Ruston Sports 1, Skegness Town 5

Skegness Town's Josh Bartlett (left) is put under pressure by Joe Butler of Ruston Sports.
Skegness Town's Josh Bartlett (left) is put under pressure by Joe Butler of Ruston Sports.

Skegness Town went into their Christmas break with a morale-boosting league victory at Lincoln-based Ruston Sports.

It was a feisty affair with Sports clearly up for the challenge from the word go, seeking to avenge the early season defeat they suffered at Burgh Road.

And had the home side taken their first half chances when they had the wind on their backs there could well have been a different outcome.

But the Lilywhites put in a professional display to seal the three points and lift themselves to second place in the league table.

Referee David Cupit had a busy afternoon, calming things down when they threatened to boil over. Four times he produced a yellow card, which seemed to have the desired affect at the appropriate time.

It also provided for a full-bloodied top of the table clash to flow freely and produced an excellent advert for the Lincolnshire League.

First blood went to Skegness after an even opening nine minutes. Then a McCauley Parker corner from the left saw a strong aerial challenge from Town’s Jack Cotton and Sports’ Stuart Ward. Neither got much on the ball, so it fell to Liam Parker, who stooped to head it into the bottom corner before it bounced.

Lilywhite skipper Ben Davison was the first to see yellow, for a high challenge after 15 minutes, as the seasiders battled against a lively home side and the elements. Not only was there a strong wind in the faces of the visitors, but they were playing up the slope in the first half.

A rare mix-up in the Skegness defence presented Simon Mowbray with a golden opportunity to level the score, but he stabbed his effort wide of the target. Three minutes later young keeper Josh Smith saved a weakly struck Mowbray effort when he got in behind the defence again.

But Sports drew level after 25 minutes when centre back Steven John poked home the equaliser from two yards out after Skegness had failed to clear a corner.

On the balance of play the goal was well deserved, but Rustons were hit on the counter attack, when Jake Gibson set up McCauley Parker to sweep home his fifth goal of the season.

To add insult to injury, the home side were caught twice more in the later stages of the first half.

First Gibson broke free in the inside right position and planted the ball past the advancing keeper Carl Stubbs, and then Josh Bartlett, who had an excellent game partnering Gibson up front, glanced a header into Gibson’s path. He needed no second invitation to run on and score his fourth goal in two games.

Four-one down at the break, Rustons must have wondered what had hit them. They needed an early goal in the second half to give themselves any chance.

It didn’t materialise. Indeed Davison added Town’s fifth after 54 minutes when he headed home another left wing corner.

This killed the contest and the Lilywhites bossed the remainder of the game, although Mowbray did waste another great chance to reduce the deficit when he blazed inches wide.

At the other end Matt Veall, a 75th minute replacement for Bartlett, almost increased Town’s lead when he lifted the ball over the advancing Stubbs, but a defender got back to clear the danger.

Veall was the fourth player to receive a caution from Mr Cupit, for a mistimed challenge. The other two yellow cards went to James Stokes and Joe Butler, both of Rustons.

Town boss Nick Chapman was delighted with the result. “Make no mistake, this was a tough game. Rustons were up for it and we had to be very disciplined,” said the Lilywhites manager.

“We put in a very professional performance and got our just rewards,” he said. “We bossed things, particularly in the second half, and refused to let them get back into the game. It was an excellent all-round performance.”

Ruston Sports: Carl Stubbs, Ben Clucas, Ben Wyld, James Stokes, Steven John, Stuart Ward, Joe Mackie, Lee Welbourn, Gavin Mackie, Simon Mowbay, Joe Butler, Joe Smith, Tom Melton, Adam Hindmarsh, Adam Ward.

Skegness Town: Josh Smith, Aaron Shelley, Jamie Epton, Andy Parish, Jack Cotton, Liam Parker, Daniel Cobb, Ben Davison, Josh Bartlett, Jake Gibson, McCauley Parker, Matt Veall.