AFC Liverpool got back to winning ways as they welcomed Padiham FC to the Marine Travel Arena.
Reds Manager Kevin Dally put new signing Ricky Ager in at centre back for his competitive debut, while fellow newcomer Connor Grainger, signed from Vauxhall Motors, was named amongst the substitutes.
The Reds had an early speculative effort from distance as Dimitrios Christou met a corner kick in the opening minute which tested Padiham keeper Michael Donlon.
The Reds continued to threaten and looked to use the pace of Emini Adegbenro to break forward, but he was regularly thwarted by the linesman’s flag. The visitors also had a chance from striker James Dean who couldn’t keep his free header on target from a Padiham corner.
Oscar Billington and Sean Calvert combined well for AFC in the centre of the park to dominate the play in midfield, pushing forward to test Padiham’s back line. Firstly Billington had a shot from the edge of the area saved, and just before the half hour mark, he made a deft turn in the box to send a snap shot into the side netting.
Reds forward Jack Leamey was also making his presence felt, earning a free kick and later winning a corner. His neat one-two with Connor Smith produced a dangerous cross, which resulted in a punch from Donlon to clear, but in doing so he also connected with Storks defender Martin Parkes who suffered a nasty cut under his eye, and Padiham were forced into a substitution after a lengthy spell of treatment.
Before half time, Dean had a breakaway chance foiled by an excellent tackle from Ager, and at the other end, Adegbenro was brought down in the area, but his protests were waved away by the referee. Leamey also had a good strike blocked by Donlon, and it remained goalless at the break.
Christou had another early effort denied by Donlon as play resumed, but the visitors had more of the ball, and were foiled by the offside flag themselves on more than one occasion.
AFC were going to have to make the most of their chances, and on sixty five minutes Leamey did just that, skipping past players along the edge of the area to create a shooting opportunity from a wide position. What followed was a blistering strike back across goal, which flew beyond the reach of Donlon into the bottom corner, and the Reds had the lead.
Padiham looked to get back in the match immediately as Kieron Pickup shot just wide. The visitors grew in confidence and substitute Patrick O’Brien combined well with winger Joel Melia to keep the pressure on the Reds back line. Fortunately Reds captain Jonathan Swatton was in fine form with some crucial tackles and interceptions, especially after an injury to Christou forced a defensive reshuffle, which saw Grainger introduced in a forward role.
As the game entered the final five minutes, the visitors continued to search for an equaliser. Dean headed just over the bar, and Brandon Barski didn’t connect properly with the ball to send a golden chance wide in the eighty ninth minute.
The Reds were able to hang on as Ricky Ager rounded off an impressive debut with a series of interceptions and vital clearances to ensure Kevin Dally’s side came away with all three points.
AFC Liverpool 1-0 Padiham FC
AFC Liverpool: 1.Dominic Garner 2. Kieron Brislen 3. Jonathon Swatton (C) 4. Ricky Ager 5. Michael White 6.Dimitrios Christou (15.Francis Smith 84’) 7.Jack Leamey 8. Oscar Billington (12. Connor Grainger 68’) 9.Connor Smith 10.Sean Calvert 11.Emini Adegbenro
Subs Not Used 13. Ross Dalton 14. Jack Hont 16. Connor Wright
Padiham FC: 1. Michael Donlon 2.Ashley Brierley (14.Patrick O’Brien 80’) 3.Brandon Barski 4.Dominic Craig 5.Marc Young (16.Jake Townsend 40’) 6.Martin Parkes (C) 7.Joel Melia 8.Christopher Turner 9.James Dean 10.Kieran Pickup 11 James Walker
Subs Not Used 12. Aaron Taylor 15. Alexander Murphy 17.Mark Coyne
AFC Liverpool Man of the Match : Jack Leamey
Photo Courtesy of Dave Williams