MATCH REPORT | Squires Gate 1-2 West
Saturday 10th March 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
Squires Gate 1 (Pett 20 pen)
West 2 (Bailey 85, 89 pen)
West won on the road for the first time in almost three months as Tom Bailey’s late brace floored Squires Gate.
On an afternoon poised on a knife-edge, Gary Pett’s first-half penalty for Gate looked to have condemned Steve Settle’s side to another immensely frustrating away defeat. But Bailey struck twice, first nodding in Steven Affleck’s cross with five minutes remaining and then converting another spot-kick as the clock ticked towards stoppage time, to turn proceedings upside-down and put eight points between West and the drop zone.
The home side will be sickened by a first home league defeat since October, but the West celebrations at full-time were a testament to the hard-fought nature of this win. The visitors began strongly on the Fylde coast but struggled to craft clear opportunities – Gate spent most of the first ten minutes repelling Ben Steer’s long throws, and Matt Eckersley’s looping header from the edge of the box called keeper Ben Fletcher into the most casual of employment.
Gate gradually made their way up the pitch and applied some pressure of their own. Ryan Riley skewed a shot well wide when he was teed up from a corner, and only Nia Bayunu’s positioning prevented the home side from taking the lead when he cleared another Riley effort off the line. Moments later, however, Gate did open the scoring as West conceded a fourth penalty in three away games. Riley was bundled over as he entered the box, and though Ashley guessed right, he was unable to keep out Pett’s well-struck effort.
Ashley was forced into action again immediately following the restart – Pett broke into the box but the West keeper raced from his line and made a pivotal save to prevent Gate taking the match away from the visitors. West steadied themselves and had chances to equalise before the break. Joe Shaw narrowly failed to replicate his midweek goal at Darwen when his free-kick drifted just wide of the post, and Bailey connected with Woods’ low shot but saw the ball roll the wrong side of the upright.
Gate led at the end of a first half in which the state of play could be divided into thirds, but the pendulum swung quicker at the beginning of the second period. West were the first to threaten, Steer’s wicked cross from the right evading everyone, but the home side remained dangerous and Scott Harries was off-target not long afterwards. This pattern continued, with Shaw firing wide of a sprawling Fletcher’s post from 30 yards and Harries spurning a presentable opportunity from the edge of the West box.
Later, Eckersley made two emergency interventions in a row as Harries bore down on Ashley’s goal, but the game changed with a quarter of an hour remaining as Settle again turned to Chappy Massamba, who had made a notable impact off the bench at Darwen. Massamba, who replaced Steer, unsettled the Gate defence and immediately stung Fletcher’s palms with a rasping shot from 30 yards. West penned Gate in their own defensive third and finally broke through when Bailey powerfully met the impressive Affleck’s right-wing delivery.
West are beginning to make a pleasing habit of striking late – this was the third game in a row in which they scored in the final five minutes – and they looked to snatch a win in a frantic final few moments. It appeared that their chance had come and gone when Shaw glanced Bailey’s cross wide from the edge of the six-yard box, but when Massamba was sent flying in the penalty area, Bailey coolly beat Fletcher from the spot to secure a hugely satisfying three points.
West: Ashley, Affleck, Tinker, Eckersley, Olapade (Whyment 65), Bayunu, Steer (Massamba 76), Sergeant, Bailey, Shaw, Woods. Not used: Reader, McKenzie, Slaven.