by Robert Lee · 30/01/2022
Saturday 29th January 2022, NWCFL First Division South
New Mills 1 (McKnight 32)
West 2 (Heathcote 15, Swift 28)
West claimed an invaluable win at promotion rivals New Mills to stretch their lead at the top of the First Division South to eight points.
Sam Heathcote and Joel Swift put West in control inside half an hour, and despite Darren McKnight reducing the deficit before the interval, Chris Rowley’s side were able to see out a fifth consecutive victory.
The wind swirling around Church Lane meant that any pass that left the ground was subject to the whims of the weather gods, but the top two going into the game managed to put on a spectacle befitting its pre-match billing. The visitors were ultimately deserved winners and continued their excellent record against the other promotion-chasers.
Heathcote scored a late equaliser when the sides met at Brookburn Road in August, and the West captain was close to another goal against the Millers early on when his free kick was pawed away by Dylan Forth. But he didn’t have to wait long for his 21st goal of an extraordinary season – his low drive from outside the area opening the scoring after 15 minutes.
The visitors continued to press and added an ultimately decisive second after 28 minutes. Ben Elliott held the ball in the left channel before wriggling free and crossing to the near post, where Joel Swift threw himself at the ball and glanced a header past Forth and into the far corner.
The value of Swift’s goal was writ large four minutes later as the Millers pulled a goal back – West didn’t sufficiently clear a ball into the box, and McKnight controlled before arrowing a shot into Andrew Jones’ bottom corner.
Nerves began to jangle in the second period as an invaluable three points appeared on the horizon, but there were still chances at both ends. Swift shot into Forth’s legs at the near post, before Elliott flashed a shot wide after bursting into the box.
The Millers’ clearest opportunity to level the scores came on the hour mark, when subsitute Teddy Osipitan turned a cross wide when well-placed at the far post.
West began to cede territory in the closing stages, but Chris Rowley’s side – roared on by a bumper travelling support – remained resolute and the home side were restricted to half-chances.
The First Division South table now has a very healthy look to it with West creating daylight between themselves and the chasing pack, but Chris Rowley’s side will host Cheadle Heath Nomads next weekend looking to maintain their momentum.
West: A. Jones, Cook, Hancock, Delaney, Dibble, Heathcote, Cain (Westall 84), Gavin, Elliott (Eme 68), Swift, Gabidon. Not used: Messam, Ryan, Matthews.
Eckersley’s Plumbers & Locksmiths Player of the Match: Sam Heathcote.