AFC Liverpool 4-0 Winsford United

The warm, late Summer evening of Barnton at home just a few weeks ago had been consigned to the annals of AFC Liverpool history. Signs of Autumn began to creep in; the early sunset ,the chill in the air and the eventual, inevitable downpour signaled a seasonal change at the Marine Travel Arena. AFC Liverpool looked to resist the natural order. As Summer turned to Autumn so must victories and draws give way to something colder, darker and harder to face – but not this week.

AFC looked to start as their manager had instructed – fast paced, energetic and desperate for the ball. This commitment to start fast had been instrumental in The Reds other good results so far this season and would see Winsford blown away in 20 frantic minutes.

The industry of Kev Edgar paid off early as he won a number of aerial duels and played through Danny Boden and Michael Boyle – both looked dangerous from the first whistle.

Calum Woods continued his impressive form at the heart of the AFC midfield and started an excellent move that should have given his side the lead. Woods pounced on a wayward Winsford pass and found Boyle in space with a lovely lofted pass – Boden shot and Boyle was unlucky not to follow in and grab a goal.

Winsford’s luck did not hold for much longer. Dek Hill, calm under pressure, chipped neatly into Adam Weston who turned and found Edgar with a perfectly weighted lobbed pass. Edgar created himself space with a great first touch and slotted the ball beyond keeper Michael Langley, 1-0 AFC after just 7 minutes.

The Reds looked to keep Winsford under sustained pressure – forcing mistakes and cutting off the out ball. Edgar again worked hard and won the ball deep in the United half and linked up well with Boyle. Boyle went on a promising run but his cross was cleared for a corner. Boden played his cross deep and was headed just in front of Lee McConchie, who had his acrobatic overhead effort saved then cleared off the line.

In the brief moments Winsford were able to keep the ball and play through red shirts they proved themselves able to carry a threat. Good one and two touch passing created a good chance for forward Nathan Cotterell but he was unable to keep his shot on target. A perfectly weighted through ball was played through to striker Jordan Johnson quickly after but Lee McConchie recovered well and put in a great tackle to deny a clear cut chance. Though fair, the challenge caught Johnson and the Winsford man had to be replaced soon after, following a few minutes treatment.

The Reds were able to maintain their fast start however – Boyle with another good run down the left dribbled skilfully through two players and won another corner. The kick was taken short to Joe Whittington who crossed with pace in a congested penalty area. Towering centre half Allen Weston took full advantage of the confusion that followed and leapt highest to bury well beyond Langley, 2-0 to AFC after 17 minutes.

And then, almost from the kick off, The Reds won back possession again and Boyle found himself in space on the edge of the Winsford area. Clever movement bought Boyle a moment of time to unleash a thunderous strike into the top corner, 3-0 to AFC Liverpool after only 20 minutes. The early part of the first half saw Winsford unable to live with the energy and fluidity of movement of the AFC Liverpool front line, or the industry of the midfield. To their credit however, the visitors refused to wilt and created some excellent opportunities for themselves.

Callum Gardner and substitute Daniel Hudson in particular looked threatening. Gardner had a couple of solo runs in the final third, one resulted in a tame effort saved by Dom Garner and another was shepherded well out of play by AFC debutant Jack Fleming. Hudson came closest however after he engineered himself space in The Reds 18 yard box with some excellent close control but his effort sailed agonisingly close beyond the top right corner.

Not content with 3 goals – AFC pressed for more throughout the remainder of the half. The high energy press was again The Reds most creative weapon as Winsford lost possession in dangerous areas time and time again. Kev Edgar, Joe Whittington and Michael Boyle all benefited from United being caught in possession and AFC Liverpool could have gone into the break with 7 or 8 goals as a result. As it was the home crowd would have to make do with 3-0 at half time.

In the intervening time between halves it rained quite heavily and presented a new playing surface and a different set of challenges for both sides in the second half. AFC full back Dek Hill became the first casualty of the weather as a wet ball was fizzed at him with pace but he recovered well and the clearance sprung a counterattack and an eventual corner for The Reds.

For much of the second half AFC Liverpool were happy to cede possession to Winsford United and catch them on the break – which they did fairly regularly. A counterattack down the Winsford right saw forward Edgar go on a good run and put a speculative cross towards Whittington and Boden who waited in the middle, with Boden just unable to convert his shot.

Another chance soon after kept the pressure on United, more good work from Edgar who pounced on a loose ball in the box following a good corner but his shot was well blocked behind for another AFC corner.

Adam Weston pulled the strings from midfield and an excellent ball over the top to Whittington should really have registered as an assist. Whittington seemed unaware of how much time and space he had however and chipped tamely into Langley’s grateful arms.

A fiery performance from Boden was finally punished on the 51 minute mark after a late tackle from behind saw the referee show the first booking of the match. Winsford then kept the ball well as the alliteratively named Sean Sherwood tried in vain to grab a goal for United but his shot was blasted way over.

Skipper Michael Boyle remained a threat throughout the second half, his excellent close control took him beyond his marker but his shot was just wide. Edgar linked up well again with his captain and cut a low pass across the box. A sharp turn and shot from Boyle forced a good save from Langley.

Skilful forward Ste Milne then replaced Boden and quickly looked to get in on the action and on another day could have bagged himself a hat trick from the bench. A perfect first touch from Whittington and neat through ball to Milne should have extended The Reds lead further but Milne just dragged his effort wide. The two forwards linked up again soon after with Whittington the provider once more. Milne latched on to Whittington’s cut back and forced Langley into a good stop with his legs.

It was then Boyle and Edgar’s turn to link up once more. Boyle showed his experience as he followed in Adam Weston’s powerful effort, drew the defenders attention and laid the ball off to Edgar who was unfortunate not to score. Boyle then spotted Edgar’s run but the striker was unable to control the through ball in the slick conditions and the Winsford keeper claimed it.

Football matches are decided in moments – a series of moments in the first half saw AFC Liverpool go 3-0 up. Winsford United had their own frantic spell in the second half though, yet through bad luck and brilliant goalkeeping just couldn’t get it over the line.

The Reds backline were caught on their heels but Garner saw the threat his defenders didn’t and smothered the one-on-one. Quickly after, a hard low shot across a wet surface gave AFC a scare but Garner pushed well wide, danger averted for now. United then had several golden opportunities in one attack to score but the play was too scrappy, goal mouth scrambles followed and the ball just wouldn’t find the back of the net.

Dom Garner’s sweeper keeping was called on again and again as Winsford got in behind The Reds backline. A dangerous ball towards the 6 yard box was taken off the United striker’s toe to prevent a certain goal and soon after Garner rushed out to close the space and parried the ball wide for a corner.

As the half wore on and the final 20 minutes approached, Winsford looked to be in the ascendancy and chance after chance was resisted and battled against to protect The Reds clean sheet.

AFC Liverpool were too clinical though and broke well again. Boyle beat the offside trap, positioned himself perfectly and bent his shot far into Langley’s left corner for his second and The Red’s fourth less than 15 minutes from the end.

The fact that there could have been another 2 goals at least at both ends was a testament to the way the game was played. Winsford were desperate for a consolation and worked hard to find it and AFC remained unsatisfied with 4 goals and sought more and more and more. As it was though, 4-0 to AFC Liverpool would be the final score.

Another game, another win, another clean sheet. 3 clean sheets in four and unbeaten in as many games – momentum was building for The Reds. A manager’s promises of building a young exciting foundation and playing entertaining, attacking football were being kept. A league campaign that started harshly with two tough defeats looked to have been corrected. An early exit in the FA Cup was an additional frustration; however the FA Vase provided the opportunity for another cup run.

Now to Sunday. To Marine.

Athersley Recreation stand between these Reds and the next round, let’s get down in numbers and help the lads over the line. Up the Non-League Cup Run Reds.

Match attendance: 136

Alan Williams Man of the Match Award: Joe Whittington

AFC Liverpool Line-up:

Dominic Garner, Dek Hill, Lee McConchie, Allen Weston, Jack Fleming, Calum Woods, Adam Weston, Michael Boyle (c), Daniel Boden, Joe Whittington, Kevin Edgar. Subs: Jack Cookson, Christopher Anderson, Oscar Billington, Stephen Milne, Stephen Wilson.

Winsford United Line-up:

Michael Langley, Christopher Middleton, Perry Bircumshaw, Sean Sherwood, Lee Duckworth, William Foster, Ryan Steele, Ryan Hopper, Jordan Johnson, Nathan Cotterell, Callum Gardner. Subs: Scott Taylor, Daniel Hudson, James Rothwell.

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