Pete Tonge provides his verdict on Northwich Victoria's early exit from the FA Cup...


DESPITE looking the better team for long periods of the match (even when down to 10 men), Vics failed to take their chances and paid the price as they fell 3-1 at Skelmersdale United.

With only Ryan Jackson surviving from last season, it was a new-look Vics that took to the field and they started the match well.

In the 4th minute, Niall Sultan raced down the right but his ball across to the waiting Jackson was poor and easily cut out.

It was another Jackson-Sultan combination two minutes later, this time with Jackson dinking a lovely ball through to Sultan, but he was just beaten to the ball by Oliver Green in the United net.

Just a minute later, a great move as Callum Parker found Sultan at the far post who cushioned a header back to Ryan Jackson who should have done better from 8 yards out. A great chance.

Skelmersdale threatened rarely, though Adam Reid had to be quick off his line to thwart them in the 10th minute.

In the 14th minute, the impressive Nathan Kebaya won the ball back for Vics, and played a lovely ball through to Niall Sultan who whipped a low cross in which was well claimed by the keeper.

Skemersdale then took the lead against the run of play as Samuel Kensemi shielded the ball well on the edge of the area, then turned well and fired a shot in past the unsighted Reid.

Reid was then called into action again just a couple of minutes later to save a drilled shot well, but Vics were still pressing well and having most of the ball.

Vics were then dealt another blow as Cailan Kilheeney went in slightly high on a bent over Knowles near the touchline which Skelmersdale took exception to, as they surrounded the ref who decided that the tackle deserved a red card.

Was it a high foot or a low head?

Vics didn't let their heads drop though and again went close shortly afterwards as a Kebaya free kick was headed over by Fraser Cookson, and then just before the break, Parker glanced a header just wide after good work by Kebaya again.

HALF-TIME: Skelmersdale Utd 1 Northwich Vics 0

Vics again started the half on top, having most of the ball, and playing the ball around well despite being down to ten men.

Skelmersdale were reduced to trying to break quickly down the flanks, but it was Vics who were looking dangerous.

Callum Parker went close as he slid in at the far post after good work from Sultan and Jackson again.

Vics finally got their reward in the 63rd minute as Ryan Jackson did extremely well to control the ball as it was sent over high towards the back post, then beat his man and cleverly laid the ball back to Callum Parker who slammed the ball home.

However, level terms only lasted 4 minutes as Skelmersdale had the ball in the area to the right of the goal, where Reid tried to narrow the angle but only allowed Joel Ogiugo to slip the ball past him into the goal. A poor goal to concede.

Then came a strange moment, as Kev Exell was sent to the sin bin by the referee for 10 minutes, only for the assistant to frantically wave him back on 4 minutes later when the officials realised that the sin bin rules didn't apply in the FA Cup.

An incident which summed up the performance of the referee as a whole to be honest!

Despite all this, Vics were still threatening and playing good football and nearly levelled in the 74th minute as Parker fired a shot against the bar from a tight angle.

Reid was then forced into a good save to deny Skelmersdale from a free-kick 20 yards out before Vics again hit the woodwork as a Niall Sultan piledriver was touched onto the post by keeper Green.

Vics were now leaving gaps at the back as they pushed forward in search of a deserved equaliser, and Reid did well to make a double save as Vics were outnumbered at the back.

However there was nothing he could do as the match entered injury time as Knowles finished well from a tight angle to finish the match off.

A match with plenty of positives for Vics, but ultimately they have to take their chances and hope for a better refereeing display.

Match Facts:

Skelmersdale United 3 Northwich Victoria 1

FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

Friday 4h August 2023

At The Community Stadium, Burscough

Vics: Reid, Kebaya, Cookson (De Frutos Griman 86'), Hughes, Roberts, Jackson, Kelly, (Camara 86'), Exell, Kilheeney, Sultan, Parker (Angles 78'). Unused subs: Pritchard, Sinclair, Jenkins, Sherlock.

Goals: Skelmersdale Utd: Kensemi 19', Ogiugo 67', Knowles 90+2'. Northwich Vics : Parker 63'.

NEXT GAME: Vics v Studley FC, Midland League Premier Division, Saturday, August 12