West fought from two goals down to salvage a hard earned point in a thrilling 3-3 draw away to title favourites Bootle.
West Manager Steve Settle was without Michael Simcock, the suspended Mark Rogers and Harry Hagon in his squad whilst Carlos Mendes Gomes dropped down to the bench having suffered a knock. With one eye on Saturday’s FA Cup tie handed Joe Shaw, Ben Steer and Richmond Botchey their first starts of the season whilst there was place on the bench for Steve Brockley.
With April’s 5-3 defeat still fresh in their minds the home team started the quickest with Connor Pratt-Luis firing a low effort into Aaron Ashley’s hands at his near post after just four minutes. The game was just eight minutes old when Bootle were awarded a free kick in a wide position for a foul on Kieran Halligan. Michael Ordish followed up by firing a rocket of an effort off the underside of the crossbar. Seconds later Daniel Murphy also struck the crossbar with a header from a corner which Ashley did well to push onto the bar.
West countered and should have gone ahead when Tom Bailey collected a ball out wide on the counter attack playing in Nic Evangelinos who produced a superb point blank save from the giant Paul Willis in the West goal.
The game began to even out with the home side continuing to have the slight upper hand and made it count on 30 minutes when West failed to clear their lines and an Ordish cross found Halligan at the far post and he turned it home first time from 8 yards out.
West responded almost instantly as Josh Tinker’s cross found Evangelinos at the far post but he couldn’t strike the ball cleanly before the loose ball fell to Gary Lilley whose effort was superbly blocked at the edge of the area on 31 minutes. Three minutes later Tinker decided to go it alone as he burst down the right before cutting onto his left foot and firing a wonderful curling effort over the Bootle goalkeeper. West almost took the lead moments after as Tinker again broke down the right picking out Steer whose deep cross found Bailey at the far post but he could only head onto the roof of the net.
On 38 minutes Kev McGrath was shown a yellow card for an off the ball tussle with Halligan. West were punished further when Ordish free kick deflected off the West wall wrong footing Ashley in the West goal as Bootle re-took the lead.
The half ended in controversy as West won a series of corners; the last of which was a goal bound effort volley by Lilley, tipped over the bar by the hand of a Bootle defender with West appealing for a penalty only for the referee to have blown for half time whilst the ball was travelling towards goal.
The second half was just six minutes old when Bootle doubled their lead as Joe Shaw was penalised for a trip at the edge of the penalty area despite appearing to pull out of the challenge. It was too good an opportunity for the referee to refuse and Ordish made no mistake rifling a superb penalty into the top right hand corner.
It took West just eight minutes to respond as a terrific move down the left from Steer and Matty Kay saw the former pick out Evangelinos at the far post who managed to hit the upright from a yard before Lilley mis-kicked it and the Bootle defender drilled it into the roof of his own net.
From there Setts through caution out the window as he introduced Mendes Gomes, Saul Henderson and Chris McDonagh in place of Botchey, Lilley and Steer in a formation that loosely translated to 3-0-7! The manager was rewarded for his bravery on 75 minutes when a corner came back out to Matty Kay, who showed great strength to turn and hold his man off before playing the ball into Henderson whose mis-control fell kindly back to Kay who curled a sensational effort into the top corner off the bar and post.
Seconds later West should have made it four as they countered from a Bootle corner through Mendes Gomes, who played a terrific through ball to Henderson whose low effort struck the foot of the post with the rebound bouncing over the outstretched boot of Bailey.
The final 15 minutes was played with an energy from both sides that a World Cup final would envy as both went in search of a winner. On 87 minutes Ordish went close again with a 30 yard curled effort which Ashley produced a save that won’t be bettered anywhere in the NWCFL this season; tipping it round the post at full stretch.
At the other end twice West combined through McDonagh, Bailey and Kay only to see the ball twice roll just wide of the Bootle post. The last action from the game came seconds before the final whistle as Ordish saw a free kick from 30 yards land on the roof of the netting. However West escaped with a point from a fixture that has now seen 53 goals scored in 11 meetings.