MATCH REPORT | West 0-3 West Auckland Town

West Didsbury & Chorlton 0
West Auckland Town 3 (Fisher 49, Morris 78, Purewell 81)

West’s interest in the FA Vase ended at the first round stage for the fourth time in five seasons as a clinical West Auckland Town mastered the elements at Brookburn Road.

Storm Brian was the central figure in a deeply uninspiring first half in which both sides struggled to produce the form that has seen them rack up a combined 78 goals in 27 league games this season. When a football match did briefly emerge, the visitors’ excellent Adam Mitchell was usually integral – a flurry of activity just after the 15-minute mark began with him firing the game’s first chance just past the right-hand post after an incisive run through the heart of the West defence. Mitchell then tested Aaron Ashley with a swerving free-kick that was beaten away by the West keeper, before Ashley was again called upon when Amar Purewell met Mitchell’s low cross from the left at the near post.

West’s attacking contributions in the first period were limited to a handful of offside calls against Tom Bailey as Matty Kay attempted to create openings from midfield, while Ben Steer’s set-pieces were nullified by swirling winds holding the ball up in the air. Such was West’s impotence that visiting keeper Mark Bell’s first meaningful touch of the ball came when he claimed a Steer corner after half an hour.

The match improved as a spectacle in the second period, with both keepers more gainfully employed. It was the visitors who struck decisively four minutes after the restart, with a goal that would set the tone for the remainder of the match – a neat move ending with Nathan Fisher, the runaway top scorer in the Northern League First Division with 21 goals, expertly shooting across Ashley into the bottom-left corner of the net. The referee was unmoved by West’s claims of offside in the build-up.

West were finding the pace and creativity of the visitors’ forward players increasingly difficult to handle, but the home side’s clearest sight of an equaliser did arrive moments after the opening goal. Kay freed Bailey with a header in a move similar to West’s biggest chance against Barnoldswick Town in midweek and, as against Barnoldswick, Bailey was denied, with Bell rushing out to deflect the shot behind for a corner.

Steve Settle introduced Carlos Mendes Gomes and Saul Henderson just before the hour mark as West looked to force the issue, and the home side eked out a couple of half-chances – Mendes Gomes crossing straight at Bell before narrowly missing Josh Tinker’s centre at the far post. But the better chances were at the other end, with Mitchell missing the target after an Anthony Bell shot was well saved and substitute Denver Morris sending a fierce shot over the bar from outside the area.

The visitors eventually took the game away from West – who failed to score in consecutive games for the first time since April 2016 – with a quickfire double as the match entered the closing stages. Morris doubled the lead with an opportunistic strike after Ashley had parried Fisher’s shot. Moments later, Fisher broke into the box before squaring for Purewell to add the gloss to a result which sees the north-east side, runners-up in this competition twice in the last six seasons, take another step towards a Wembley return.

West: Ashley, Tinker, Simcock (Mendes Gomes 59), McGrath, Hagon, Potts, Steer, Shaw (Henderson 59), Bailey, Kay, Weston. Not used: Kilheeney, Parr, Poole.

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