by Robert Lee · 15/04/2018
Saturday 14th April 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
Northwich Victoria 1 (Gorman 72)
West 2 (Bailey 50, Shaw 68)
West responded to midweek defeat by seeing off Northwich Victoria at Townfields and moving into the Premier Division’s top ten.
After a flat opening period reminiscent of Thursday’s 2-1 loss at home to AFC Liverpool, the game sparked into life with Tom Bailey and Joe Shaw giving West a commanding lead. Rory Gorman pulled a goal back with 18 minutes remaining to set up a nerve-jangling finale, but the visitors held on to secure a third successive away win.
Following victories by the same margin at Charnock Richard and Abbey Hey, this was another fully-deserved three points as West stuck to their principles in the face of an aerial bombardment from the home side. But it was hard to envisage the high-octane second half after an opening 45 minutes that was an exercise in tedium.
Aside from one moment in each box – Matt Eckersley heading over Ben Steer’s cross at the far post, and Vics having a goal ruled out for offside following a free-kick – little of note occurred before the interval as the game descended into a series of untidy fouls and misplaced passes.
But West wrested control of the game soon after the restart. The visitors had struggled to find a rhythm in the stop-start opening period, but after a first fluid move had ended with Steer’s cross deflecting into the arms of Vics keeper Michael Donlon, a second put West into the lead. A combination of Shaw, Matty Kay and Ash Woods opened up the Vics defence, and Woods squared across the six-yard box for the lurking Bailey to score his second goal in two games.
The temperature rose on an already warm day in Cheshire, and after Gorman was booked for a crude challenge on Bailey on the halfway line, Anthony Shinks was cautioned after being too eager to fall under a West challenge in the box. In between, Lanre Olapade denied the home side a certain equaliser when he toed the ball away from a Vics striker inside the area. The referee, who had become a target for the enthusiastic home dugout and support, correctly pointed for a corner despite howls of protest from those in green.
The value of Olapade’s intervention became even more apparent just over ten minutes later as West doubled their lead. Steer’s lofted cross from the right was met by the arriving Shaw, who eventually scrambled the ball past a series of Vics defenders after his initial header was saved by Donlon.
At this point, the game was firmly in West’s command, but a first clean sheet since the August bank holiday would continue to elude Aaron Ashley. The home side halved the deficit five minutes after Shaw’s goal when Gorman drove into the box and beat the West keeper via a deflection.
The momentum inevitably swung and, with tempers continuing to fray – Ashley and Oscar Durnin both entering the book after a minor scuffle – the home side pushed for an equaliser. After West switched off at a short corner, Ashley kept out Brandon Barski with his fingertips, and as the game ticked into stoppage time Ashley denied Vics at close range before a rebound crept past the far post.
West, though, managed five minutes of stoppage time – Olapade again intervening at the far post to snuff out a final Vics raid – to secure a hugely satisfying three points and move into the top ten for the first time since November.
West: Ashley, Olapade, Mason, Eckersley, Middleton, Sergeant, Steer, Kay, Bailey (Massamba 79), Woods, Shaw (Rogers 72). Not used: Eiselt, Whyment.