MATCH REPORT | West 3-1 Runcorn Town

Saturday 29th December 2018, NWCFL Premier Division

West 3 (Hall 48, Shaw pen 51, Howarth 75)
Runcorn Town 1 (Thelwell 17)
Att: 346

West ended 2018 in memorable fashion with a barnstorming win against high-flying Runcorn Town.

The visitors held a slender advantage at the end of a tight first period thanks to Simon Thelwell’s 17th-minute opener. But West were a team transformed after the break and after quick goals from Stephen Hall and Joe Shaw overturned the deficit, Ramirez Howarth emphatically wrapped up the points 15 minutes from time.

Following a series of vital victories against teams in the bottom six, this comprehensive win against one of the Premier Division’s big guns represents another step forward for David Powell’s West. And it will have been especially satisfying viewing for the West fans who endured the miserable 5-0 defeat at Pavilions in August.

An injury to the influential Ciaran Kilheeney meant West were without a recognised forward, with Stephen Hall operating as an auxiliary number 9. Hall grew into his role as the game went on and was rewarded with a classic centre-forward’s goal, but in the opening period West lacked fluency in the final third. Ashley Leather shot straight at Town keeper Jack Cookson before Howarth forced a save from close range, but it was the visitors who looked more likely to open the scoring.

Harry Brazel had already headed straight at Marcus Burgess by the time Thelwell moved into the box and fired across the West keeper into the far corner. Town wasted another pair of headed opportunities as the half drew on, but West began to look more settled and, crucially, were able to reach half time in touching distance of the visitors.

West flew out of the dressing room and seized the initiative in a dizzying six-minute spell after the restart. Only three minutes had elapsed when Leather’s deep cross from the right was crashed home at the far post by Hall, and Town had barely escaped their own half when Leather was chopped down in the box a further three minutes later. Shaw, who scored a brace of penalties at Abbey Hey on Boxing Day, stepped up again and sent Cookson the wrong way to complete a stunning turnaround.

The home side were now rampant, and could have had a third before the hour when Shaw’s header from a Leather corner was ruled to have been cleared before the line. West’s dominance was summed up when Town’s John Shaw decided the only way to stop Leather was to cynically block him off on the right wing, picking up a yellow card in the process.

West stylishly settled matters with a quarter of an hour remaining. Shaw was again pivotal, freeing Howarth with a superb through-ball. Howarth bore down on goal, outfoxed a Town defender with a cut-back, then sent a powerful effort beyond Cookson and into the net to the delight of the exultant Brookburn Road crowd.

An excellent day for Powell’s side was capped by results elsewhere, meaning they see out 2018 with daylight between themselves and the relegation zone. A West side coursing with confidence can now look forward to opening 2019 at Brookburn Road against Premier Division surprise packages Burscough.

West: Burgess, Tinker, Atherton, Andrews, Eiselt, Eckersley, Leather (Faux 83), Gavin, Hall (Affleck 90), Shaw, Howarth (Woods 88). Not used: Jones, Langford.

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