Rarely has a game of two halves been more true…
Eccles started the game brightly and were soon applying pressure to their opponents line. The game was just 10 minutes old when Martin Thompson hit the ball at pace and carried a number of defenders over the line with him to open the scoring. Luke Cullen added the extras. Shortly after breaks from Steve Lillie and Freddie Oakey were unlucky to not result in more, but the tactical kicking of Will Hamer was keeping Eccles in the right parts of the field. On 25 minutes a well-worked line-out move saw Simon Donovan be driven across the line and touch down to extend the lead to 12-0.
This second try seemed to stir Aspatria and they came back in force. But despite 10 minutes camped in the Eccles half they were unable to score thanks to some excellent defence, led by Joe Dale and Glen Cahill. As the half-time whistle blew Eccles were good value for their lead and in confident mood.
Maybe that defensive effort had taken something out of the visitors, or maybe the home side upped their game, but it was they who were full of confidence at the start of the second half. Gaps appeared in the previously impenetrable defence and put Eccles on the back foot. A penalty was conceded that put Aspatria on the score board, 12-3. Eccles suddenly looked second best at the breakdown and were soon under pressure again. Another penalty was conceded with the same result, 12-6.
Whatever this season holds for Eccles, they will certainly rue some of the silly mistakes they’ve made which have cost them dear. The last 30 minutes of this game contained a plethora. An opportunity to clear their lines was not taken, and then when the kick was attempted under pressure it was charged down and dropped on over the line for an Aspatria try. The conversion was missed so Eccles still led 12-11. But that didn’t last long as first a questionable free kick was awarded for numbers in the line out (which all concerned swear was unwarranted), then a midfield bomb was not appropriately dealt with and the subsequent melee resulted in an Eccles player touching the ball in an offside position. This penalty put Aspatria in front for the first time, 14-12, with 10 minutes to go.
Those 10 minutes presented Eccles with multiple chances but alas none were taken. And as the final whistle sounded the team were left to scratch their heads and wonder how a game had got away from them again. The result means their promotion play-off aspirations are now out of their hands. But with difficult games remaining for both sides it’s certainly far from over.
Eccles will hope to put this behind them as they switch their attention to cup competition next week with another long trip to Bridlington. With no other games taking place next Saturday there’s been a suggestion of a supporters’ coach being arranged, so if you’re interested please express your interest to the usual suspects.