Slough pay stiff penalty as back pass law returns to haunt them

| League
Att: 825
Northwich Victoria
O'Connor (41)
1 - 1
Slough Town
Stanley (39)
Trevor Bunting
Without wishing to tempt fate at what still Is a very early stage of the season, it does seem that it will take an impressive side to breakdown the highly efficient defensive system employed by John Docherty's Slough.

That system, using five men at the back with the spare player in a sweeping role, was in excellent working order once more at Northwich Victoria on Saturday, where it took a questionable refereeing decision to deny Trevor Bunting another clean sheet, and more importantly, Slough maximum points.

As is so often the case, the "grey area" surrounding the back-pass law brought in last season was the cause of confusion and for Town at least much consternation as Northwich wiped out their advantage as a direct result.

Until that 43rd minute free-kick, Slough, with Bunting again looking in confident form had survived relatively untroubled, though at the same time they didn't appear to have the ammunition to penalise an ordinary looking Northwich.

Ordinary bar one, their marvellous midfield inspiration, Brian Butler, short on inches and hair but high on ability and endeavour Butler was a class apart from anything else on view and this on his first Conference outing this season; the little man has been plagued by injury problems and how Slough and Docherty must rue the fact that his return to fitness coincided with their visit to the Drill Field.

Butler was the heartbeat of his team and but for his efforts they would surely have gone the way of Stafford last week, quite simply they had nothing else to offer.
Butler's promptings however couldn't shake the game out of its state of mediocrity and it came as a surprise when Slough gave their travelling support in a crowd of 825, something to cheer.

Thirty-nine fairly uneventful minutes had passed before Morrys Scott collected Trevor Bunting's wind-assisted clearance. What appeared to be an intended shot from the edge of the Northwich area instead picked out Stanley eight yards from goal and after eluding the finger-tips of Bullock he eventually thumped Slough ahead —quite why he delayed the final shot was unclear, but it gave the covering rearguard time to make up some ground and as he scored he got a kick for his trouble and instead of the usual down on one knee celebration, he spent two minutes in a crumpled heap receiving attention.

Slough had scarcely time to enjoy their moment when the hosts in the form of Butler and Neil Hardy scythed their way through attempting an immediate riposte. Butler's driven cross hit the shins of the covering Dowson and Bunting seized the loose ball.

Back pass, said referee Mr Richards and awarded Northwich a free-kick an the corner of the six-yard area. Now everyone has their opinion on this law, but a rebound is not a pass, whether it be back, forward or sideways, and a shin is not a foot; ignoring those minor details of course, Mr Richards was quite correct — it really is time for some common sense on such occasions.

Yet it wasn't a penalty, so Slough still had a chance; the theory goes that with ten men on the line and a goalkeeper in front of them, it's difficult in the extreme to score from one of these ridiculous six yard free kicks. That's the theory anyway — O'Connor, paying scant regard for sense and reason, scored easily, lifting the ball beyond the massed ranks of yellow into the top right hand corner of Bunting's goal.

Last season Dave Kemp's Slough seemed to dance around the country hand in hand with misfortune, The Doc' will be hoping she doesn't accompany him any further.

The equaliser certainly jolted Slough and Northwich ended the first half the more eager, Hancock cutting out Mulligan's threatening cross. But if we thought that the spark of controversy would set the game ablaze, we were sadly wrong.

That which followed the interval was much the same as what had preceded it and it was slightly less attractive, Slough, with the combative Dowson and Lee looking assured in front of Margerison and Mark Quamina having a good day in the Rebels engine room„ were concerned only by the busy Butler and when he drifted out of the game for 20 second half minutes Slough regained relative, unhurried control.

They could have regained the lead just before the hour when yet another huge throw by Darren Hancock — the chief source of Slough's attacking intentions — came all the way through to Northwich's near post and met the thigh of the incoming Steve Scott.

With Bullock beaten, the ball struck post, bounced out and was cleared in haste. And so just like Fiore at Kidderminster, the woodwork denied Slough a victory.
Stanley missed half a chance on the turn and Morrys Scott — virtually anonymous throughout — couldn't take his late opportunity.

Northwich fared no better, O'Connor delayed and allowed Dowson to tackle back when he should have tested Bunting and Boyd's late volley was straight at the Slough keeper.

Northwich Victoria Line up

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