by Robert Lee · 11/11/2017
Friday 10 November 2017, NWCFL Premier Division
West 3 (Bailey 22, 41, Tinker 46)
Irlam 5 (Boland 17, 60, Perry 19, 44, Greene 45+1)
West and Irlam staged their own Goal of the Season competition under the Friday night lights, but familiar failings haunted the home side as they slumped to a fifth consecutive league defeat.
A vibrant Irlam claimed a fully-deserved three points, completing a league double over West, but Steve Settle will highlight the closing stages of the first half as the point at which this match got away from his side. Four minutes before the interval, West had the momentum after a Tom Bailey brace had hauled them back onto level terms following Matthew Boland and Marcus Perry strikes for the visitors. But by the time the teams were in the dressing rooms drying off from a Brookburn Road downpour, Irlam had inexplicably been allowed to restore their two-goal cushion, Perry and Daniel Greene taking advantage of a West defence present in body but not in spirit.
Josh Tinker, who had shuffled across to left-back after Matthew Simcock endured a torrid first half trying to keep pace with the irrepressible Perry, cut inside to fire an Exocet missile of a shot past Lee White moments after the restart, but once again West left themselves with too much to do. Boland’s second on the hour ensured that West’s wait for a first league point since 14th October goes on, and a season that started promisingly is in danger of disintegrating.
But if the end result may have left West fans cold on a dreary November evening, there could be no complaints about the level of entertainment, particularly during a frantic first half in which chances were a regular occurrence at both ends. West, buoyed by the returning Matty Kay, started like an express train and should have been at least one goal to the good inside 15 minutes. Kevin McGrath headed over from a Tinker cross, before Carlos Mendes Gomes had two chances – the first was more difficult, just being beaten to the ball by White after Kay’s midfield harrying, but he should have done better moments later when he sliced wide from the edge of the box.
Irlam were without their leading scorer, Jordan Icely, but they soon grew into the game and crafted opportunities of their own. Malachi Slaven’s through ball found Perry in open space in the area, something that would become a motif, and Connor Martin somehow failed to force Perry’s cross over the line. Two minutes later, another attractive Irlam move involving Martin, Ryan Ledson and Boland led to the latter firing well over from inside the area.
West failed to heed these warnings and the visitors took a grip on the game with a one-two punch. First, Boland ghosted into the area following Greene’s pass and easily beat Ashley, and then another Perry raid was finished emphatically when the winger opted to shoot rather than cross. Irlam had chances to increase their lead, Ashley saving from Perry and Martin glancing a Greene free-kick just past the far post, but West restored parity with a double of their own. Joe Shaw and Bailey combined for both – Bailey controlled and finished Shaw’s clever reverse ball, and then lurked opportunistically when the midfielder’s long shot was spilled by White.
Then came another decisive loss of concentration. West had been on top against Lancaster City in midweek before switching off to concede a late winner, and again they surrendered the initiative. Perry was inevitably involved as Irlam regained the lead, seizing on Boland’s through ball, and the unmarked Martin made no mistake when Perry’s shot was parried by Ashley. In the first minute of injury time, Greene was offered a guided tour of the West final third, and he had enough time to expertly pick out the top right-hand corner of the net.
Settle made a double substitution at half-time, mercifully ending Simcock’s evening in favour of Richmond Botchey and switching debutant Jack Sergeant for Callum Pragnell, and West immediately threw themselves a lifeline with Tinker’s spectacular effort. It was a lifeline that would be ruthlessly snatched away – Boland escaped the attention of Sergeant and scored an even more impressive version of Greene’s goal from 25 yards.
Mendes Gomes almost added another to the game’s collection of golden strikes, his fierce shot from outside the area saved well by White, but West ran out of momentum and ideas as the second period drew on. It was the visitors who could have scored more through Martin and Perry, but five was more than enough. West, meanwhile, must pick themselves up once again for Tuesday’s increasingly key visit of winless Barnton.
West: Ashley, Pragnell (Sergeant h/t), Simcock (Botchey h/t), McGrath, Tinker, Potts, Mendes Gomes (Whyment 70), Shaw, Bailey, Kay, Mason. Not used: Kilheeney.