Jason Bradley bagged himself a hat-trick as five-star Shirebrook Town showed no mercy and put struggling Doncaster-based side Askern Villa to the sword with a 5-0 drubbing at Langwith Road on Saturday.
Only just a few days ago the future had looked bleak for Askern after they failed to field a side for a third match this season. But the NCEL gave the club a little room to breath by postponing their next two scheduled fixtures, effectively giving them a week in which to decide their future, and to re-organise, should they choose to continue.
And Askern came back in the positive with a new manager and a new club secretary, and a squad full of new players to augment the handful who had remained loyal to the club when the old manager left.
And re-organised Askern’s first game should have been away at Hallam last Tuesday, but, like every other NCEL midweek fixture last week, the game fell victim to the sudden cold snap.
So no one at Langwith Road really knew quite what to expect from the Askern side, but it soon became clear that they hadn’t just come to make up the numbers.
Except for right full-back Rob Ludlam (unavailable), Shirebrook Town were virtually at full strength for the game, including a welcome return to the squad of midfielders Jack Barnett and James Cottingham after injury had kept them out for some time.
However, Askern were the first to show and Jimmy Andrews went close inside two minutes before Joshua Taylor tested Shirebrook keeper Ben Hallam three minutes later.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook settled after that and the pressure on the visitors was gradually increased until Bradley headed in at the near post from Mitch Husbands pull-back from the by-line on the right to give the home side the lead on 24 minutes.
Shirebrook looked to build on their advantage and they doubled their score going into the half-time interval when Jordan Lemon whipped a cross in from the right, which Askern’s Steven Knifton tried to head clear at the near post, but only succeeded in turning it into his own net.
The visitors tried to get back into the game after the break and Andrews found the target with a far post header off Taylor’s ball into the box from deep on the right, but it was easy meat for Hallam in the Shirebrook goal.
Askern continued to press, but the home side gradually turned the screw again and Tom Rowbotham increased Shirebrook’s lead with their third goal on 76 minutes from an in-swinging corner on the right that found its way into the visitors’ net at the far post.
And Askern capitulated after that, Bradley doubling his personal tally with Shirebrook’s fourth goal on 81 minutes after home substitute Antony Rowley made an almost immediate impact after coming off the bench barely a minute earlier, beating the full-back on the right and crossing low for Bradley to neatly side-foot past keeper Joseph Simpson at the near post.
Danny Williams went close for Shirebrook a minute later, before Bradley completed his hat-trick with five minutes of the game to go from a poor clearance by keeper Simpson that went straight to the big striker, 30 yards out on the left.
Bradley side-stepped the full-back and cut inside to give himself a clear sight of goal, and there was no stopping his well-struck shot as it went in, the ball shaving the inside of the near post on its way to the back of the Askern net.
And Shirebrook might have added a couple more goals after that, but it wasn’t to be Williams’ afternoon as Simpson denied him a minute later and then forced him so wide a minute into time added on at the end of the game, that his shot at the empty net from the narrowest of angles on the right went wide of the near post.
In between those two efforts, Askern’s Chris Hancock might have snatched a consolation goal at the other end after getting the better of Shirebrook’s substitute central defender Grant Hemsley, but his low shot from 22 yards was straight at keeper Hallam.
Very pleased with his side’s performance, Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said after the game: “I thought we were value for money, although Askern had a good first ten minutes.”
“They came out and played some really good football. They showed some good promise early in the first half and I was impressed by them, but we were business-like today.”
“We knew what we had to do and it was all about winning the game. We did very well, particularly in the second half and the score could have been into double figures – we had that many chances.”
“It’s good to see players getting on the scoresheet. It’s good that we’re creating so many chances and it’s also good that we kept a clean sheet.”
“I’m very happy, and I’m very happy for our players. They worked very hard today.”
Shirebrook Town stay at Langwith Road next Saturday and continue their league programme with the visit of Barnsley-based side and current league-leader’s Athersley Recreation for a 3 o’clock kick-off.
It’s the first of an important double-header between the two sides on the Saturdays either side of Christmas, with the no lesser matter of a Boxing Day meeting for Shirebrook away at local rival’s Teversal tucked in between those games.
Shirebrook Town: Hallam, Lemon, Rowbotham, Walker, Timons (Hemsley 67), Cardwell, Forbes, Mullen (Rowley 80), Williams, Bradley, Husbands (Vernon 77). Subs not used: Cottingham, Barnett.
Askern Villa: Simpson, Tomlinson, Costello, Cusworth, Knifton, Rowland (Richardson 74), Taylor, Handsworth, Hancock, Thompson, Andrews. Subs not used: Varley, Adamson.
Referee: Paul Tomes (South Yorkshire)