Congleton Town 3-3 AFC Liverpool

AFC Liverpool left it late to claim a point away at Congleton, scoring a deserved equaliser in stoppage time after a second half fightback.

Congleton’s line-up included two former Reds – Jason Carey, and last season’s top scorer Emini Adegbenro – and they both made the early running in the game with the first two chances of note. Carey couldn’t control his header from an inswinging free kick in the second minute, and a through-ball to Adegbenro was cut out by a last-ditch challenge from Allen Weston.

Deklan Hill made a good run from midfield in the seventh minute. His 30-yard strike was just wide of the post, but looked like the Congleton keeper Andrew Jones had it covered.

The Reds took the lead after just nine minutes following a defensive mix-up. Jones came rushing well out of his area to clear, only to injure himself as his studs caught in the turf. The surrounding defenders failed to clear their lines and Joseph Whittington capitalised on the mistake and he slotted the ball into the net.

Two minutes later, Steven Milne rode a challenge at the by-line, and sent in a quick cross into the box but it was cut out before it could reach Whittington.

As the half progressed, the home side began to impose themselves on the game.  Their front line of Declan Fletcher, Carey and Adegbenro began to create chances, but they were dealt with by the AFC defence. A free kick from Jonathan Cavanagh found the head of Jonah O’Reilly but he sent the effort wide of the post.

A cross from Adegbenro on twenty minutes was intercepted by Chris Anderson, and he quickly sent Steven Milne on a breakaway run, but Thomas Stevens managed to block the shot on goal. A minute later, Declan Fletcher was in a similar position for Congleton, but Dominic Garner narrowed the angle brilliantly and made a reaction save to deny a certain equaliser.

As the game approached the half-hour mark, Garner was called into action again, but despite the Bears having the upper hand, the Reds defence held firm and for a moment it looked like the Reds would keep their lead until the break. However, a ten minute blitz from Congleton before half time completely turned the game on its head. Firstly Thomas Morris beat the offside trap and powered forward one on one with Garner. He lifted the ball over the onrushing Reds keeper for the equaliser.

A minute later Congleton had the lead after a wayward clearance was picked up by Fletcher. He put a dangerous ball across goal and Adegbenro was there to fire in at the near post. To his credit, Mini didn’t celebrate the goal as he was mobbed by his team mates.

Congleton confidence and Red panic ensued. Misplaced passes from the Reds led to another attack in the forty-first minute, and a shot headed over the bar by Allen Weston. The resulting corner was whipped in for Jason Carey who leapt in at the near post and sent a powerful header past Garner to make it 3-1.

Adegbenro threatened to run riot with a break down the right and a cross that fortunately had no-one to meet it, and another stinging attempt on goal that was saved by Garner. The Reds also had a chance of their own from a cross from Boyle which found Calum Woods, but he couldn’t direct the header on target.

After the break, AFC Liverpool aimed for a quick goal to bring the game back within their reach. A chance presented itself almost immediately as Whittington passed across the face of goal but Milne was expecting a cut-back and was moving away from the ball, and he couldn’t readjust in time to toe-poke the ball into an open net.

Both Milne and Whittington tested Jones within the first few minutes the Katter with an audacious attempt from thirty yards which was heading for the top right corner before the keeper snatched it out of the air.

The game became a series of end-to end chances. An Oscar Billington free kick was pushed around the post, and a Michael Boyle effort went just over the bar. At the other end Fletcher blazed over from one yard out, and a deflected Carey shot was dealt with by Garner. Despite an improved second half performance, the Reds couldn’t find their way back into the game,

As Chris Stammers’ side pushed forward, Congleton were able to create further chances as Carey sent his free header well wide from a corner. The turning point came on 76 minutes as Adegbenro was sent clear. He seemed certain to score taking the ball beyond the keeper, but his shot curled on to the post and rebounded straight into the arms of Garner to the utter disbelief of the Congleton faithful.

The ball was sent quickly downfield and Boyle was on hand to dribble into the six-yard box. Suddenly the Congleton defence were panicking and the Reds captain kept his head to clamly slot past Jones. Instead of a near certain 4-1 scoreline, the Reds suddenly found themselves 3-2 down and right back in the game.

The Reds looked the more likely to score in the final ten minutes, with Kevin Edgar and Danny Boden brought on to bolster their attack. Despite good build-up play, it seemed the Reds would run out of time, with the hosts taking the ball to the corners at every opportunity. Despite this, new AFC Liverpool signing Steven Wilson saw his long-range attempt fly over the bar, and Billington picked up a rebound after good work from Boden and Edgar, but sent his strike just wide.

Congleton had the chance to seal it as Farnworth drilled in a cross to Fletcher, who saw his shot blocked on the line and cleared. Joe Whittington had other ideas though about the outcome of the match. In stoppage time, he received a defence-splitting pass, looked up whilst in space just inside the 18-yard box, and curled the ball beautifully around Jones to make it 3-3, to the delight of the AFC faithful behind the goal.

The Reds still had time to inflict a final scare on the hosts as a cross nearly found the head of Allen Weston, but Jones was able to reach over him and grab the ball. The final whistle came shortly afterwards, and the Reds had deservedly earned their point.

Congleton Town 3-3 AFC Liverpool
Morris 35                        Whittington 9, 90
Adegbenro 36                Boyle 76.
Carey 41

Match attendance: 129

Congleton Line-up:

Andrew Jones, Matthew Farnworth Thomas Morris, Thomas Stevens, Jonah O’Reilly, David Sherlock (C) Jordan Bove, Jonathan Cavanagh, Emini Adegbenro, Jason Carey, Declan Fletcher. Subs: Richard Peters (Used) , Neil Chappell (Used), Martin Hill, Lewis Whillingham (Used) Mark Groom.

AFC Liverpool Line-up:

Dominic Garner, Deklan Hill, Christopher Anderson, Adam Weston , Lee McConchie, Allen Weston, Michael Boyle (C) Calum Woods, Stephen Milne, Joseph Whittington, Oscar Billington.  Subs: Jack Cookson, Danny Boden (Used) Kevin Edgar (Used), Steven Wilson (Used)

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