by Robert Lee · 14/03/2018
Tuesday 13th March 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
West 3 (Woods 15, Steer 17, Mason 28)
Hanley Town 3 (Stair 10, 27, Cope 21 pen, Bristow sent off 77)
West extended their unbeaten run to four games as they shared six goals with Hanley Town on another breathless night at Brookburn Road.
All six goals came in a frenetic 18 minutes halfway through the first period, with Ash Woods, Ben Steer and the returning Scott Mason all scoring fine goals to cancel out Theo Stair’s brace and a Daniel Cope penalty for Hanley. The visitors had Josh Bristow sent off with 13 minutes remaining for an unedifying challenge on Chappy Massamba, but West were unable to find a winner despite a late siege.
There was mild disappointment at West only claiming a point, but the home side were excellent against a Hanley team that climbed into fourth as a result of this draw. Steve Settle’s side were far more resolute in the face of the physical visitors than they were in Staffordshire in January, when they slumped to a 6-2 defeat. Just as impressive was the way West reacted to Hanley snatching back the lead through Cope’s penalty and Stair’s second goal, immediately responding when they had often disintegrated earlier this season.
Both sides came into this game on a high – West stunned Squires Gate with two late goals on Saturday, while Hanley racked up their record NWCFL score in hammering Maine Road 8-2 at Brantingham Road. As such, the match was played at a fast tempo straight from kick-off, but a clear chance didn’t materialise until the visitors took the lead in the tenth minute. A deep cross from the left was kept alive by Michael Conlon, who played in Stair. The Hanley number 10 shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled a shot past Ashley and in off the far post.
Stair’s goal began a sequence in which both sides seemed to score every time they crossed the halfway line. Woods equalised five minutes later, a thunderous half-volley from the edge of the box that rasped past Dane Jackson, and Steer put West into the lead not long afterwards when he took advantage of a shorthanded visiting defence to finish neatly past the onrushing keeper.
West’s lead lasted four minutes as they conceded a fifth penalty in as many games. Conlon accepted an invitation to go down under the attentions of Prince Banya, and Cope’s shot into the bottom-left corner was too powerful for Ashley. And the visitors restored their lead moments later when Stair escaped the West defence to convert a low cross from the left.
The match was not even half an hour old when Scott Mason scored the sixth goal of the evening and hauled West back level. Steven Affleck claimed his latest assist, motoring down the right wing before finding Mason on the edge of the box, and the midfielder marked an excellent return to the side with a first-time shot beyond Jackson from 25 yards.
The pace slowed after Mason’s strike, though there were still opportunities for a seventh goal before the interval – Cope and Martin Stayner were both off-target for the visitors, while Tom Bailey shaved the crossbar with a snap-shot from the edge of the area.
Hanley carved out a couple of chances after the break, with Conlon having a shot deflected onto the outside of the post and a corner being volleyed well over. But the visitors dulled as an attacking force from the moment Stair was forced off four minutes into the second half. West, meanwhile, introduced Georgi Whyment and Massamba in an attempt to force open the visitors’ door once more, and Whyment spurned a glorious opportunity when, after being played in by Tom Bailey, he skewed a shot wide from the edge of the box.
The visitors had toed the disciplinary line – Jonathan Sheldon escaped with a caution after a crunching first-half challenge on Josh Tinker – but the referee’s patience ran out when Bristow lunged in on Massamba. With a man advantage, West pressed for another late goal. Woods headed just over from the resulting free kick and Massamba fired off-target following a scramble in the visitors’ penalty area. Hanley saw the game out, though, and West continue to inch towards mid-table comfort.
West: Ashley, Affleck, Banya (Whyment 65), Tinker, Eckersley, Bayunu, Steer (Massamba 62), Sergeant, Bailey, Woods, Mason. Not used: Reader, McKenzie, Ivone.