by Robert Lee · 02/05/2018
Tuesday 1st May 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
West 4 (Eckersley 61, Shaw 66, Bailey pen 73, Kay 80)
City of Liverpool 3 (Forbes 18, Hazlehurst 25, Dalton 90)
West roared back from two goals down to stun City of Liverpool at the Kensite Stadium.
Atherton Collieries’ ground proved to be a home away from home as Matt Eckersley, Joe Shaw, Tom Bailey and Matty Kay all scored in a 19-minute period to overturn City of Liverpool’s half-time lead. Daniel Dalton’s late goal ensured a typically nerve-jangling finale but West were not to be denied an outstanding three points.
It was a comeback that looked unlikely after a frustrating first period. West, smarting from Saturday’s heavy defeat at Widnes, gave as good as they got in the opening stages against the high-flying Purps – John Connolly was narrowly off-target for the visitors inside the first 30 seconds before Kay stung Ben Ascroft’s palms at the other end.
The fast-paced start continued without a clear chance until the Purps took the lead after 18 minutes. West failed to deal with a free kick from the left channel, and David Forbes was ruled to have nudged the ball over the line despite the best efforts of the returning Aaron Ashley. The goal shook West and Thomas Peterson fired narrowly wide moments later.
West’s forays into the visitors’ area were becoming increasingly infrequent, but Lanre Olapade kept the Purps defence honest with a surging run into the box before shooting over from a tight angle. But West fell two goals behind when the quicksilver Jack Hazlehurst found space in the box, rounded Ashley, and eventually scrambled the ball into the net.
Connolly and Hazlehurst spent the remainder of the first half touring the West final third as the nominative home side struggled to deal with the visitors’ movement, and only Olapade’s quick reactions denied Hazlehurst the chance to score a killer third ten minutes before the break. West’s frustrations were summed up by the final action of the half – a Ben Steer free kick from the left wing which sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick.
The Purps, who hammered West 6-1 in January, looked on course for a most straightforward of doubles, but this was to be a true game of two halves. West shuffled their defensive pack, moving to a back five, and immediately looked more comfortable. There was more menace in their attacking play too, and after Ash Woods charged down an Ascroft clearance, Bailey had an effort deflected narrowly wide.
The breakthrough came just after the hour mark. Chris Middleton delivered a deep cross from the right, and Eckersley nodded in his fourth goal of the season. The momentum swung decisively and five minutes later West were level – Eckersley was instrumental again, but on this occasion his header from a corner dropped for Shaw to stab home from six yards.
A third goal seemed inevitable as West swarmed over the visitors, and though there was a false start when the linesman’s flag ruled out a Woods effort, Bailey had an opportunity from the spot when Shaw was brought down. He was in no mood to pass up the chance to score his 36th goal of the season, and a dizzying turnaround was complete.
It got even better with ten minutes remaining as Matty Kay conjured up the goal of the game. A move involving substitute Georgi Whyment and Woods led to the ball breaking to Kay on the edge of the box, and the midfielder steered a sumptuous half-volley beyond Ascroft to spark frenzied celebrations.
The Purps, staring at the prospect of consecutive defeats for the first time since October, weren’t finished and Dalton converted a corner in the final minute of normal time. But Aaron Ashley claimed another set-piece in the third minute of stoppage time to ensure West saw out a thrilling win.
West: Ashley, Olapade, Botchey (Eiselt 90), Eckersley, Middleton, Mason, Steer (Whyment 77), Kay, Bailey, Woods, Shaw (Dickenson 88). Not used: Reader, Brockley.