Barnoldswick Town FC 3-2 AFC Liverpool

Firstly, what a game that must have been for the neutral. Not that there were any in attendance mind you. A whirlwind first half that had everything but a goal. There were top drawer saves from both keepers, gilt edged chances squandered and two sides desperate for a win who put on a real spectacle. The second half had all of that plus 5 goals.

That AFC Liverpool were again on the wrong side of an entertaining game full of good attacking football and a load of goals took the gloss off to say the least. Another result has gone against us in disappointing circumstances. The Reds willed themselves into the lead only to surrender it. They battled for an equaliser late on, then failed to close the game out and run home with a vital point. A cruel lesson but a crucial one and one that must be learned quickly if these lads are to turn the season around.

To that Helter Skelter opening 45…

The pace set from both sides was breathless and their attacking play took similar forms, direct and with plenty of width. AFC forward Andrew Lewis started extremely confidently, winning most of his battles and combined well early on with Danny Boden and Kevin Edgar. At the other end keeper Dom Garner made a flurry of vital saves to keep it goalless as Barnoldswick found themselves in behind several times.

The home side would count themselves unlucky not to be ahead but AFC grew into the game and began to create. A series of half chances fell to The Reds following a dangerous corner but Barnoldswick blocked well. Soon after, skipper Joe Whittington ran on to a through ball down the left flank and crossed the ball just ahead of the full backs attempted tackle. The ball looped to the back post and Boden looked certain to score but for a wonderful reaction save from Connor King who parried for a corner. Whittington and Boden would be involved again with the captain just unable to convert Boden’s excellent cross.

Not to be outdone, Barnoldswick created clear cut chances of their own. Time and time again the home side played through balls down the right flank and cross after cross came in for AFC to deal with. Centre back Lee McConchie cleared off the line before Garner pulled off another superb save over the bar. A fizzed ball across The Reds penalty area then came painfully close to being poked home.

Despite all of this, a combination of quality goalkeeping and a lack of cutting edge kept the match 0-0 at half time.

The frantic pace of the first half did not let up and it wasn’t long until the deadlock was finally broken. Barely a minute after the restart, explosive winger Boden attacked down the right and his dangerous low cross was turned home by a Barnoldswick defender, 1-0 AFC Liverpool. Boden looked to keep the pressure on with a beautifully struck half volley but Connor King pushed the ball onto the bar and prevented The Reds from doubling their lead.

AFC Liverpool looked to be in the ascendancy early in the second but this came to an end across three agonising minutes. Barnoldswick put sustained pressure on The Reds backline and got in behind twice – the result was two very well worked goals for the home side. The first, a flicked ball over the top from a throw in and a good finish from Shaun Airey levelled the scoring. Soon after, Zack Dale would smash the ball into the corner beyond Dom Garner to put his team ahead. It went from bad to worse for AFC as captain Whittington had to be helped from the pitch following a coming together.

The 20 minutes that followed were scrappy, the open attacking play that characterised the match so far was replaced by a battle and a string of nothing fouls disrupted the remaining flow of the game.

The final 10 minutes saw AFC hold the ball better in the final third and would eventually see this pay off. The home team’s failure to clear their lines was jumped on as the ball came to Kevin Edgar on the edge of the Barnoldswick area. Edgar took a good first touch and blasted the ball well beyond Connor King to level the game at 2-2.

Edgar’s equaliser came in the 87th minute and should have seen Barnoldswick contained as AFC Liverpool protected a precious point. The exuberance of youth won out however as these Reds pushed on for a winner when pragmatism may have served them better and they were cruelly punished. Barnoldswick countered down the right, Zack Dale used his pace to get clear and an excellent ball was volleyed home in the middle by Jake Lloyd in the 92nd minute.

A gut punch akin to that from Runcorn Town at the start of the campaign, that was difficult to take. Thoughts go again to opportunities not taken and even one not seen. Specifically, the opportunity to see 2-2 as a good result in the circumstances and grab it gratefully with both hands.

Congratulations to Barnoldswick Town, who responded well to going a goal down and contributed to an exciting game. We look to Saturday now, to Squires Gate and to two teams struggling for results eager to turn it around. Another away game, this time at a ground where we have had recent success, another win would there would be huge.

3 points will be the target, despite recent results, the sense is that 3 points could revive a season and kick off another good run. After all, a streak has to start somewhere, let’s start it on Saturday…

 

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