The Solar Campus was the setting for a fantastic game of football between Ashville and Skelmersdale United that was settled right at the death.
The game was well contested from the start with both sides evenly matched. It was Villa with the first real chance of the game though on seven minutes when some slick passing in midfield released Tom Davies down the left hand side. Tom slipped past the right back before chipping a dangerous ball into the back post, Josh Maldon being narrowly beaten to the cross by a backtracking Skem defender.
It wouldn't be until half an hour in though that Villa fashioned another notable chance in front of goal, this time Ben Greenop setting Lewis Moynes on his way as the winger weaved his way past two Skem defenders, leaving them stranded, before curling his effort narrowly wide from 19 yards out.
It would be that same combination working wonders down the right again just 3 minutes later as Villa tried to capitalise on an extended spell in possession. This time though, Moynes laid the ball back to Greenop, his cross to the back post perfectly locating Carl Murphy who headed the ball down into the ground and into the arms of the Skem goalkeeper.
Skem came fighting back almost instantly, finding some joy down the left flank but found themselves shooting on the angle, one such effort did have Mikey Dixon called into action but thankfully the ball didn't have enough swing on it and flew past the far post. A lucky escape for Villa.
The NPL side could smell blood in the water, a ball from the right hand side after some tricky wing play, had the Villa defence all hands on deck as they swarmed the Skem striker waiting on the penalty spot. The defence stood tall and the score remained deadlocked.
As half time drew near, Villa took the incentive again as we pushed for a goal to take into the break. Villa kept pushing the Skem back line but the NPL side were holding firm, if not by the skin of their teeth on occasion. The final big chance of the half falling to Josh Maldon whose strike from 25 yards out swerved away from the far post at the last moment.
Into the second half we go and by this point the weather had really started to become the main character, not that you'd of known it by the brilliant game of football being played on the pitch. Neither side had lost any momentum from the first half and once again were very equal for a long period of time.
The quality of our visitors was starting to shine through a little however and Dixon found himself a little busier than he had been in the first half although not really troubled.
Some subs from Villa and some fresh impetus saw the momentum swing back in the home sides favour once again with both wings being equally targeted. Danny Hardman, a half time substitute, found himself almost turning provider after brilliantly winning the ball back on the right hand side, his cross finding Greenop who fired over in the tricky conditions.
Peter Morgan was also finding himself to be a nuisance on the left hand side, turning the Skem left back inside out before his fizzing pass across the six yard box led to a goalmouth scramble, Skem eventually getting the ball away to safety.
With very little time remaining Skem took initiative again, taking advantage of tired legs in the Ashville defence. Two crosses from the right hand side just minutes apart, both put over the bar, much to the relief of Villa fans and players.
Villa nearly snatched a goal with just under 10 minutes left to play as a corner whipped into the back post was met by Greenop who cheated the ball down before unleashing a vicious volley that looked destined to go in, the Skem keeper pulling off a top class save to push the effort onto the post. A follow up header from Farrall was cleared off the line and away from danger
With five minutes left on the clock, Dixon was left looking and hoping as a 25 yard knuckleball effort dipped onto the roof of the net, clipping the top of the crossbar in the process.
A valiant display that Villa were keen to translate into a win saw the hosts push for a late winning goal but it wasn't meant to be as Skelmersdale hit on the counter attack, a long ball over the top catching a high Villa line off guard, the striker looping the ball over an advancing Dixon to snatch the game in the 89th minute.
With the full time whistle looming Villa we're keen to draw back level, a result that was probably fair given the balance of play, one last opportunity falling to the feet of Greenop who placed his effort just over the bar.
Skem would put the result beyond doubt almost instantly however as another long ball caught the defence sleeping, the Skem attacker fending off a defender before expertly slotting the ball past Dixon. Effectively the last kick of the game and a scoreline that was harsh on Villa. A performance to be proud of from the boys against an opponent higher up the pyramid.
Massive thank you to Skelmersdale United for coming down and giving us such a good game and we wish them all the best for the season ahead!