Bamber Bridge 3, Burscough 5
Burscough consolidated their play-off position by overcoming 10-man Bamber Bridge in an eight-goal thriller.
Michael Monaghan scored a brace to tip the balance in the Linnets’ favour, after a depleted but spirited Brig twice came from behind to level in an action-packed second half.
Prior to the break, Matt Lawlor was sent off for throwing the ball at Will Smart, sparking a minor fracas in the tunnel as tempers threatened to spiral out of control.
At the time of the red card, the visitors led 2-1, with Will Jones and Smart helping Burscough recover from Curtis Thompson’s early opener.
The game was billed as a battle between two sides eyeing up fifth spot, with Bamber Bridge eager to react to the weekend’s stalemate with Scarborough and close the gap on Burscough to five points, with games in hand.
And Neil Crowe’s men made the perfect start, with Thompson - the only change from Saturday’s line-up, coming in for Stuart Vasey - volleying home after just four minutes.
Burscough’s Anthony Brown failed to clear Alistair Waddecar’s cross, and the home side’s central midfielder arrived in the box to send the ball past Calvin Hare.
From the early stages, the visitors were vocal in protesting referee Darren Rogers’ decisions, with Bradley Carroll and captain Paul Williams both booked for dissent.
Monaghan caught the eye from a footballing perspective, although he managed to find the sponsor’s lounge balcony with his side’s first real goalbound attempt.
With almost half an hour gone, Brig were looking fairly comfortable until three minutes of madness saw the game turn on its head.
Elliot Newby’s burst of pace created space, before the Burscough winger played a perfect through ball in for Jones, who added to his brace at the weekend with a cool finish past Lee Dovey.
Minutes later, Jones again beat Dovey, this time to an aerial ball, to leave Smart with the simplest of headers.
The manner in which they threw away their lead clearly affected Bamber Bridge, and Lawlor’s moment of stupidity, in first-half stoppage time, left them with a mountain to climb to get back into the game.
The Brig centre-back appeared to throw the ball at Smart, who made the most of the incident but succeeded in convincing Rogers to venture to his top pocket.
Neil Crowe rung the changes at the break, sacrificing Thompson and Paul Alexander to introduce the fresh legs of Dean Ing and Stuart Vasey, and the substitutions paid immediate dividends, as the home side found themselves back in the game with just seconds played.
Adam Dodd’s searching cross bounced between the green backline and Hare, with Waddecar gleefully nipping in to the gap to nod home.
The unlikely leveller called for a few moments’ calm, and a reassessment of the game, but Dodd quickly went from hero to villain, his careless square ball allowing Jones in to restore Burscough’s advantage on 52 minutes.
Nine minutes later, though, this topsy-turvy game was turned on its head again.
Regan Linney did well to turn his man out on the left-hand side, before cutting in and getting a shot away, which Vasey nicked over Hare to make it 3-3.
For a few brief moments, the home side looked the likely winners as Burscough were forced to regroup, but the extra man eventually took its toll, and, when Monaghan’s deflected effort gave the Linnets the lead for a third time on 68 minutes, the game was up.
Jones, with a volley over the bar, and Liam Caddick, who forced Dovey into action several times, threatened to settle the issue, and Monaghan eventually did, evading Ing’s tackle and tucking the ball past Dovey and Dodd into the bottom corner.