AFC Liverpool 2-4 Northwich Victoria

Another hugely frustrating evening for The Reds that. The failure to capitalise on a dominant opening 45 was followed by a second half that saw 4 goals shipped once again.

From the kick off the visitors looked to catch the AFC backline cold. Northwich forward Brian Matthews got himself into a dangerous position but was unable to keep his effort under the bar from 12 yards out.

The Reds then took control as they started to keep the ball and began stretching the Northwich defence. Oscar Billington got in behind on the overlap after 5 minutes but couldn’t beat Michael Donlon, who made his first important stop of the night. A few minutes later Danny Boden used his pace to go on a mazy run down the right flank, beat his man and deliver a dangerous cross into the penalty area but there was no red shirt to meet it.

Northwich Victoria looked to push back as a good ball put Jason Hart in. AFC centre half Lee McConchie was more than equal to it though, dispossessing Hart and going on a good run into the midfield before releasing The Reds on the break. McConchie would collapse only a few minutes later however after he appeared to tweak his hamstring – a big loss for the AFC defence. The centre back would be replaced by Michael Boyle and the formation was rejigged with Calum Woods moving into the back three.

Although some solidity at the back had been lost The Reds imposed the doctrine that the best defence is a good offense as they pinned the visitors back. AFC Liverpool’s forward line exchanged quick passes in the final third as they dragged their markers all over the place and created space for the extra man – Conor Smith was the extra man in this moment. Smith received the ball on to the edge of the area, set himself with a good first touch and lobbed Donlon with an outrageous looping shot from 20 yards out. A sublime finish to open put The Reds 1-0 up and no more than they deserved.

AFC Liverpool had their tails up after going ahead and the visitors struggled to keep the ball. Northwich Victoria looked towards set pieces and long balls over the top for an equaliser. A free kick in a dangerous area almost did just that but a superb save from Dom Garner managed to deny Brian Matthews’ powerful header.

The Reds continued to pass Northwich to death but were just unable to create enough clear cut chances to secure a more comfortable lead. AFC Liverpool finished the half strongly though as Calum Woods’ first time shot fizzed towards the top corner but Donlon was again equal to it. The half time score saw AFC go in with the narrowest of leads but with plenty of positives to build on for the second 45.

But build on it they did not…

Northwich came flying out the traps and a mix up between keeper and defence allowed the visitors back into the game. Matthews, who was a threat all night, finally got his goal as he pounced on the mistake to skilfully lob Dom Garner from the edge of the box, 1-1.

Following the equaliser both sides appeared to shift the intensity up a gear and the match became scrappy as a result. Unable to play their usual free flowing game, The Reds adapted and looked for another way in. A looped pass from deep caused confusion between Northwich centre half and full back and Joe Whittington capitalised on the mistake. Whittington used his body well to get in front of his man, great close control created an angle and an excellent finish crept under Donlon to re-establish The Reds lead, 2-1.

The hope that a corner may have been turned lasted around 5 minutes as Northwich Victoria looked an increasing threat. Jason Hart was the most alert in the box following a Northwich corner as he buried his effort beyond Dom Garner to level the match once more, 2-2.

The Reds suffered another injury blow with Joe Whittington the second player to be helped from the pitch. He was replaced by debutant Lee Hughes who made a fine cameo appearance and got some much needed minutes in his legs.

The balance of the match appeared to tip into the visitors favour as the second half wore on. Jason Hart picked the ball up just into the final third and was afforded too much space to run into as The Reds defence backed off him. Hart picked his head up and rifled a swerving shot right into the corner from the edge of the area to put Northwich Victoria ahead for the first time.

AFC responded well to going behind though and enjoyed a spell of real pressure. That pressure led to the creation of a number of clear cut chances in this period as The Reds came agonisingly close to going level.

Oscar Billington and Danny Boden worked well down the right hand side and set substitute Lee Hughes up inside the area. Hughes turned brilliantly and unleashed a powerful shot destined for the roof of the net but Donlon turned it away for a corner. Boden then came close himself following the corner kick but the Northwich keeper made another important save.

The Reds kept the pressure on, this time with substitute Jamie Heron and Danny Boden linking up. Boden again got a decent shot off inside the area but Donlon was equal to it once more as he made yet another vital stop to allow his team to weather the storm.

Whether you put it down to AFC Liverpool’s lack of cutting edge or Donlon playing out of his skin, The Reds couldn’t make their possession count and their lack of quality in both boxes was felt again a few minutes before the end.

AFC’s defence backed off their man and again were punished. Full back Jordan Grant was able to stumble in on goal without much of a fight and his low, scruffy effort beat Dom Garner at the near post to double the visitors lead.

The referee was merciful and played only a couple of minutes added time before blowing up.

AFC Liverpool 2-4 Northwich Victoria the final score – thoroughly deserved for both sides.

Another hugely frustrating display saw The Reds unable to build momentum from a strong first half. To grab a goal and then another one just to put it beyond all doubt. Another game were any positives became wholly eclipsed by the only thing that matters at the moment – the result.

Another massive game at the weekend for these lads. Another opportunity to put things right and to show something more. If not an iron will to win then at the very least a stubborn refusal to lose. City of Liverpool ahead on Saturday then – if we can’t get up for this, then when can we?

Match attendance: 123

Alan Williams Man of the Match: Joe Whittington

AFC Liverpool Line-up:

Dominic Garner, Calum Woods, Lee McConchie, John Holmes, Deklan Hill, Oscar Billington, James Howell, Conor Smith, Adam Weston, Joe Whittington, Danny Boden. Subs: Jack Cookson (GK), Michael Boyle (Used), Jamie Heron (Used), Lee Hughes (Used).

Northwich Victoria Line-up:

Michael Donlon, Jordan Grant, Daniel Johnson, Samuel Fitton, Adam Lawrence, Allen Weston, Rory Gormon, Ian Willis, Brian Matthews, Oscar Durnin, Jason Hart. Subs: Daniel McDonnell, Liam Bickett (Used), John Bennett, Matthew Shaw (Used), Yaw Gyimah (Used).

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