MATCH REPORT | West 1-3 City of Liverpool

Saturday 27th October 2018, NWCFL Premier Division

West 1 (Eckersley 75)
City of Liverpool 3 (own goal 39, Cairns 65, 90+2)
Att: 364

A much-improved West ran City of Liverpool close but were ultimately unable to prevent the visitors stretching their lead at the top of the table to five points.

If there was a right way to lose a seventh match in a row, this was it – the game was in the balance right up until Craig Cairns settled matters in stoppage time, and the home side’s hard-working, organised display was a world away from the recent capitulation to Congleton and bloodless showing against Irlam.

West were unfortunate to go into the interval behind after an even first half – an untidy own goal from a set-piece breaking the deadlock – and although Cairns put the Purps in control just after the hour, Matt Eckersley turned in a Scott Mason corner to set up a dramatic finish. Cairns, though, had the final say, catching West short-handed on the break to rubber-stamp the visitors’ 11th league win of the season.

The Purps had hammered West 4-0 on Merseyside three weeks earlier, and apprehension of a similar afternoon was crystallised when the visitors had the ball in the net inside 45 seconds – however, the away fans’ celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag. West settled after this early jolt, and Eckersley and the returning Ryan Eiselt restricted the Purps’ forward line to snap-shots from outside the area.

At the other end, West forged half-chances, and Saul Henderson had the clearest opportunities as he looked to move onto double figures for the season. He had a shot blocked at close range after excellent work from Kyle Pearson, impressive at left-back, before shooting straight at visiting keeper Ben Ascroft when a pass to Danny McLaughlin might have been a better option.

The visitors began to dominate possession towards the end of the first half, and after Cairns had flashed a shot narrowly over the bar, took the lead when a corner was diverted past Marcus Burgess via a West defender. From there, West’s primary mission was to enter the interval still in touch with the league leaders, and Eiselt headed away another set-piece as the referee prepared to bring proceedings to a halt.

West were similarly competitive after the restart, but the visitors began to show their promotion credentials – Burgess began to see a little too much of the ball while Henderson was starved of service at the other end. Tom Peterson passed up a glorious opportunity to double the Purps’ lead when he glanced a header wide at the far post, but Cairns was on target after 65 minutes – Peterson was denied by Burgess, but the former Runcorn Town hitman was in the right place to snaffle the rebound and put the visitors in a commanding position.

The next goal seemed crucial, not just in terms of the result but also in the context of West’s efforts, and though substitute Joe Shaw blazed a free kick over from the edge of the box, West pulled a deserved goal back when Eckersley turned Mason’s corner into the net. Steve Settle’s final move was to introduce flying winger Abel Tsegaye, but the streetwise visitors showed why they are on track for Northern Premier League football next season – Burgess produced an outstanding save to keep West in the game with five minutes remaining, but Cairns ended the home side’s hopes in stoppage time when he tucked the ball into the net after a counter-attack.

West remain dangerously close to the drop zone – only goal difference keeps them above Abbey Hey – but the mood around Brookburn Road was markedly more upbeat after this spirited display and West should travel to Barnoldswick Town next week full of confidence.

West: Burgess, Tinker (Andrews 58), Pearson, Roberts, Eckersley, Eiselt, Langford (Shaw 55), S. Mason, Henderson, McLaughlin (Tsegaye 84), Woods. Not used: Botchey, Black.

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