It was fair to say that after two relatively poor performances in the FA cup the match, away at potential promotion contenders Congleton, was one that was approached with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Manager Steve Settle sprung a couple of surprises in his line up, a start for Saul Henderson to play in a front two with Tom Bailey and Josh Tinker playing in the holding role in front of the back four. Both these moves added an additional threat up front and some solidity and protection for the back four.
From the off it was clear that West were up for this one having the best of the early exchanges with Henderson chasing down a long ball, lobbing the keeper only for the ball to strike the bar. Tom Bailey came close moments later only to be pulled back by the linesman when he looked onside.
Bailey was not to be denied for long, in the thirteenth minute some excellent pressing forced Congleton into giving away possession leaving Bailey one on one with the keeper and he made no mistake with the finish
The visitors doubled their lead eight minutes later when Evangelinos spotted Bailey’s run, slipped a sublime pass through the Congleton defence allowing Bailey to race onto the ball, round the keeper and steer the ball home.
West were unlucky not to add to the lead minutes later when a great passage of play ended with a cut back to Matty Kay who steered his shot narrowly past the post.
The remainder of the half was played at a great tempo with West dealing well with the home team’s efforts to get back in the game. Tinker in the holding role being particularly impressive.
West went in two up, in full control with the only possible disappointment being that the lead wasn’t greater.
It was no surprise when the game resumed that Congleton came out clearly determined to overturn the lead. They dominated the initial stages of the half but pleasingly for the West manager the defence and midfield stuck to their task and were restricting Congleton to long range shots and keeping them in the less dangerous areas of the pitch.
The pivotal moment arrived in the fifty third minute when the Congleton centre found himself unmarked six yards out but Ashley somehow managed to get down to steer his effort round the post. The West keeper had been frustrated at his performance in the two previous games but he showed again his immense value to the team with a save that preserved the lead and one that few keepers at this level have the ability to make.
This was the catalyst for West to take back control of the match but it became clear that the pressing and tempo of the game had taken its toll and the manager made three substitutions with around twenty to go , Henderson , Shaw and Kay being replaced by Steer, Lilley and Carlos Gomes. All three of the players that went off can be extremely pleased with their afternoon’s work.
The changes were inspired allowing West to maintain their lead with a pleasing level of comfort. Bailey had a tremendous volley from distance tipped over the bar denying him a deserved hat trick
With seven to go Carlos Gomes was on the end of a clearance took the ball into the box skipping past a couple of challenges before knocking the ball past the Congleton keeper. A fantastic finish from a fantastic talent.
The remainder of the game was seen out in impressive fashion with the team displaying game management tactics that have occasionally been absent from some performances last season.
A fine three goal victory with a clean sheet was more than any of the travelling support could have hoped for before the game but it was well deserved . The only minor niggle being that the margin of victory wasn’t more.
There wasn’t one failure in the West line up and from a number of worthy candidates the consensus among the support was that the performance of Josh Tinker in the holding role was worthy of the Man Of The Match award .