MATCH REPORT | West 2-1 Congleton Town

Saturday 24th March 2018, NWCFL Premier Division

West 2 (Steer 15, Shaw 29)
Congleton Town 1 (Short 11)
Att: 457

West saw off a second-half barrage to complete a double over Congleton Town and take another step towards safety.

The West back line, including keeper Aaron Ashley, had to be at their most obstinate to keep the Bears at bay in the second period, and Joe Shaw’s scrambled effort just before the half-hour proved to be the winner. Shaw’s ninth goal of the season completed a comeback started by Ben Steer after David Short had put the Bears in front, as West moved level on points with the visitors.

Three goals had separated the sides in August when West comfortably won in Cheshire, but a far closer encounter was in prospect from the opening moments of a see-saw first 45 minutes. The visitors threatened inside the first 60 seconds as Declan Fletcher burst into the box before seeing his low cross smuggled away from danger, quickly followed by Matt Eckersley and Ash Woods firing narrowly off-target at the other end.

Congleton opened the scoring after 11 minutes with a goal that owed much to the improvisation of William Hasler-Cregg – the ball appeared to be drifting out for a goal kick, but the Bears number 7 acrobatically delivered a cross into the box. Short found space in the six-yard box to bury a header past Ashley before the West keeper could react.

Steer had two opportunities to respond quickly – his first effort from the right corner of the box was well over the Bears crossbar, but his second was more successful, latching onto a pass from the returning Matty Kay and beating Daniel Eccles low at his near post.

The game became even more stretched after this exchange of goals and after Woods had seen a low cross turned behind, Jonah O’Reilly should have done better when he headed over unmarked from a Bears corner. But on Brookburn Road’s Junior Takeover Day, schoolboy errors from the visitors handed West the lead. The Bears’ discussion on who should clear Steer’s low cross was interrupted by Shaw, who stabbed in from point-blank range.

Chances continued to flow at both ends. Bailey and Steer went close for West, and Hasler-Gregg and Anthony Griffith almost salvaged an equaliser for the visitors before the break. The Bears also felt they should have had a penalty in first-half stoppage time when Fletcher was grounded at a corner, but the referee was unmoved and ended an entertaining opening period shortly afterwards.

West were not quite camped in their own half after the interval, but the visitors dominated possession as they chased a second goal. Ashley excelled when he denied Emini Adegbenro with his legs and later pawed away a fierce Fletcher half-volley from the edge of the area. His defenders were helping out too, and Lanre Olapade was particularly impressive given the arduous task of pinning down the elusive Hasler-Gregg.

Despite the visitors’ pressure, West did fashion opportunities for a third goal. Shaw couldn’t connect cleanly with a Steer cross, and Kay shot straight at Eccles after a pass from the same source. The chances continued to pile up at the other end – Fletcher’s aim was awry when he was clear in the West area – but the visitors may have suspected it wasn’t going to be their day when the ball refused to go in during a late scramble.

Brookburn Road nerves jangled through six minutes of stoppage time, but West navigated the closing moments safely as they remain unbeaten at home in 2018.

West: Ashley, Olapade, Tinker, Eckersley, Middleton, Shaw (Eiselt 85), Mason, Kay, Bailey, Woods, Steer (Massamba 68). Not used: Whyment, Affleck, Banya.

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