West kick started their 2016/17 NWCFL campaign with a confident 2-2 draw away to Runcorn Linnets thanks to a superb Matty Kay header and teenager Rob Black’s first West goal.
Thanks to their FA Cup exploits West’s big kick off in the league came later than expected as they faced a Runcorn Linnets side whose supporters had seen major a squad rebuild just in time for the start of the season. West were forced into two changes as goalkeeper Dean Williams and Lee Gavin were forced to miss out through injury as they was replaced by Hayden Buckley-Smith and Richmond Botchey respectively.
West started brightly and created their first chance inside a minute as a Jonny Poizer flick-on found Rob Black on the right, the young winger drove towards the penalty cutting a low pass inside into the path of Ash Woods who shot first time from the edge of the area but saw his shot just over. A minute later Joe Shaw released Poizer on the other side but was denied by a good save from Cookson in the Linnets goal and the offside flag. On seven minutes Hayden Buckley-Smith was called into action for the first time as he comfortably held a hard struck effort by Adam Wade from 20 yards out.
On 18 minutes the best chance of the early stages fell to Linnets as a superb cross reached Cusani unmarked at the far post but he couldn’t connect cleanly firing just wide. The game continued to be an open affair and West went close again on 22 minutes as some fine one touch passing in the final third saw the ball reach Shaw at the edge of the area who was only denied a goal by a superb save from Cookson to tip his effort onto the bar.
Linnets responded brightly as Burey fired over from long range before Antony Hickey headed wide at the far post from another excellent cross from the right on 32 minutes. Four minutes later West thought they’d taken the lead when a cross was only cleared as far as Shaw. From the edge of the area the West midfielder rolled his shot calmly into the bottom corner only to see the flag raised for offside as Poizer was adjudged to have been standing right in front of the Linnets goalkeeper.
West ended the half strongly as Poizer had a goal bound free kick deflected off the top of the wall for a corner before Anthony Potts headed the subsequent Matty Kay corner just wide at the near post to bring a close a very entertaining half of football.
It took just a minute of the second half for West to demonstrate their attacking intent as a superb pass found Woods in space on the right but his shot from the edge area flew just past the post. The deadlock was broken on 55 minutes with arguably the best move of the game seeing the ball played out wide to Black after five first time passes through the West midfield: Black’s first time cross found Matty Kay at the far post and he buried his header in off the far post to cap off a superb move.
They say you’re most vulnerable when you score and it proved to be the case as Linnets immediately won a free kick inside their own half, it was pumped down field to Paul Shanley who, in acres of space, managed to round Buckley-Smith and roll it into the net. The setback failed to submit West however as just after the hour mark Potts advanced 40 yards in possession, placed a superb left footed cross field pass into the path of Woods who forced the keeper into a superb block at the near post.
It was with fortunate circumstance that West retook the lead on 67 minutes when a Linnets goalkeeper Cookson came to claim a hopeful punt up field, however the keeper dropped it straight into the path of the waiting Black and he calmly finished off for his first goal since joining the club in the summer.
There was a sense of déjà vu for West as a minute later Linnets were once again level, once again from a free kick, this time inside West’s half as the defence failed to clear and it found its way to Chris Lawton at the far post, the defender took a superb touch and drilled it into the bottom right hand corner. A minute later Linnets thought they might have had the lead when Buckley-Smith was called into a brilliant save pushing a 35 yard deflected swerving Aaron Morris effort onto the post.
Sensing victory Linnets pushed forward and pressed the West goal however they were unable to take advantage with their best chance coming five minutes from time when Cusani looked to have scored but headed just over the bar from another superb Linnets cross.
West, drained by the heat and Wednesday night’s exerts, searched for a winner of their own but couldn’t create anything meaningful in the final minutes as both teams were left to settle for a draw whilst both might have considered it two points dropped in what was a thrilling encounter from start to finish and worthy as the Non-League Papers feature game of the day.