Tadcaster Albion got new owners i2i Sports’ reign off to a flying start as Paul Marshall’s men overpowered 10-man Liversedge 2-0 at home.
Albion wasted several clear-cut chances but Danny Critchlow’s magnificent strike and Nick Thompson’s late penalty bolstered their position at the top of NCEL Premier.
Both the goalscorers had been guilty of missing glorious opportunities prior to getting on the scoresheet, as the Brewers’ faithful feared falling to a ninth draw of the season.
Yet, Paul Marshall’s men maintained their status of having the tightest defence in the league as they pulled out a five-point gap at the head of the table and stretched their unbeaten league streak to 19 matches.
There was a buzz at the 2inspire Stadium prior to the match, with the club’s ambitious new owners having completed their takeover on Thursday.
Chairman Matthew Gore and brother, fellow director, James Gore were in attendance. And they greeted manager Marshall with a firm handshake at the gates and mixed with supporters outside the clubhouse.
Marshall, who has left a beard growing until his side’s next loss, was soon left pondering a change of selection with 13-goal striker Carl Stewart failing to show up.
Vincent Dhesi started alongside Critchlow and Josh Barrett in a front three, with trio Thompson, Terry Taylor and Richard Batley in midfield.
Critchlow looked lively throughout. And he should have opened the scoring inside two minutes when he blazed a cross over the bar.
Managerless Liversedge, who laid 16th in the table prior to the contest, settled well. Billy Grogan and Eli Hey both sent weak shots straight at Albion stopper Leon Wrigglesworth before Matt Sparkes blocked Gabrial Bojang’s drive.
Albion initially struggled to string passes together on the bobbly deck. However, when they got forward, the attackers looked a menace against the ‘Sedge defence.
Will Pepper forced a free-kick down the right and Taylor’s ball was headed narrowly over by Sparkes.
Thompson then raced through the middle, but his left-footed shot went hideously wide.
Albion’s captain was next on hand to thread a superb outside of the boot pass through to Critchlow, but the striker’s curled shot went the wrong side of the post.
The home side pressed for the opening goal, and were unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty when Barrett received a shove mid-flight.
The winger picked himself up to whip a fine cross into the box which Taylor twice failed to force in.
Albion’s dominance was soon reflected on the scoresheet but it needed a rasping strike from Critchlow five minutes before the break. The striker picked the ball up on the left before unleashing a wicked shot over Sedge ‘keeper Dominic Riordan. The goal suitably impressing the new owners.
Riordan had better fortune saving Barrett’s low drive a minute after the opener before he required right-back Ryan Haigh’s deflection to block Taylor’s snap-drive from distance.
The visitors fought hard after the restart, and substitute Ben Johnston broke through before sending a dangerous shot wide.
Heavy rain caused the pitch to deteriorate as the football and the tackles became increasingly sloppy.
Sedge continued to probe Wrigglesworth’s goal, but the ‘keeper rarely had to get his green shirt dirty.
However, his protestations to an offside decision earned him a yellow card after Hey eased through and shot wide again.
The defensive breach was a sharp reminder to Albion defenders Sparkes and fellow centre-half Denny Ingram that Sedge were not beaten. But the pair remained assured throughout. In front of them, Batley was terrier-like allowing Thompson and Taylor to maraude.
Sedge were then reduced to 10 men when their centre-half Sam Talbot lunged in on Barrett.
But the red card didn’t stop their ambition. The pacy Bojang twice broke through but his teammates failed to cap his liveliness with goals.
Albion were far from their best on the greasy surface. But they killed the game off when referee John Roskelly awarded a spot-kick as Taylor surged into the box. Captain Thompson stepped up to coolly slot a perfect penalty into the top corner.
The goal was scant reward for Thompson’s work-rate throughout the match. The skipper driving his team forward and offering a constant danger.
Marshall was able to shuffle his pack and send on talented 17-year-old Steve Bielby for a league debut and goalkeeper Peter Lawrie for a run outfield.
Taylor missed one last chance to make the scoreline more convincing, but Albion settled for the three points as their merry run rumbled on.
Albion: Wrigglesworth, Whaite, Pepper, Ingram, Sparkes, Thompson, Batley, Taylor, Dhesi, Barrett, Critchlow. Subs: Bielby, Hope, Lawrie
Liversedge: D Riordan, Haigh, White, J Riordan, Talbot, Whittaker, Bojang, Thompson, Grogan, Hey, Newton. Subs: Wilkinson, Elihanea., Goodwin, Johnston.