by Robert Lee · 31/10/2017
NWCFL Premier Division
West 0 (Massamba sent off 63)
Bootle 4 (Milne 10, 25, Cox 78, 84)
The mist that enveloped Brookburn Road before this match proved to be a harbinger of doom, as a calamitous night ended with Bootle inflicting the heaviest league defeat in over a year on ten-man West.
That West saved their most dismal performance of the season for Halloween night would be poetic if it wasn’t so wretched. The home side were consistently three steps behind the excellent visitors, who could have won by an even greater margin – the stylish attacking quartet of Kieran Haligan, Stephen Milne, Michael Ordish and Ryan Cox were tormentors-in-chief, with the Bucks’ eighth win of the season bookended by Milne’s double in the first half and a Cox brace late on.
To compound West’s misery, Chappy Massamba’s eagerly-awaited debut lasted 18 minutes. After replacing Andrew Kilheeney at the interval, the striker was dismissed for his part in a scuffle with two Bucks defenders. The absence of Massamba, who fashioned a chance with his first touches and had a shot blocked before seeing red, is something West can ill-afford considering they have now fired blanks in three of the last four games.
The discordant tone was set even before the match began – first, kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, then Carlos Mendes Gomes was replaced in the starting line-up by new signing Sean Yeldrum almost as the teams emerged from the tunnel. Young winger Yeldrum, signed from Trafford earlier in the day, endured a miserable debut and was replaced by James Woodward after half an hour.
By this time West were already two goals down, and Steve Settle could have withdrawn any of West’s outfield players without complaint. Bootle took the lead inside ten minutes as they sliced through West in devastating fashion – Ordish evaded Kilheeney on the halfway line before finding Cox, who in turn unleashed Milne with a perfect through-ball. Milne marked his first start since signing from AFC Liverpool by rounding Aaron Ashley and shooting high into the unguarded net.
A sliver of a West attack moments later resulted in Yeldrum forcing a corner, but it was the Bucks who almost capitalised, a quick break spearheaded by Cox ending with Ordish shooting wide when he should have called Ashley into action. The visitors did double their lead after 25 minutes with another incisive move. Matthew Simcock was taken out of the game by a flighted pass to Haligan, who motored into the box before his low cross was swept into the far corner by Milne.
West’s contributions to the first half were mainly limited to unforced errors and a series of untidy fouls as frustration grew, but a chance emerged from the gloom after 36 minutes when Simcock’s ball down the left found Tom Bailey in the box. West’s leading scorer escaped the clutches of defender Joel Powell but could only fire his shot against the outside of the left post. The visitors were momentarily spooked, and Bailey shot early and over when sloppy Bucks play presented him with the ball just outside the area.
Any realistic chance of rescuing the match followed Massamba back into the dressing room just after the hour mark, though West did flicker into life after the dismissal – Bailey headed a Ben Steer cross wide, before Woodward connected with Joe Shaw’s low centre to register the home side’s only shot on target.
The Bucks, though, were coasting to victory, enjoying extended periods of possession in the West half and choosing their moments to extend the lead. Full-back Matthew Coughlan darted into the area before firing a shot over the bar, but Cox did ensure the scoreline reflected the game with two late goals. First, he controlled, turned and steered the ball past Ashley with the West defence obliging spectators, then tapped in Paul Woolcott’s pass six minutes from time to round off a harrowing night for the home side.
West: Ashley, Mason, Simcock (Houghton 76), Potts, Weston, Hagon, Steer, Kilheeney (Massamba h/t), Bailey, Shaw, Yeldrum (Woodward 30).