Losing that goal in injury-time last weekend really hurt us – but there was no time to dwell on it as this Saturday saw us with another big task. Today we were making our very ever trip over to Baguley Athletic Reserves – and knowing that their only defeat of the campaign so far was a close-defeat to league-leaders Walshaw Sports, we would have to be on it from minute one if we wanted to bring anything home with us…

That performance against Astley & Tyldesley seven days ago was mostly good so there was no need to tinker too much with the starting 11 – however competition for places in the match-day squad has never been so hot as this weekend saw us have the biggest selection headache Wayne and Brian had faced all campaign so far. Now it’s about getting in the team and keeping your place. So as we began to meet in the changing-room, it was going to be interesting to see who made this team today…

The pitch felt alright – although the grass was really long – and with the frost still apparent, it was just good to know there was a football match to be played. Fair play to Jordan and the Baguley lads for getting it on and for their hospitality from the minute we got there. A credit to their club and we wanted to get that out there early…

Only one change was made from the team that started at Ladybridge – with Spencer coming in for the injured Lewis – but there was as strong a bench as we’ve seen all season as Robbie was back from his ban and Tom from his injury and holidays – so along with Tyler and Matty, we looked solid in all areas. Things were delayed as the referee had been delayed – so with the lads trying to keep themselves warm (it was cold out there today!) we finally began at 2.15pm…

And by 2.20pm, we were 1-0 to the good – and what a goal it was! Right from the off it looked like our midfield trio were up for this and as Jack won the ball well and fed it out to Ste, we moved at pace. Ste spotted Nathan making a great run on the outside and slipped him the ball – and with pin-point accuracy, our newly re-formed right-back swung in the most delicious cross any striker could ask for. And Yatesy knew it. He made his run across their centre-half and as he rose to meet it, he managed to curl his header outside of the right-hand post – sending their keeper the wrong way – before it curled back inside and slammed into the top-corner of their net! Stunning! It was in the moment it left his forehead as our bench were right behind it! A great start – but there was still a lot of work to be done…

Thing settled down a little after that but it was still the team in blue that were looking the most lively. We were spraying the ball about on a difficult pitch and when we found the space, we were causing them trouble. In truth they offered little to begin with as Gatesie and Chris marshalled their big centre-forward well – and as the game moved on, it was us looking more likely to score next. And score next we did. Another tantalising move down our right saw Nath and Ste combine well to win us a throw. Nathan then launched a rocket of a throw into the box and Jack managed to climb highest to get a flick to it. The ball definitely slammed against their defender’s hand and with the County bench screaming for a penalty, there was no need – as the referee had waved play on and there was Yatesy to calmly pick his spot and drill home his second of the game to see us go 2-0 up! 13 minutes in and this was good stuff…

The home side started to show a bit more and on 25 minutes, they managed to win a corner over on their left. The ball came swinging in and as it looked like it was going to dip under the bar, thankfully Mitch saw it quickly enough and he palmed it away in the nick of time. The ball dropped to their midfielder about 8 yards from goal – but he could only swipe it wide when it looked easier to score. Signs that we had to keep focused here though…

And that was made even more evident two minutes later when out of nowhere, the hosts found a way back into this. They worked the ball well through their midfield and as the ball was fed between the lines, it looked as though their winger was stood in an offside position. The man that matters didn’t think so though and with the referee not giving it, they forced it into the danger-area. Caught a little off it, we managed to get back goalside but in the scramble, they managed to force it over the line and as Mitch bent down to get it from his net, that showed that this game was far from over yet. 2-1 County…

We were still getting chances and with Liam combining well with Alex – and Jack constantly running into the spaces- we were well on top. A couple of times Jack made great runs into the heart of their defence – but his passing just let him down at the last minute. He knew it as well but at least he was still trying. Ste missed a couple of good chances as well and as the half drew to a close, there only downside to this so far was that we were only one goal to the good…

Half-time: Baguley Athletic Reserves 1-2 BOLTON COUNTY A

Wayne and Brian had nothing but praise for their players as they came in – but this needed to be put to bed if we wanted to take these points home. We had to start finishing the chances and if we stayed calm and took our time rather than rush things, the spaces would open up. The lads all knew that when they were passing it, we were running rings around them – but they had shown enough to tell us if we gave them a way back in, they’d take it. Tom came on in place of Spencer and Ste came across to the left – and as they made their way back out there, they knew what they needed to do…

It was County quickest out of the blocks from the re-start – and more good work from our midfield saw the ball put through to see Ste race past his marker with ease. With the goal approaching, all he had to do was put it wide of their keeper and it was 3-1 – but he shot tamely straight at their No.1 and the chance was gone. He wasn’t giving up though…

Rav and Nathan have been showing us in recent weeks that we can attack down both flanks in numbers and on 57 minutes, we all thought we’d seen a thing of glory – but it wasn’t to be. Another swift move saw us feed the ball out to him on the left and he charged down the wing – before cutting inside onto his favoured right-foot and from the edge of the box, he struck his shot – only to see it sail high and wide of the target. Would we have ever heard the last of that if it went in? We doubt it…

The temperature didn’t go above 3 degrees all game on 66 minutes, we decided to warm Robbie up and get him out there – in a move that saw Yatesy come off to a warm round of applause – and Jack go up top in order to win all of the headers that came his way. Talk about headers – Chris won each and every single one he went in for today and that did not go unnoticed. On went the game and with Alex, Liam and Robbie now pulling the strings, we were creating chance after chance still – but a mixture of fine goalkeeping from their No.1 and poor finishing, this game was still there for either side to win…

With 69 minutes on the watch, Liam saw an effort from wide out fly just over the bar and that saw us pepper their goal for the next five minutes – before we did manage to grab our third goal of the game. This time is was that man Nathan who played a great ball over the top to see their keeper come out to claim it – but he then decided to go back towards his line and that gave Ste just enough time to flick his header over him and towards goal. The ball bounced off the base of the post and although it already looked in, Ste nearly fluffed it as he went to make sure. The referee said ‘Goal’ so that’s all that counts. 3-1 and surely we had enough about us to hold the lead this week…

That goal seemed to bring about an air of confidence amongst the lads and we were now playing some lovely football. The quick 1 or 2-touch football we do in training every week. And on a pitch like this. We won a free-kick on 74 minutes that Liam struck well – but straight at their keeper and a few minutes later, Jack ploughed his way through towards goal and from about 16 yards out let fly with a great shot that looked like the keeper tipped over – but the corner wasn’t given and on we went…

Tyler and Matty had come on and on 80 minutes, we saw Tyler win a good tackle near our corner-flag – before setting off on an amazing run that saw him speed down the left-wing with the ball at his feet and a trail of Baguley defenders in his wake. He ran the length of the pitch and as it came to time to cross it, his legs must have said ‘No Way!’ and he just failed to get it into the box. A great run though and bet his lungs were bursting after that…

It was all County now and we were firing efforts from all angles and ranges now – but nothing was bothering their keeper. First Ste made him dive low to his left to tip one around the post and then Tom fired one wide from about 15 yards out. Matty was put through by a glorious pass and as he went to go past his man, the Baguley defender did just enough to put him off. That fourth goal would be nice – but the boss was calling for us to just sit back a little now and protect what we had…

There was still time for Robbo to send another effort over the bar from the edge of the box but that was that and when the referee blew his whistle to end the game, we had become only the second team to stop today’s hosts from getting points. That’s a good achievement in itself – but the performance was once again the most pleasing thing. The passing was superb. The movement was first-class. We just need to convert a lot more chances…

Nuff respeck’ to the hosts and we really do wish you the best for the rest of the season – until you come to ours obviously! Wayne, Brian and a few of the lads enjoyed your hospitality a little too much as we waited for a lock-smith to sort out Wayne’s lost car-keys – so thanks for that as well…

But back to our boys and that was excellent. Nathan was awarded the PPSL Man of the Match for yet another quality performance and it makes us wonder why we’d never played him that deep before now! Although he is trying to claim the three assists, we can confirm this evening that the second goal DEFINITELY came off Jack’s flick. Seriously – well played Mr Bancroft – and you all can be proud of that today…

Three points sees us move up to 7th in the table – but with games in hand on those above us, things are looking good – especially if we can keep playing like this. And that starts over in Horwich next Saturday as we go to Hilton Avenue to take on 5th placed RMI Reserves. These are always really good battles so make sure you get over to cheer us on for that one as well…

That’s three really good games we’ve played on the bounce now – long may that continue…

#UpTheCounty!