by Robert Lee · 14/01/2018
Saturday 13th January 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
West 3 (Shaw 69, Steer 75, Woods 85)
Winsford United 2 (Gardner pen 25, Taylor 78)
West made a memorable return home as they saw off Winsford United on a pulsating afternoon in M21.
Inclement weather had scuppered four consecutive home games over November and December, and the match-starved denizens of Brookburn Road were richly rewarded for their patience with a thrilling joust between two attack-minded sides. Winsford led at the break through Callum Gardner’s penalty, but the introduction of Ben Steer ignited an incendiary second half that was settled by Ash Woods’ late goal.
West welcomed three new faces – Cavell Coo, signed from Ashton United, started at left-back, with substitutes Steven Affleck and Sam O’Donnell both arriving from FC United – and began speedily, Woods centering into the hands of visiting keeper Matthew Green inside the first 30 seconds. The home side remained on the front foot for much of the opening period, with Tom Bailey shooting straight at Green when sent clear by Sergeant before sending a speculative half-volley across the face of the goal.
Winsford were proving to be a constant menace on the counter, though, and it was they who struck first after Michael Koral’s raid on the West box was clumsily brought to a halt by Josh Tinker. Gardner assumed responsibility from the spot and the Blues’ leading scorer easily beat James Hodges for his 11th of the season. West eked out one further chance before the interval, Woods firing wide of the right-hand post after it was the visitors’ turn to be hit on the break, but entered the dressing room with nothing to show for their attacking intent.
The second half started as quickly as the first, but this time it was the Blues who immediately threatened as West hung onto the match by their fingernails – only emergency interventions by Anthony Potts and Chris Middleton prevented the visitors from doubling their lead inside the first five minutes. Soon afterwards, Steve Settle played his trump card in Steer, who started on the bench after being forced off early against City of Liverpool. Steer’s introduction quickened the pace of an already lively encounter, and West soon crafted clear opportunities to equalise – the substitute overran the ball after motoring into the box, before narrowly failing to meet Woods’ low cross at the far post.
The heat was being turned up on Winsford, but they appeared to be resistant when Joe Shaw’s point-blank connection with another Woods cross was somehow turned over the bar by a Blues defender. But the West number 10 was not to be denied, and levelled the scores seconds later when he neatly swivelled on Steer’s free-kick and beat Green. Momentum had been a transient concept up to this point, but West were now on top and Steer shook Brookburn Road with an outstanding individual goal. Tinker expertly dismantled a Winsford attack on the halfway line, before Steer darted down the right wing, cut into the box and lashed in a shot which had nestled in the corner long before Green was able to react.
Winsford, who had impressively won consecutive away games at Runcorn Town and Ashton Athletic in December, were far from done. Moments after Steer’s goal, the celebrations ringing round the ground were silenced when the visitors hauled themselves level – Scott Taylor beat Tinker to the ball and arrowed his shot past Hodges’ outstretched left arm. West’s mental fortitude, found wanting on Merseyside last weekend, was put to the test again.
This time, however, it was a test they passed gloriously. A draw appeared the least likely outcome as both sides insisted on claiming all three points, and West held their nerve and struck decisively with another goal of high quality five minutes from time. Shaw played Bailey through in the right channel, and his ball back inside was met by Woods, who deftly beat Green to spark another round of fevered celebrations from the bumper crowd. Before this game, West and Winsford’s head-to-head record was completely even, so it was no surprise that the outcome hung in the balance right up until the 94th minute, but after Hodges claimed a last-ditch Blues corner, West could celebrate an invaluable three points.
West: Hodges, Tinker, Coo, Middleton (Steer 53), Bayunu (Eiselt 72), Potts, Mason, Sergeant, Bailey, Shaw (Affleck 86), Woods. Not used: O’Donnell, Whyment.