MATCH REPORT | West 4-2 Ashton Athletic

Saturday 5th May 2018, NWCFL Premier Division

West 4 (Pearson og 1, Woods 47, Bailey 51, 85)
Ashton Athletic 2 (Brownhill 70, pen 86)
Att: 234

A quickfire West double at the start of the second half helped to see off Ashton Athletic as Steve Settle’s side tuned up for Bank Holiday Monday’s South Manchester derby.

A much-changed West side, with six alterations from Tuesday’s starting 11 against City of Liverpool, led at the end of a soporific first period thanks to a bizarre Martin Pearson own goal inside 60 seconds. But further goals came from familiar sources after the interval, as Ash Woods and Tom Bailey put the game beyond the visitors. The Yellows’ Joel Brownhill helped himself to a brace as West continued to leak goals, but this was a satisfying way to prepare for Monday’s showdown with Maine Road.

The end of the Northern Premier League season meant that West could call upon Hyde United’s James Hodges and Trafford’s Declan Rydings, the latter making his first appearance in a West shirt since November, but they had barely had the chance to touch the ball before West opened the scoring. Ben Steer’s long throw went straight into the net via a touch from the flailing Pearson, whose claims for a foul were ignored by the referee.

The pace plummeted after Pearson’s own goal, with the sides playing out a first half typical of two mid-table teams in the baking May sun. Bailey had half-chances from a pair of Steer deliveries and a Woods header was easily claimed by the Ashton keeper, but the visiting defence was mainly untroubled for 44 minutes. The Yellows came into the game in the closing stages of the first period, and after Hodges had produced a fine double save from Brownhill and Daniel Smith, Lewis Rowe wastefully headed Bram Johnstone’s corner wide.

West emerged from the break with renewed vigour and effectively had the game won within six minutes of the restart. First, Woods neatly finished a fast West break involving Bailey and Georgi Whyment, then Ryan Eiselt’s connection with a long free-kick was nodded home by the lurking Bailey.

Further goals should have followed – a more clinical West could have threatened to match the seven goals Ashton scored against them before Christmas. Woods ran clear from the halfway line but delayed his shot and allowed Pearson to save, before Whyment crossed too close to the Yellows keeper with Bailey ready to pounce.

West were looking for a first clean sheet since the August bank holiday, but just as it looked as if this may be the day, Hodges failed to connect with the ball on the edge of the box and allowed Brownhill to tap into the empty net.

The Yellows were buoyed and briefly threatened to stage a comeback, but failed to create any clear opportunities and West restored their three-goal cushion with five minutes remaining. Substitute Jimmy Woodward’s burst into the box was foiled by the onrushing Pearson, and the rebound fell to Bailey who calmly slotted in his 38th goal of the season.

There was still time for Ashton to snatch a second consolation – moments after Bailey’s goal, Brownhill smashed a penalty past Hodges after a Yellows forward was bundled over in the area. But the destination of the points was never in serious doubt and thoughts can now turn to Monday’s M21 tussle.

West: Hodges, Botchey, Rydings, Eislet, Rogers, Middleton, Steer (Woodward 80), Sergeant (Reader 76), Bailey, Woods, Whyment (Dickenson 63).

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