West and AFC Liverpool kicked off the 2016/17 with a goalless stalemate in the Emirates FA Cup.
With Steve Settle away and Steve Brockley serving a stadium ban coaches, Steve Eckersley and Rob Madden took charge of the team handing first team debuts to Dean Williams, Martin Andrews and Robert Black. There was a return to the starting line up to Lee Gavin who’d missed the end of last season due to injury whilst Joe Shaw returned following a brief stint at Ramsbottom United.
Despite the heat the game began at a good tempo with Liverpool creating the first chance as West surrendered possession deep in their own half allowing Connor Belger to drag a shot just wide of the post. West responded though as they forced a corner after just three minutes; the delivery found Mark Rogers at the far post but his header cannoned off Joshua O’Connell in the Liverpool goal.
The game continued to be even with both sides defence proving difficult to break down but West had a terrific chance on 20 minutes when Ash Woods cross found Black at the far post but the young winger headed just over. There was an early injury blow to West as Michael Simcock was forced to come off after just 20 minutes due to an ankle injury.
Liverpool grew into the half and went close just after the half hour mark as a free kick was initially flicked on but volley just over inside the penalty area. A minute later they had serious claims for a penalty as Liverpool burst down the left through Emini Adebengro, Richmond Botchey seemingly poked the ball away from him as he reached the penalty area but the referee blew for a foul. After much discussion between referee and linesman, with both teams protesting their cases, the referee blew for a free kick right on the edge of the penalty area. Liverpool almost took full advantage as Marvin Molyneaux clipped his free kick off the top of the right hand post.
Liverpool continued to press and a good move down the right saw the ball cut back along the goal line and only a superb clearance from Botchey denied Liverpool the opener. However it was West who rued missed chances as on the stroke of half time Matty Kay lifted an incredible chip over the Liverpool defence into the path of the on-rushing Black but in choosing to take an extra touch trod on the ball before he could apply the final touch and the team went into half time level.
The second half was just four minutes old when a great pass found Black, his lay off played in Woods who played Black back in but he was denied a goal by a superb tackle. On 53 minutes Ash Woods did brilliantly to evade two players on the right, cutting his pass inside to Matty Kay who curled his shot just wide of the left hand post.
The surface and the searing heat did little to diminish the intensity of the second half and both sides went close on 68 minutes as West broke the offside trap with a quick flowing move as Joe Shaw called O’Connell into action but Liverpool responded by dragging a shot of their own just wide.
As Liverpool had grown into the first half it was West who grew into the second as Ash Woods volleyed over on 72 minutes after good work from sub Jonny Poizer to win the back possession. Another quick passing move three minutes later freed up Rob Black but O’Connell was equal to his effort.
As the minutes ticked away the game became increasingly open but it was Liverpool who finished the stronger as they won a corner in the final seconds of the game with the delivery finding the head of a Liverpool play who directed it towards goal before it was desperately scrambled away by West as the referee blew his whistle.