Cleckheaton fight back to earn brilliant win at Park

Cleckheaton man-of-the-match Jack Bickerdike races away from the Birkenhead Park defence in last Saturdays National Three North victory. Picture: Gerald Christian
Cleckheaton man-of-the-match Jack Bickerdike races away from the Birkenhead Park defence in last Saturdays National Three North victory. Picture: Gerald Christian

Cleckheaton all-but secured their tenure in National Three North for next season, with a tremendous comeback win at Birkenhead Park.

It was a crucial game for both teams with Park sat second from bottom, seven points behind Cleckheaton prior to the kick off.

Birkenhead hit the ground running and started the match in a manor befitting of a team fighting for survival in their penultimate home game.

Cleckheaton were caught cold by Park’s enthusiasm and conceded a try after just two minutes as number eight Dave Ibbotson forced his way over for the try on the back of his team’s forward power.

The home support was given further hope when a line-out was caught by Park’s pack and driven 20 metres down field, before being spread across the pitch for winger Adam Wellington to score.

Cleckheaton fell further behind when Park steered another rolling maul over the line for Campbell to score and the Moorenders were 17-0 down after 30 minutes.

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Cleck started to secure some quality possession for the first time.

Birkenhead illegally halted the progress of Cleckheaton’s forwards three times in quick succession and the referee awarded the Moorenders a penalty try.  

Cleckheaton had started slowly but were now getting into the game.

Jack Seddon mounted a number of threatening forays and with Cleckheaton moving onto the front foot, man of the match Jack Bickerdike made a half break and popped the ball to full-back James Wilson, whose angled run took him to the line. Ronan Evans converted.

Cleckheaton piled pressure onto the home team. The forwards set up a maul and the mass of bodies could not be resisted as Martin Woodhead got the ball down over the line.

Evans’ touchline conversion put Cleckheaton into a 19-17 lead, which he extended with a penalty goal.

The home team battled hard as their place in National Three was slipping from their grasp but Cleckheaton were not to be denied an excellent and spirited comeback win.

Cleck are now two places above the relegation zone with two games left but are not yet mathematically safe.

If they can get anything out of the game against Rossendale on Saturday, or Huddersfield YMCA fail to get five points from their game away at Ilkley, Cleck’s place in National Three will be confirmed.

The team has shown a lot of character since the turn of the year, winning seven out of the last 11 games.

Rossendale away on Easter Saturday was probably the worst Cleckheaton have played in 2016, losing 40-15, so the team will relish the chance to put the record straight at Moorend, only three weeks after the two sides last met.