Firsts earn vital point, Thirds triumph in Whitehead Cup drama

Just one point for Mellor Firsts. But it could prove vital come the end of season. Rochdalians, the visitors to Wood Lane, had to win this one to have a realistic chance of catching Mellor. But as in the game at Rochdale it ended all square. With Mellor's rivals Whalley Range surprisingly beaten and Old Trafford held to a draw the Premiership title dream draws ever closer to reality. It was a tight and tense game of few chances in which Rochdalians dominated for long periods without creating clear cut openings. The visitors' centre back mopped up everything in the air and the Rochdalians defenders and midfield closed Mellor down quickly to stifle the usual fluent passing game of the men in white. In the first minute Mellor fashioned a reasonable chance, Mike Palmer causing hesitation on the edge of the box and Kev Murray firing the loose ball narrowly wide. On 11 minutes Palmer was fouled 22 yards out and Mark Oldham's driven free kick cleared the bar by inches. A minute later Kev Murray saw the Rochdalians' keeper off his line but his shot was deflected by a defender straight into the keeper's arms. On 17 minutes came a vital breakthrough. Mike Sharpe created panic in the Rochdalians' back line when chasing a through ball and it ran loose again to Murray who this time drove it low into the left hand corner from 18 yards for 1-0. Rochdalians rallied immediately and last man Ben Beer's clearance was charged down allowing a dangerous move to develop which Mellor eventually snuffed out at the cost of a corner. On 28 minutes a good move saw Terry Boon released on the left and his measured cross just eluded Chris Coram at the far post. The visitors forced two corners in quick succession but it appeared that Mellor had seen out their revival. Then on 43 minutes the ball fell to a Rochdalians' attacker 25 yards out and his drive flew into the net over Gav Thornley's flailing right hand. The men in blue started the second half the stronger and Mellor's defence had to clear several dangerous crosses. On 50 minutes Murray broke down the left and his cross slipped through the keeper's fingers allowing Mike Sharpe a half chance from a tight angle but his shot flew wide. On 59 minutes Liam Totterdell replaced Murray and a minute later Craig Fairfield came on for Boon. Then came drama as a seemingly harmless cross kicked up off a divot in Mellor's six yard box and somehow Thornley managed to clear the ball over his own bar with his shoulder. On 65 minutes Matt Jamieson replaced Alex Young but with Mellor anxious not to concede the game, superbly refereed by Pete Tupman, petered out into a stalemate. The Seconds travelled to Old Ashtonians and were beaten 3-2. They were 0-1 and 1-3 down, at various stages. Jack Parr scored Mellor's goals and earned a Man of the Match accolade. The Thirds were involved in the day's most exciting game, a Whitehead Cup tie allegedly against Old Ashtonians Thirds, although the visitors chose to include two first teamers. The game ended 4-4. But in extra time Ashtonians took the lead and looked like dumping out Mellor until a last gasp equaliser by Man of the Match Rick Monton 30 seconds before the final whistle. The match went to penalties and Dec McManus, Tom Sullivan and Steve Jackson scored for Mellor without reply from the visitors. Jerome Rouse (2), Sam Parker and Steve Jackson scored the other goals in normal time.

Kev Murray (white) wheels away after giving Mellor the lead

Man of the Match Mark Oldham's 22 yard free kick just clears the bar


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PIC 1 Mark Oldham....Man of the Match for the Firsts
PIC 2 Jack Parr...Man of the Match and two goals for the Seconds

PIC 3 Rick Monton lale, late goal which helped the Thirds to victory in the Whitehead Cup