by Robert Lee · 13/05/2018
Saturday 12th May 2018, NWCFL Premier Division
West 5 (Shaw 43, 90+3, Steer 48, Dickenson 77, A. Woods 84)
Charnock Richard 3 (Grimshaw 15, M. Woods 56, Close 89)
West signed off for the summer with a memorable second half against Charnock Richard, securing a third consecutive Premier Division top-ten finish in the process.
Joe Shaw, Ben Steer, Sam Dickenson and Ash Woods all scored after the interval to ensure West ended the season with a tenth win in 13 games. Shaw had earlier cancelled out Carl Grimshaw’s opener in the first half and Mark Woods and Harvey Close added further goals for the visitors, but the afternoon belonged to the home side, who said goodbye to 2017-18 in fine style.
A quick glance at the league table reveals where West need to improve next season – only the bottom two, Barnton and AFC Darwen, conceded more goals – but there is much to be confident about heading into 2018-19. West’s form since the start of March – 35 points from a possible 51 – would be enough for the top four over the whole season, and Steve Settle’s crowd-pleasing brand of football has been rewarded with a record-breaking set of attendances.
An eight-goal final game was the perfect conclusion to the campaign, taking the total number of goals in West league matches this season to 219. But the season appeared to be petering out after a disjointed first half. West were missing Tom Bailey for the first time in 56 matches and looked blunt without their 38-goal top scorer, with Charnock keeper Adam Halton a spectator for most of the first period. The visitors, though, were able to call upon their own hitman, and Carl Grimshaw snaffled his 51st goal of the campaign when, after a misunderstanding between Matt Eckersley and Aaron Ashley, he nipped in to head the ball over the stranded West keeper.
Grimshaw had chances to extend his side’s lead as West laboured through the first half – narrowly missing Mark Woods’ low cross with the goal gaping, then firing wide from inside the area after escaping the attentions of Eckersley. However, an unlikely equaliser arrived moments before the break when Steer’s cross from the left was brought down by Ash Woods, whose shot off the crossbar fell perfectly for Shaw to score from close range.
The second half was almost unrecognisable from what had come before as West flew out of the dressing room. They were ahead inside three minutes of the restart when Steer latched onto Ash Woods’ through ball and threaded a shot past Halton and inside the far post. And the lead could have been extended moments later when Steer turned provider and Woods hit the outside of Halton’s right post. Substitute Ben Reader was then denied a first goal in West colours when a Charnock defender blocked his effort from point-blank range following a Kay and Steer interchange.
Familiar failings reared their head, however, when the visitors snatched an equaliser. Mark Woods enjoyed the freedom of the penalty area and took down a long pass, and then found the net despite Ashley getting a hand to his effort.
West shrugged off this setback and went back on the offensive – Scott Mason almost caught out Halton with a lob from the edge of the box – and substitute Sam Dickenson made an eye-catching impact after replacing Steer just past the hour. He should have claimed an assist when, after robbing a Charnock defender, he centred to Woods, but the West number 11 narrowly failed to make contact. Moments later Dickenson had his first goal in West colours when, after Kay unlocked the visiting defence with a chipped pass, he fired a perfectly-controlled half-volley low past Halton.
Charnock rallied and Mark Rogers had to be alert to deny Grimshaw after a long free-kick, but West scored a fourth when Ash Woods scrambled the ball home after Halton had palmed a fierce Shaw effort high into the air. The visitors pulled a further goal back as Close found space in the area and slid the ball beyond Ashley, but West finished with a flourish in the third minute of stoppage time. Dickenson held the ball up in the final third and found Shaw, who swept a shot left-footed high past Halton and into the top corner.
West: Ashley, Olapade, Mason, Eckersley, Rogers, Middleton (Eislet 58), Steer (Dickenson 66), Shaw, Woods, Kay, Whyment (Reader ht). Not used: Brockley.