Another Saturday and another top of the table clash, this time home against Bolton. I could almost repeat the opening lines to the away fixture report, OK to save time I will. A hard fought game, yellow cards aplenty, controversial decisions and critical mistakes, just no Whirlybird this time thankfully. On top of this we had two factors which were horrendous for both sides, one was the weather.
Eccles could not have started much worse, a continuing factor this season. Straight from the kick off, and playing against a strong wind, an Eccles voice called for the ball then decided to leave it for someone else. Unable to get out of their own half they conceded a soft penalty then compounded the offence by giving away another 10m for too much verbals.
Continuing offences gave Bolton the opportunity to take the lead, which they did, and a warning from the visiting referee for Eccles. Eventually Eccles clicked into action and made their way up the field and were unlucky not to take the lead with a cross kick to Will Parkinson, who only just failed to score due to a heavy tackle as he tried to catch the kick on the full.
With this let off Bolton were able to use the conditions and were soon back in Eccles territory and putting the home side under immense pressure. This resulted in the first yellow card for Eccles which was then compounded by an injury to Tom (Nemo) Chapman who had again picked up a damaged fin. With the home side in disarray it was no surprise that Bolton should extend their lead with a push over try. Once again the charge on the conversion was good and this time the lads were rewarded with the relatively simple kick being pushed wide.
With Eccles numbers restored to normal the whole team got stuck in and defended to a man against the conditions. However the parity was not to last as once again an Eccles player was shown the second yellow card of the day. Now normally I don’t have sympathy for the Griffalow’s misdemeanours, but this time it was more than harsh with a two armed bear hug on a tackled player falling into him being considered high. This resulted in a period of desperate defence with full commitment being required. It also resulted in a third yellow card for Eccles. So with two men short and camped in their own 22 the lads just gave their all to hold out till half time.
Half time 0 – 8 to Bolton.
With the wind to their back all looked good for Eccles, problem is when these circumstances occur and all know it, the application is not always as you would wish. This resulted in Eccles making hard work of using the conditions. This was compounded with confusion regarding the situation of the sin bin.
With everything apparently going wrong for Eccles and once again defending their own 22 we had our very own Little & Large show. With Bolton moving the ball wide in hand Simon Donavan reached out his long arms and picked off an outrageous interception and started to stretch his longer legs as he made off down the wing. As he crossed over the halfway line his legs stared to get shorter with every stride as the Bolton defence closed in on him, then like a jack in the box Will Parkinson popped up on his inside and took the pass of Eddie. Cutting back to the outside Sid burnt off the defence to score, but not before an Ashton type celebration, # drought over. To top off the score Danny Holland knocked over the conversion from out wide.
With the deficit down to just the single point Eccles scented blood and started to lay siege to the Bolton line once more. The Dutchman had an attempt at a long range penalty which fell wide, and then to start showing he wasn’t totally out of puff the referee blow his whistle once more and showed a yellow card to a Bolton player.
This all took us to within the last 5 minutes with Eccles pressing hard once more. Finally all the hard work done by Eccles was rewarded with a penalty to Eccles which the Dutchman this time made good to give Eccles the lead.
So with just 2 minutes left on the clock and the game almost sealed all it needed was for cool heads to see it out. But alas first we had a quick restart by the visitors which Eccles were not awake to, followed by a few missed tackles and then as they approached to the Eccles 22 someone had to put their hand where they shouldn’t to concede a penalty which Bolton knocked over for the last play of the game to give them the narrowest of wins.
Final score Eccles 10 – Bolton 11.
A bitter pill to swallow considering the hard work done, especially when down in numbers. Yet with the lads still second in the league and plenty to play for hopes should still be high.