MATCH REPORT | Maine Road 2-1 West

Tuesday 26th December 2017, NWCFL Premier Division

Maine Road 2 (Wills 27, Coops pen 78)
West 1 (Woods 45, Eiselt sent off 78)
Att: 316

West tasted defeat in the South Manchester derby for the first time since April 2016 as Jack Coops’ late penalty settled matters on a hugely frustrating festive afternoon.

The visitors had gifted Road’s Greg Wills an opener just before the half hour, but Ash Woods levelled matters on the stroke of half time and West looked the more likely to go on and claim all three points before a dramatic denouement that also saw Ryan Eiselt sent off for a second booking.

Both sides went into Christmas on the back of heavy defeats, West hammered 7-1 at Ashton Athletic and Road hit for five at 1874 Northwich, and if confidence was at a premium, frayed nerves were not in a fractious opening period. Eiselt tested the travelling support further when he clipped Sean Cookson as the Road striker bore down on goal, the referee opting to caution the West defender despite howls of protest emanating from the home dugout.

After an opening 20 minutes of free-kicks and passes straight into touch, a football match began to materialise with Woods heading into the side netting for West and Jack Langford firing over at the other end. But when the home side did open the scoring, it was with a goal X-rated from West’s point of view. Eiselt and Chris Middleton’s extended conversation on who should deal with a loose ball was interrupted by Coops, who squared for Wills to tap in from close range.

West were dazed and could have fallen two behind when Coops miscalculated his angles from inside the box, but as in the Manchester Premier Cup game at this venue in October, West struck moments before the break. This time it was the Road management’s turn to look on in horror as Ben Steer’s long throw fell onto the instep of the unmarked Woods to ensure the sides went in level.

If West had struggled to find fluency in the first period, the second was a different matter as they peppered the Road goal. Five minutes after the restart, former West keeper Hayden Buckley-Smith spectacularly denied Tom Bailey, and from the resulting corner Woods saw his header cleared off the line. Georgi Whyment and Steer both went close, the latter heading wide from Bailey’s cross when it looked easier to score, and when West did have the ball in the net, Bailey was ruled to have strayed offside.

But just as West’s pressure appeared to be building to a head, the momentum swung decisively as Road took control with the game’s pivotal moment. Eiselt’s afternoon ended early when he was adjudged to have brought down a forward inside the area, and Coops cooly sent Ashley the wrong way from the spot to re-establish the home side’s lead. It was a lead they were destined to retain despite West throwing bodies forward for a succession of late set-pieces, with the referee’s final whistle confirming a most unpalatable of Boxing Day results.

West: Ashley, Tinker, McKenzie (Banya 55), Eiselt, Middleton, Hagon, Steer, Shaw, Bailey, Whyment, Woods. Not used: Clarke, Dryden, Earlam.

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