by Robert Lee · 19/09/2021
Saturday 18th September 2021, NWCFL First Division South
Abbey Hey 1 (Fitzgerald 45+3)
West 2 (Delaney 66, Heathcote 77)
A second-half turnaround inspired West to an eighth straight win and a valuable three points at promotion rivals Abbey Hey.
Abbey, who came into the game on the back of their own eight-game winning run, were on track to halt West’s momentum when Dylan Fitzgerald opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time. But the visitors stuck to the task after the break, with Liam Delaney and Sam Heathcote ensuring West remain top of the First Division South.
With the two sides, 3rd and 1st respectively at the start of the day, winning their last 15 matches combined, a competitive encounter was inevitable and clear chances were at a premium in a combative opening period. Dontai Gabidon forced a save from Abbey keeper Ross Heywood, before Liam Delaney had a header cleared off the line from the resulting corner.
At the other end, Matty Cook produced a remarkable goal-saving block when Rhys Clooney was poised to turn and shoot inside the area, but the home side did go into the interval ahead. Andrew Jones produced a point-blank save from Fitzgerald following a cross from the right wing, but the rebound fell invitingly for the Abbey player to ram high into the net.
The home side almost began the second half the way they ended the first as they had a goal ruled out for offside, but West steadied themselves and began to assert some control. The tireless Ben Elliott began to find some good positions but a clear opportunity continued eluded the visitors, with Elliott having an effort ruled out for a foul on Heywood.
But the breakthrough came midway through the second half – Elliott did excellently to hold the ball up in the right channel before firing a ball into the area. Liam Delaney, continuing his inspired form in front of goal, arrived perfectly to guide the ball past Heywood and level the scores.
West were now in the ascendancy and after Heathcote had a free kick charged down by the Abbey wall, the West captain went one better next time around. Gabidon was barged off the ball on a counter, and Heathcote punished the home side from 30 yards – firing the ball past Heywood and into the far corner for his 11th goal of the season.
Abbey, desperate to avoid a first defeat since the start of August – and a fifth straight loss to West – threw players forward and balls into the box in the closing stages. But an obstinate West stood strong, with Andrew Jones excelling in the air, and Chris Rowley’s side professionally saw out five minutes of stoppage time to record a superb away win.
West: A. Jones, Cook, Hancock (Westall 49), Delaney, Dibble, Heathcote, Matthews (Grewal 70), Tinker, Elliott, Ryan (Ford 61), Gabidon. Not used: Swift, Gavin.
Eckersley’s Plumbers & Locksmiths Player of the Match: Matthew Cook.