Head-to-Head | Tom Bailey v Craig Cairns
Whilst West and Runcorn Town will head into tomorrow’s game in 8th and 1st place respectively their leading goal-scorers stand side-by-side one another in the NWCFL goal-scorer’s charts in first and second. Tom Bailey and Craig Cairns have already notched up an incredible 22 goals between them as they come face-to-face at tomorrow’s game. In the first meeting of the season between the two divisions heavyweights we asked two other heavyweights on what supporters of both teams can expect tomorrow.
West TV host Barca Jim and Runcorn Town Club Secretary and Counties Podcast founder Martin Fallon gave us their thoughts on the two players and in trying to find out what kind of players they are its easily established that they are both players who strive to work for the team:
Barca Jim: “In Tom Bailey West have arguably the perfect striker for the NWCL. He has the strength to lead a line, playing as a lone striker and giving his teammates the perfect out ball as they know when it goes to Tom with his back to goal it will stick and he has the ability to bring others into play.
“He’s also deceptively quick and can just as easily play on the shoulder of the last defender and with the quality of his finishing he’s been a handful for every defence he’s faced this season. If needed, playing in a front two he can drop into midfield to help should the game demand it. He’s been a huge asset to the team since he joined in the summer.”
Martin Fallon: “Craig is very much a team player. Almost every interview he has done for us, he always recognises the contribution of his team mates, saying he cannot score unless they are providing the assists for him. In every celebration for example, he always runs to whoever provides the assist. This is further demonstrated with his player of the month award last month. When he collected it, he insisted all his teammates were on the photo, which is a great touch I feel.”
Whilst Tom Bailey made the high-profile summer move from 1874 Northwich it seemed like Craig Cairns came from nowhere last season to set NWCFL ablze scoring an incredible 52 goals in 41 games for Town. However the Runcorn forward has been doing it both at higher and lower levels for several seasons.
MF: “Craig played for Rock Ferry, a local team to him, then signed for Cammell Laird in the Evostik. I think he always scored for them but we never noticed as they were in the Evo-Stik! When they reformed he stayed with them and scored 27 goals in their promotion winning season, then 21 goals in their first season in the Premier Division. When moving to Runcorn Town though, the team really played to his strengths and his goal return was frankly ridiculous.”
The incredible goal feat hasn’t gone un-noticed higher up the pyramid but the NWCFL golden shoe winner has no desire to move on.
MF: “I think the reason he has turned down moves elsewhere is that he is very settled here. We play to his strengths as I mention, he has a good job outside of football so money is not the driver with him like it is so many other players, and the team spirit within the squad that the management has built is phenomenal. I think this suits Craig as is very family oriented with his parents watching every match Home and Away and his partner Stacey coming to watch every now and again with their daughter.”
This isn’t the first time the two strikers have faced off against one another. Runcorn Town met 1874 Northwich at Pavillions in August 2016 with the visitors running out 2-0 winners on the day although Bails failed to find the net. In the return meeting in December 1874 completed the double with a 3-2 win although Cairns outscored Bailey notching a brace to the now-West number 9s penalty.
Whilst Bailey only joined the club in pre-season as Steve Settle’s highest profile summer signing the West centre forward has become an instant fan favourite:
BJ: “I think it’s fair to say from the first game of the season he became a firm favourite with the fans. His pre-season was all about getting match fit for the serious stuff but once the first games came along you could see his hunger for goals and to help the team win. He’s not only scored goals but made them for others as well. It hasn’t taken the fans long to come up with a song for him and VIVA TOM BAILEY could be heard loud and clear at AFC Blackpool last weekend.”
With so many goals to choose from we asked both which their favourite respective goals were:
BJ: “Already this season he has weighed in with 10 goals, an impressive haul, and to put that into perspective; we scored over 100 league goals last season but our leading scorers were Ash Woods and Matty Kay with 19. My personal favourite was his third in the last minute against AFC Blackpool mainly because I had joked he wasn’t getting on the bus if he didn’t give us a hat trick. Celebrating with the travelling support after the goal was the sign of a class act.”
MF: “I don’t really have a favourite goal, but what is noticeable is the variety of goals he scores. Like all good strikers he gets his fair share of tap ins, with his runs creating the space, he’s hit precision lobs from 25-yards dipping under the bar, curled efforts from the corner of the box, penalties, powerful strikes that he hits early that keepers don’t expect. He really can score from anywhere and I think it’s this variety which is why he has scored so many, as defenders and goalkeepers don’t know what he is going to do.”
Of course, there are more than just two players involved in the outcome of Sunday’s game but the anticipation of the meeting of the two deadliest strikers in the division cannot be missed. Kick off is at 3pm on Saturday, admission is £5 for adults, £3 concessions and FREE for under-12s accompanied by an adult.
Thanks to Barca Jim, Martin Fallon and Runcorn Town FC.