by Robert Lee · 08/08/2018
Tuesday 7th August 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
Hanley Town 1 (O’Neil-Martin pen 45)
West 1 (Stachini 5)
A resolute West picked up their first point of the season with a hard-earned draw at Hanley Town.
Looking to respond after Saturday’s opening-day defeat to Northwich Victoria, West made a dream start in the Potteries as Josh Stachini opened the scoring inside five minutes. The home side equalised on the stroke of half-time when Karl O’Neil-Martin dispatched a penalty, but West gave as good as they got in the second period and could have snatched all three points if a Tom Bailey shot had crept the right side of the post in stoppage time.
This was a more than satisfactory point, though, especially as it came at a ground where West shipped six last season. And if West looked disjointed in defeat against Vics three days earlier, this was a lot more like it as the visitors showed a determination that was conspicuous by its absence for parts of last season.
On an unseasonably chilly evening in Staffordshire, it was the home side who were caught cold as West struck early on. Matt Eckersley won the ball in defence and his ball over the top found Stachini and Saul Henderson both in the clear as the linesman’s flag stayed down. After a moment of indecision, Stachini took control and coolly beat Hanley keeper Owen Wyatt to open the scoring.
Hanley, who were aiming to make it two wins from two after edging out Burscough at the weekend, penned West back and after Martin Stanyer headed wide for a corner, were left cursing the assistant referee after an Andy Nicholls drive off the crossbar was ruled not to have crossed the line.
West remained a threat on the counter and Stachini went close to a second goal when his fierce drive from the edge of the box was tipped over by Wyatt, before Henderson attempted a pass to Bailey when a shot might have been the better option.
But just as it looked as if West would go in at the break with their lead intact, Hanley were awarded the opportunity to level matters when Harry Turner clipped Mackenzie Faulkner inside the area. Turner guessed right but was unable to keep out O’Neil-Martin’s spot-kick.
A more attritional second half followed. By this point, West had already lost two players to injury – Zac Cooper was forced off just before the half-hour mark and Mark Rogers failed to emerge from the dressing room after the interval – but dug in, with Eckersley soldiering on despite taking a heavy knock himself during the first period.
It wasn’t until the introduction of West debutant Junior Dos Santos with 20 minutes remaining that the game began to open up – Rory Breslin, a constant presence in the visitors’ engine room, forced a corner, before Dos Santos’ cross from the left was narrowly missed by Henderson. The home side also carved out opportunities and were foiled by the officials again when a goal was ruled out for offside, before a Jordan Erdmann headed wide when well-placed inside the area.
The best chance of the second half, however, was reserved for Bailey in the second minute of stoppage time – after Joe Shaw had won the ball in midfield, Bailey broke into the box but was forced wide and could only drag his effort past the far post.
West: Turner, Tinker, Cooper (Brew-Butler 28), Botchey, Andrews, Eckersley, Breslin, Rogers (Shaw ht), Bailey, Henderson, Stachini (Dos Santos 71).