in midfield, alongside Ryan Cooper and Tim Taylor, it also meant no starting place for Adam Crane.
On a pitch only passed fit in mid-morning after the hard work of the Pickering groundstaff following snow earlier in the week , but one that still required a second inspection by the match referee before finally getting the go-ahead, the opening exchanges gave every indication of a mudbath to come as players from both sides struggled to keep on their feet.
But to everyone’s credit, the expected farce did not materialise and though by no means a classic, the game soon settled down but after some early Town pressure, the hosts, acclimatising to the conditions the better, began to take control, John Heads and the busy Lewis Taylor both trying, but failing to test Peter Crook in the Barton goal. That changed in the 19th minute, Steve Baxter’s turn and shot had “ goal “ written all over it before Crook intervened, acrobatically turning the ball around the angle.
Town’s relief was short-lived, however, as two minutes later, Salt was given enough time to switch feet before firing, left-footed, beyond the helpless Crook to open his account just seconds after a promising Barton attack involving Barlow, Ash Lattimore and Gareth Owen had seen Sherwood’s half-hit near-post effort blocked by former Swans’ favourite, Dave Bramley in the Pickering goal.
Half an hour in and it was 2-0, the ball all-too easily going from one end to the other after Lattimore’s free-kick on the edge of the Pickering area had been blocked, but credit to Salt, getting on the end of Tom Reid’s dangerous ball into the box, for his instant half-volley, right-footed into the roof of the net, for an excellent finish.
Barton tried to respond but, aside from one Lattimore free-kick turned over, failed to test Bramley before the end of the half, one in which Town had twice paid the price for switching off at all-too crucial times.
After an initial Pickering flurry at the start, Town began to make inroads early in the second half and gave themselves every chance of getting something out of the game in the 59th minute following marvellous work by Bennett, beating any number of men before putting it on a plate for Ryan COOPER to plant his header beyond the exposed Bramley.
But the capacity of this Town side to self-destruct shouldn’t be under-estimated and within sixty seconds, Cooper’s effort was cancelled out, Salt finding himself all alone at the far post to head home and complete his hat-trick. Salt and wounds come to mind…
Despite that body-blow, Barton continued to try to take the game to the Pikes, substitute Crane testing Bramley after more good work by Bennett, Barlow almost showing everybody how it’s done, striding purposefully forward and rifling against the beaten Bramley’s bar from some 25 yards out before the Pickering keeper reminded everybody of his undoubted ability, getting across his goal to claw away Sherwood’s glanced header following good work by Crane.
A couple of Ged Dalton efforts for the hosts aside, that signalled the end of proceedings, continuing Barton’s winless run in the process.
Barton Town: Crook; Marshall, Barlow, Dexter, Brunton ( Suddaby ); Taylor, R.Cooper, Bennett ( Spencer ); Owen ( Crane ), Sherwood, Lattimore. Subs ( not used ) Winn, White.
Town will be looking to turn things around on Tuesday night when visiting relegation-fighting Lincoln Moorlands Railway before hosting Parkgate at The Euronics Ground next Saturday ( kick off 3pm ).