MATCH REPORT | West 4-0 Eccleshall

Saturday 1st February 2020, NWCFL First Division South

West 4 (Hooper 21, 80, Blackwell 74, 85)
Eccleshall 0
Att: 278

West swept aside Eccleshall at Brookburn Road to leapfrog the visitors and move into the First Division South promotion places.

A James Hooper brace, including a spectacular 35-yard free kick, along with a double from George Blackwell secured a resounding win and matched the score against Eccleshall in Staffordshire on the opening day of the season.

With teams on unequal numbers of games played, the promotion picture is still far from clear but this win, following last week’s 5-0 rout of Cheadle Heath Nomads, was symbolic as West moved back into the top four for the first time since the beginning of November.

The margin of victory looked unlikely during a cagey opening period in which the blustery wind blowing around Brookburn Road was the most influential figure. But the game changed from the moment James Hooper took the first chance of the game after 21 minutes. The visitors laboured to clear a West attack and after a clearance deflected off James Cottee, Hooper drilled the ball into the bottom corner to follow up his debut goal at Cheadle Heath.

West should have gone into the interval with a more commanding lead as Sam Heathcote, Cottee and Blackwell all had presentable opportunities, while Jamie McLellan saw a goal ruled out by a tight offside call.

The home side continued to monopolise possession after the restart but could only eke out half-chances in the opening stages of the second period, with substitute Jack Ryan shooting over and Hooper having a shot pawed away by the keeper. Just as the visitors looked to be getting a foothold in the game, Blackwell pounced on another unsuccessful Eccleshall clearance and arrowed the ball low into the net to provide a vital two-goal cushion.

That became a three-goal cushion six minutes later as Hooper stole the show – after West were awarded a free kick some way outside the box, the winger rocketed in a shot that the Eccleshall keeper could only palm into the roof of the net.

West continued to pour forward in the closing stages and Blackwell added a fourth, and his third in two games, following good work from Billy Matthews. The substitute held up the ball long enough to set up Ryan, whose shot was blocked on the line allowing Blackwell to clean up from a matter of inches.

Heathcote almost made it consecutive five-goal victories when his free kick narrowly went the wrong side of the post, while Andrew Jones was belatedly called into action in stoppage time, blocking a shot at the near post to secure another clean sheet. But another stylish West display meant the destination of the points had long since been decided and Chris Rowley’s side will now look to establish their place in the crucial top four.

West: A. Jones, Cook, Gabidon (Ryan 27), Tinker, McLellan, Heathcote, C. Jones, Gavin, Cottee (Matthews 68), Hooper (Dale 88), Blackwell. Not used: Argent-Barnes.

Post-match reaction

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