MATCH REPORT | West 3-5 Northwich Victoria

Saturday 4th August 2018, NWCFL Premier Division

West 3 (Platt 45+2, Breslin 54, Henderson 90+3)
Northwich Victoria 5 (Whittle 9, Brownhill 32, Camozzi 56, McDonald 59, Doran 90)
Att: 328

West slumped to defeat at Brookburn Road as Northwich Victoria claimed all three points on the opening day of the season.

The home side’s starting line-up on a sweltering August afternoon had only three players in common with the eleven which began the 5-3 win over Charnock Richard last May, but in many ways the summer break may as well have not happened as familiar failings reared their heads once again. Northwich had a close-season makeover of their own, but were more creative and clinical and ultimately eased to a deserved win.

The season wasn’t even ten minutes old by the time West found themselves behind, Billy Whittle the first Vics player to benefit from generous marking as he glanced in Rob Doran’s cross. West responded well to the early setback but could only eke out half-chances – Matty Kay fired off-target when well-placed, Josh Stachini was beaten to the ball by Vics keeper Ryan Neild and Kay had an effort at the near post deflected wide.

But it was Vics who were ruthless when a chance presented itself at the other end – again, it was preventable, with a mix-up between Matt Eckersley and Henry Turner allowing Joel Brownhill sight of goal. The former Ashton Athletic put Vics into a commanding position at the second attempt.

Brownhill, though, was forced off injured five minutes later, and this appeared to rock the visitors – Brandon Barski was inches away from a calimitous own goal when he nodded the ball over the onrushing Neild, then in first half stoppage time, West debutant Nicky Platt pulled a goal back when he arrowed a half-volley into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

An unlikely comeback was complete nine minutes after the break when Rory Breslin found space at the near post to tap home a Josh Stachini corner, but Vics reclaimed their two-goal cushion almost as quickly. Seconds after Breslin’s leveller, Joe Camozzi fired across Turner and into the bottom corner, then the beleaguered Turner allowed a low cross to slip under his body and into the path of the lurking Stuart McDonald.

West substitute Callum Pragnell made a last-ditch intervention to deny Vics a fifth as the game fizzled to a conclusion, but a further goal did arrive in the final minute of normal time as Doran was given all the time he needed to beat Turner from inside the box. Saul Henderson snatched a consolation as the referee prepared to end proceedings – tucking away Kay’s cross after excellent work from the home side’s standout player, Zac Cooper – but the afternoon belonged to Vics and West will look to improve for Tuesday night’s trip to Hanley Town.

West: Turner, Gleave (Brew-Butler 77), Cooper, Botchey (Pragnell 85), Breslin, Eckersley, Platt, Rogers, Henderson, Kay, Stachini (Bailey 59). Not used: Culkin, Banya.

Man of the match: Cooper.

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