by Robert Lee · 09/02/2022
Tuesday 8th February 2022, NWCFL First Division South
West 2 (Elliott 30, Delaney 40)
Abbey Hey 1 (Clooney 87, Hincks sent off 27)
West completed a double over promotion rivals Abbey Hey to re-establish an eight-point lead at the top of the First Division South.
Chris Rowley’s side took advantage of the visitors being reduced to ten men after 27 minutes, with Ben Elliott and Liam Delaney striking before the break. Rhys Clooney ensured a nail-biting final few moments with a late Abbey goal, but West were not to be denied a sixth successive win in all competitions.
Both of the previous meetings between the sides this season – including one in the Manchester Premier Cup – had been settled by the odd goal in three, so it was no surprise that the opening moments swung from end to end. Sam Heathcote saw a free kick drift narrowly wide, before Andrew Jones was forced to seize a loose ball in the West box before an Abbey player could force it into the net.
But the first key moment of the game took place nearer the centre of the pitch – Luke Hincks’ agricultural challenge on Lee Gavin meant that the visitors would play over an hour with a man disadvantage.
West were in no mood to let the visitors off the hook, and were ahead three minutes after Hincks’ dismissal – Delaney threaded a pass through to Elliott, who span before hammering a fierce shot past Abbey keeper Dane Smith and in off the crossbar.
Liam Delaney ensured West would take a more comfortable cushion into the break with his 12th goal of the season, five minutes before the interval. Rhain Davis claimed an assist, floating a corner into the box where Delaney was unmarked and could easily nod the ball into the net.
After the restart, West searched for what would have been a game-settling third with Davis’ set-piece deliveries proving particularly effective. Elliott and Connor Hancock both went close before Marcus Dibble had a header cleared off the line, but the home side were unable to add to their tally.
The visitors, meanwhile, may have been forgiven for focusing their attentions on Saturday’s FA Vase fifth-round tie at Loughborough Students, but instead threw players forward in an attempt to salvage something out of the game. Their efforts resulted in Clooney reducing the arrears with three minutes remaining, as the Abbey substitute motored into the box before firing across Jones and into the far corner.
Suddenly, nerves were jangling around Brookburn Road – but West were not about to throw away a seventh successive win against the visitors, and more importantly three points that maintain their strong position in the First Division South box seat.
West: A. Jones, Cook, Hancock, Delaney, Dibble, Heathcote, Cain (Westall 83), Gavin, Elliott, Davis (Taylor 88), Gabidon (Matthews 70). Not used: Eme, Swift.
Eckersley’s Plumbers & Locksmiths Player of the Match: Lee Gavin.