by Robert Lee · 21/11/2017
Monday 20 November 2017, Macron Cup second round
Winsford United 5 (Koral 50, Webb 66, Hudson 87, Gardner 89, 90+2)
West 1 (Bailey 64)
If the alarm bells clanging around Brookburn Road were not already at deafening levels, they surely will be now after West melted away on a deeply demoralising night in Winsford.
West, though second best to the hosts throughout, were still in the game with four minutes left to play. But they crashed out of the league cup at the first hurdle for the third consecutive season as Winsford helped themselves to three further goals, with substitutes Danny Hudson and Callum Gardner taking advantage of the increasingly desolate visitors.
That West have now conceded 28 goals in seven games is worrying enough, but it is the manner of this defeat that will be most distressing for Steve Settle. West took a hesitant step forward in dogged defeat at the same venue on Saturday against 1874 Northwich but lurched two steps back here, and only the full-time whistle prevented the home side from inflicting a similar reverse to the 7-0 hammering West suffered at Runcorn Linnets at the start of November.
Few would have predicted six goals after a first half that only flickered into life after 20 minutes. Before that point, Steve Dryden’s fumbling of a speculative Ryan Hopper effort was the only moment of note, but West gradually clawed themselves into the game. Jack Sergeant was at the centre of everything the visitors did well in the first period, and after a Ben Steer long throw was pawed away by keeper Matthew Green, Sergeant’s lob from outside the area was volleyed clear by player-manager Lee Duckworth. Moments later Sergeant bisected the home defence with a smart through-ball to Ash Woods, but Woods’ cross was shepherded away at the far post with Tom Bailey lying in wait.
Dryden was being kept busy at the other end, primarily by the Blues’ left-winger Scott Taylor, who slalomed into the box on more than one occasion but found himself destined not to appear on the scoresheet – twice shooting straight at the West keeper, and once curling just past the right-hand post. It was Dryden who would produce the half’s outstanding moment when he produced an extraordinary save to deny Michael Koral at point-blank range, before Taylor could only flash the rebound across the face of goal.
Koral exacted revenge five minutes after the restart when he seized upon Hopper’s ball over the West defence and rolled the ball under Dryden to open the scoring. West rocked, and should have fallen further behind moments later when Ryan Steele skewed a shot when presented with the ball in the area.
West hauled themselves back on level terms with a goal as well-crafted as it was against the run of play – after a Winsford attack broke down, the visitors moved swiftly, Steer finding his way into the box and Tom Bailey beating Green from close range. But parity would last only a matter of minutes, and Winsford regained the lead when Taylor won the ball in the left channel – West appeared to stop, awaiting a free-kick for a foul on Weston – and provided Webb with the chance to fire into the roof of the net.
The visitors chiselled out one last opportunity, Kay heading Steer’s free-kick straight at Green, before dissolving – first, West tamely surrendered possession from an attacking throw and Taylor and Hudson combined to allow the latter a simple finish, before Gardner found little resistance to his drive into the box and shot low past Dryden. Three minutes of stoppage time allowed Winsford to inflict further misery, Gardner pouncing on a Dryden spillage, as West prepared for the weekend’s pivotal league visit of struggling AFC Liverpool in the worst possible manner.
West: Dryden, Weston, Pritchard (Hilton 74), Hagon, Sergeant, Potts, Steer, Shaw (Tinker 56), Bailey, Kay, Woods (Whyment 78).