Monday 27th December 2004
Northern Premier League Premier Division
Hyde United: Tim Mullock, Steven Clegg, Nicky Hill (Carl Barrowclough), Paul Jones (Ged Kielty), Craig Buckley, Chris Lynch, John Gaynor, Phil Salt, Neil Tolson, Dale Johnson (Andy Waine), Matty McNeil
Witton Albion: Gibson, Farley, Connors, Pritchard, Furnival, Foy, Burton, King, Moseley, Salmon, Barlow. Subs: Yates, Stannard, Baker
This was a dramatic game in every sense of the word, but the Tigers held on to claim all three points in their pursuit of Workington. In front of a Bank Holiday crowd, Hyde started the game with three regulars missing and by the end it was six with Paul Jones and Dale Johnson limping off and Nicky Hill being stretchered off with serious concussion. Some of the fans felt Hyde had played badly, but with all the changes, it was impossible to get into any rhythm. Steven Clegg played centre back and had three different partners during the game, whilst Matty McNeil played everywhere, as Hyde continually had to reshape.
It could have been worse as Neil Tolson got off his sick bed to play and really struggled second half and Matty McNeil insisted on playing despite the tragic loss of his brother on Christmas Day. This epitomises the spirit in the team and Hyde desperately needed it as the game wore on.
By the start the pitch was in excellent condition despite fears of postponement after overnight frost, but the ground staff had worked tirelessly to get the game on and were rewarded with a crowd exceeding 600. By the second minute, they may have wished they hadn't as leading scorer Mike Moseley twice went close for Witton, but Hyde swept up field and Tolson was inches wide with a rasping drive. Chris Lynch brought a superb save from Paul Gibson on 25 minutes and it was still end-to-end stuff as Craig Buckley volleyed home a Phil Salt corner on 35 minutes. He seems to have put his family traumas behind him having scored in all of the last four home games.
Still time for a floodlight pylon to trip out as a storming first half came to an end. A further reshuffle at half time brought on Andy Waine for a limping Johnson and with the lights back on, Hyde knew they would need to at their best to keep Witton at bay. Keep them at bay they did but not without being under siege for the last half hour as Witton piled forward in waves and Hyde not being able to find an outlet up-front with Tolson struggling.
Substitute John Stannard struck the bar with Tim Mullock beaten, but they never got past the big man again as he produced a string of great saves to preserve the Tigers' slender lead. Five minutes of injury time from the excellent referee only added to the drama, but Hyde held on for the three points and who knows how important that will be come the day of reckoning. The majority of the crowd ultimately went home happy, despite some being critical of the team, which had just completed 20 unbeaten league games and not lost at home for 12 months. I think that is harsh!