Mellor Firsts fielded no fewer than four players from the Junior side against the team that may well win the Lancashire and Cheshire League this season and were desperately unlucky not to come away with at least a point.

An own goal by Ben Beer three minutes from time after a contentious ruling not to blow for offside was heartbreaking at the end of a terrific performance from Mellor's squad of 13.

Bruce Clarke was a constant threat to the home defence. Joe Dalby filled in brilliantly at right back until Mark Oldham came on at half time, then did a good job further forward.

James Hanson linked play tidily until he was replaced at the break. And Andy McFall made two excellent saves in goal.

Mellor might have been four up in 12 minutes.

On three minutes Matt Cotton headed on a free kick but James Hanson could not get a decent connection and the chance went away.

Five minutes later Hanson was on the end of a Dave Whelan cross but his header lacked power.

Bruce Clarke's speed took him clear of Villa's back line after 11 minutes in the inside left channel but his shot under pressure was saved awkwardly at the expense of a corner.

Then on 12 minutes Jack Hilton put in a bullet header which went a yard wide.

Against the run of play Villa scored. A free kick was floated into Mellor's area and a home forward beat McFall's punch with his head.

The Mellor keeper then made a wonderful full length save to concede a corner.

On 25 minutes Dan Byrne's deep free kick caused consternation in the home defence. A half clearance fell to Hilton who rifled the ball across the area but it was knocked away.

Six minutes later Hilton outpaced his full back on the right and crossed but Adam Barlow's connection was poor.

On 37 minutes Hilton and Clarke combined well but Adam Barlow couldn't gather in the resulting pass and Villa cleared the danger.

Mark Oldham replaced Hanson at the break.

Hilton set up Barlow on 46 minutes but his drive from 20 yards was wide when he should have hit the target.

McFall's roll out to the ever-grafting Dom Randle was for once mis-controlled and it led to a Villa shot that flew wide.

On 54 minutes Clarke raided down the left and shot over from a promising position, after good work from Hilton and Randle.

Three minutes later McFall had to spread himself to save after a rare error by Oldham.

Adam Barlow then choked a free kick on the edge of the box.

On 60 minutes Clarke wriggled free on the left and crossed but Joe Dalby couldn't climb high enough to direct his header goalwards.

Man of the Match Matt Cotton, who was immense all night, then made his one and only error on 62 minutes losing the ball on the byline but Oldham cleared up behind him.

A minute later Cotton was at the other end heading a Dave Whelan corner back across the six yard box for Clarke to head in at close range for 1-1. No more than Mellor deserved.

Hilton then headed over an Oldham free kick.

Oldham cleared a dangerous situation from under his own crossbar on 79 minutes, to concede a corner.

Villa were getting increasingly desperate.

But on 87 minutes Whelan tried to go past a defender on the Villa byline and the ball was hurriedly cleared downfield.

A Villa forward in an offside position appeared to acknowledge he couldn't play the ball but then made a gesture as if to go for the pass before walking again towards his own goal.

A split second's hesitation in Mellor's back line allowed another Villa forward to charge towards Mellor's area and his shot deflected off Ben Beer's challenge to wrong foot McFall and fly into the net for 2-1.

There was still time for Hilton to be scythed down at the expense of a yellow card (Phil McGreal replaced him) and for two scrambles in the Villa defence that failed to produce a deserved equaliser.

It was a bitter blow for all the hard work and ingenuity shown by Mellor's squad.





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Bruce Clarke...scored with a header
Joe Dalby...started at right back, then moved forward

James Hanson...two early chances


Andy McFall....two excellent saves