by Robert Lee · 19/12/2018
Tuesday 18th December 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
West 4 (Shaw 14, McLaughlin 24, 40, Eckersley 61)
Hanley Town 0
West swept aside Hanley Town to claim three crucial points in David Powell’s first home game as manager.
As against Whitchurch Alport last weekend, Powell’s side raced into a commanding half-time lead – this time through Joe Shaw and a Daniel McLaughlin double – and captain Matt Eckersley iced this particular cake with a sumptuous half-volley just after the hour.
This was a statement victory for a number of reasons – not least because Powell made a perfect first impression with his home supporters, but also because West kept back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since August 2017 and took a huge step towards the Premier Division safety mark. After lying nine points adrift two weeks ago, West are now in striking distance of the Staffordshire side with a game in hand, and also wiped out Hanley’s goal difference advantage with this comprehensive win.
The North West had been battered by heavy rain all day, but an immaculately-prepared Brookburn Road pitch gave West the perfect platform to showcase their controlled, attacking football. The visitors created an early chance but shot straight at Marcus Burgess, but from then on West took control of proceedings and created a host of opportunities in the opening 15 minutes.
Ashley Leather was escorted through the game by a posse of Hanley defenders, but still managed to whip an early cross towards Ciaran Kilheeney whose header dropped the wrong side of the near post. McLaughlin then prodded wide when well-placed, but West only had to wait until the 14th minute to open the scoring. Kilheeney swivelled on the edge of the box and his fierce shot was spilled by Hanley’s Joe Mellor, allowing Shaw to steal in and dink the ball over the floundering keeper.
The visitors carried a threat on the counter-attack and could have equalised when a shot from the edge of the area flew narrowly past Burgess’ right-hand post, but chances continued to flow at the other end. Kilheeney curled over from 25 yards before excellent work from Zac Cooper ended with Shaw sliding the ball across the face of the goal.
West carved open the visiting defence to double their lead, crucially, midway through the first half. Martyn Andrews seized on a loose ball in midfield before finding Kilheeney, and the former Droylsden man, who has had a transformative effect on the West forward line, claimed his fourth assist in two games when his through-ball was slipped home by McLaughlin.
And it got better for McLaughlin and West six minutes before the interval, when Shaw’s deep corner evaded Mellor and McLaughlin was on hand to nod the ball over the line.
The pace was lowered after the break as the home side looked to see out a vital win, but they still carved out opportunities for further goals. Kilheeney and McLaughlin combined on the left hand side, and the former was denied a goal by a fine save from Mellor. Minutes later West did have a fourth, in spectacular fashion – another Shaw corner found its way to Eckersley at the far post, and his shot on the bounce arrowed into the opposite corner.
The tireless McLaughlin then had a header saved in the dying moments as he chased a hat-trick, before setting up substitute Steven Affleck who slashed over from just inside the area.
West were deservedly applauded off by the Brookburn Road crowd after a first home win since August. With West still sitting in the Premier Division relegation zone Powell’s work is just beginning, but there could be no better way to prepare for a crucial festive period – beginning with Saturday’s trip to perennial promotion contenders Bootle.
West: Burgess, Tinker (Botchey 68), Cooper, Andrews, Eiselt, Eckersley, Leather, Gavin (Langford 70), Kilheeney, Shaw (Affleck 85), McLaughlin. Not used: Potts, Tsegaye.