While semi-pro football in England can provide thrills and fire like no other division can, it’s been a story of polar opposites for two sides who face off on Saturday afternoon in the Northwest Counties Premier Division as bottom side Skelmersdale United clash with 22nd-placed Glossop North End.
While fond memories of a 2022 promotion from this level will live long in the memories of Skelmersdale fans, so too will the heartache felt by them following their subsequent relegation back into it despite comfortably surviving in 11th, with the Blueboys being sentenced to the drop following ground relegation issues, with their home at The Community Ground being deemed unfit for the league.
Since that decision, Skem have sadly seen themselves slip down the table to the very foot of it, winning just two games from 18 this season and seeing themselves 10 points adrift of safety, with the worst records in the league for both goals conceded and scored, providing no claims or excuses against their lowly league position.
In an attempt to escape the rut they find themselves in, the Skelmersdale hierarchy appointed former French international Pascal Chimbonda as their new manager. The 40-year-old wants his side to play possession-based football as opposed to long-ball. Getting his ninth-tier side to adhere to his specific style.
With former Sunderland and Tottenham right-back Chimbonda taking up the position of manager and being granted the task of steering his side away from the drop zone, an encouraging life in management marked the start of his time at the club with a slim 3-2 loss away to Squires Gate, in which Skem saw two men, Mark Bollingino and Ben Barnes, dismissed to leave their side having to see out the game with nine players.
With the next game being the definition of a relegation six-pointer, all eyes will swivel to the Blueboys once more as they scratch and claw their way away from a second straight relegation.
Their opponents on Saturday, Glossop North End, are in a similar predicament. Whilst their woes may not be as exemplified as those of their hosts, Glossop North End will have been forgiven for imagining their season would not see them two places above the solo relegation spot, despite being ten points away from it thanks to the hardships of Skelmersdale.
Relegated from step three football alongside their hosts, an immediate attempt at a bounce-back to their vacated league would have been the mission for Michael Worthington and his men. However, such an attempt has failed to present itself in much fashion this season, with Richard Brodie now entrusted with the reins to this game following Worthington’s October dismissal after five months at the helm.
With the club sitting third from bottom in the league, their contributions into and away from their net have matched that like-for-like, with the third-worst records in the league for goals scored and conceded so far in this campaign. It is always a thriller in the games closing stages; however, only two sides in the league have scored more goals beyond the 90thminute so far this season, a game-time that has seen them record six of their 16 points so far.
As two teams of peculiar struggle prepare themselves for war on matchday 19 of the NWCL Premier Division, quality may be missing, but entertainment will certainly not lack in this one.
With two goals in his last two games for North End, it would be wise to keep an eye on the movements of Jacques Etia as he squares off with the worst defence in the league.
The 20-year-old striker, formerly of Rotherham United, was a hotly touted signing upon his summer arrival and has started finding his scoring touch at a much-needed moment for Glossop.
With top scorer Bollongino unavailable due to his 92nd-minute red card last time out, the moment comes for deputy forward Gabriel Ellis to step up and make his mark as Skem battle hard against relegation.
With four goals in nine starts so far this campaign, the Blueboys will need him to find his shooting boots again in the absence of their one shining light, and with bravado and fire being lit by Chimbonda in the scrap against the drop, he should be right up for the task against a defence no firmer than their own.
If you are in need of a unique football story to watch unfold, look no further than Skelmersdale. A World Cup finalist in the dug-out and a relegation six-pointer, what more could you want? If you are a Wigan fan not making the long journey down to Exeter, why not head over to the Community Ground (L40 0SD) and watch the Blueboys in action for just £7.
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