On a weekend where Stretford Paddock was scheduled to face Abacus Media, the opportunity for a top of the table clash came from Abacus calling the game off due to a supposed Covid breakout within their squad. Paddock was then heading for another weekend fixtureless and a possible hit to momentum but almost miraculously, with 24 hours to spare, De La Salle showed the wherewithal to take up the offer and opportunity to play Paddock on short notice. Setting up was very much dubbed an early title decider.
The situation going into the game was Paddock were eight points clear of De La Salle, with the Salford side having three games in hand; a victory for Paddock would have taken them 11 points clear, invariably putting one hand firmly on the title with only six games to go. So it was an opportunity for Paddock, but an opportunity missed.
In what was the biggest game of the season thus far, it was one of the more disappointing performances to date. Howson’s men struggled to get any foothold in the game as they lacked quality and composure in their build-up play, caught out time and time again with square passes and loose touches. De La Salle executed their game plan very well, staying compact and organised – picking their moments to pounce on Paddock mistakes with incisiveness and clinical finishing. They disrupted the rhythm of Howson’s men, causing them problems all day long. Leading to Howson giving credence to his previous criticisms during victories stating that, “Days like today are why I’m still hard on the lads when we win comfortably, but I see faults in performance because I know that against opposition with the quality of De La Salle, we could get punished and today we were.”
De La Salle eventually ran out 3-1 winners, with Paddock’s goal being nothing more than a consolation penalty from Tom Jones later in the game, which wasn’t enough to match the hat-trick from De La Salle’s number 9 who was a thorn in the side all day.
So as things stand, Paddock are now only five points clear of De La Salle, who have three games in hand. Therefore the title is very much in the hands of the team from Salford, but it’s not over yet. This weekend was a big blow to the title hopes, but a flawless finish to the season from Paddock, with a favour or two from other teams in the league, still give Paddock an outsiders shot. It’s a big few months ahead for this Paddock side.