by Robert Lee · 08/11/2017
Tuesday 7 November 2017, Lancashire Challenge Trophy second round
West 1 (Dugdale own goal 58)
Lancaster City 2 (Winder 13, Tam 79)
The records will show a fifth defeat in six games, but this was more hard luck than hard to watch as West were dragged kicking and screaming from the Lancashire Challenge Trophy. Hannu Tam’s goal eleven minutes from time was enough to settle an absorbing contest in favour of the streetwise visitors, who booked their place in the quarter-finals.
The nature of Tam’s winner, hesitant West defending allowing the substitute to steal in and roll the ball into the net, will have been especially frustrating after the home side had recovered from Ryan Winder’s opener to restore parity against a team two divisions higher. West threatened to snatch the win themselves after Paul Dugdale’s own goal provided them with an equaliser, but ultimately Steve Settle will have to be content with a performance, if not a result, which suggests green shoots of recovery following a torrid last few weeks.
West started as if with a point to prove after Saturday’s 7-0 shellacking at Runcorn Linnets, and created early chances – Joe Shaw contrived to head wide from a Ben Steer long throw, and Steer, playing in a more advanced position alongside Tom Bailey, was denied by the linesman’s flag soon after. But the visitors carried a threat on the wings, and Scott Harries provided their first moment of note when his wicked cross from the right evaded contact in the middle.
The Dolly Blues would not have to wait long to open the scoring, and it was no surprise that Harries’ fellow wide-man Winder was responsible – after a free-kick was only partially cleared, his shot from the right-hand corner of the box arrowed into the opposite corner of the net, a deflection appearing to wrong-foot Ashley. West recovered well from this setback and continued to carve out chances, with Bailey forcing a save from visiting keeper Christopher Cheetham and Harold Hagon heading wide from the resulting corner. Shaw called Cheetham into action again from long range, but Lancaster edged the half in terms of quality of chances. Samuel Hibbert turned and struck the left stanchion just after the half-hour, and then passed up two clearer opportunities, heading wide when Winder found him unmarked, and then shooting into the side netting after beating Kevin McGrath to Lewis Fensome’s ball down the right channel.
The metronomic pattern of play continued after the interval, with both keepers kept on their toes – Fensome had a shot deflected just wide for Lancaster, before an excellent West move involving Steer, Carlos Mendes Gomes and Bailey fizzled out just before Bailey could apply a finishing touch. West did find the equaliser they deserved just before the hour mark. Josh Tinker robustly won the ball in midfield and set Steer free down the left channel. Bailey was lurking at the far post but Dugdale got to Steer’s low delivery first and could only hook it into his own net. West seized the initiative and the impressive Mendes Gomes’ centre was clawed away by Cheetham with Bailey again lying in wait.
The visitors were not easily cowed, however, and built up their own head of steam as the half drew on. A couple of long throws led to Billy Akrigg and substitute Elliot Pond both going close, and Pond had another shot deflected wide at the near post. The prospect of a shoot-out was beginning to materialise, but West switched off fatally when allowing the alert Tam to seize possession and slip the ball past the onrushing Ashley.
West were unable to craft another clear chance against an increasingly rigid Lancaster defence, though Ashley did cause mild panic when joining the attack for an injury-time corner. There was still time for a further blow as Steer was worryingly forced off with a foot injury, but West will hope to carry the momentum from this promising display into the remainder of a pivotal November.
West: Ashley, Pagnell, Tinker, Hagon, McGrath, Potts, Steer (Pozier 85), Shaw, T. Bailey, Mendes Gomes (Whyment 85), Mason. Not used: Kilheeney, Brockley.