City of Liverpool 1-1 AFC Liverpool

After Northwich Victoria midweek there was something of a call to arms issued ahead of Saturday’s 3pm kick off. If these lads couldn’t get up for this match, then would could they?

Well, the call was answered and many of the characteristics missing from this AFC Liverpool team during the recent poor run of form were there in abundance today.

The pragmatic line up was chosen to give stability and numbers at the back but with creativity and pace in the midfield and attack equipped to strike on the break. There was a real maturity to this performance that had been sorely lacking in recent weeks. Every lad scrapped for their mate, they all pulled together as one and they all dug in together to claim a vital away point for The Reds.

City of Liverpool kicked off the first half and started on the front foot. The home side edged a scrappy opening 10 minutes with John Connolly getting onto the end of a good cross in but was just unable to keep his volley on target. Connolly again came close soon after following a decent run in behind but blazed over to let The Reds off.

AFC Liverpool looked to contain The Purples in the first half with Danny Boden’s pace on the counter the preferred outlet. After a spell of pressure from the home side, Boden was released with a good ball over the top with space to run into but centre back Craig Robinson recovered well and denied AFC Liverpool a goal scoring opportunity.

The Reds continued to weather the storm as City of Liverpool used their overlapping wide men to good effect as the number of dangerous crosses began to tot up. John McGrath delivered a fizzing ball in towards Joe Camozzi but the effort was again smashed over the bar.

City of Liverpool got joy out of passes from wide positions over and over in the opening 45. Elliot Nevvitt, Danny Dalton and John McGrath would all come close following balls in towards the AFC penalty area but the score remained level.

The Reds came to life in the closing moments of the first half after a great ball from deep towards Oscar Billington was worked in and triggered a dramatic goal mouth scramble with Lee Hughes at the centre. Hughes’ persistence very nearly paid off as his initial effort was snuffed out by keeper Karl Wills. Wills unable to keep hold gave Hughes another bite of the cherry but again the keeper managed to smother the ball.

Wills actions ensured the deadlock would not be broken and the teams would go in at half time with the score at 0-0.

AFC Liverpool started the second half but would see the loss of another key player quickly after the restart as Conor Smith limped off to be replaced by first team debutant Callum Ruttledge.

The Reds keeper Jack Cookson found himself much busier this half as City of Liverpool’s accuracy improved greatly from the first 45. Cookson made an excellent stop to deny Nevvitt’s clear cut chance and it wouldn’t be the last he had to make. A clumsy foul gave The Purples a free kick in a perfect position, full back Luke Denson curled a smart shot around the wall destined for the left hand side of the goal but Cookson was equal to it and pushed away for a corner.

At the other end Lee Hughes put in his second impressive performance in a week for The Reds. Hughes dropped deep, held the ball up intelligently and gave Danny Boden plenty of balls to run on to.

It was in this way the deadlock was finally broken. A great ball from deep was played in behind the City of Liverpool back line. Boden picked the ball up and ran to the byline, a clever turn and neat pass was flicked skilfully beyond Karl Wills by substitute Callum Ruttledge to put AFC Liverpool 1-0 up.

City of Liverpool responded by continuing their attacking overload as they lashed the kitchen sink at The Reds in the final 20 minutes. AFC Liverpool defended for their lives though with Cookson again producing vital stops to deny Nevvitt and Denson once more.

The Red wall finally gave way 5 minutes from the end after Connolly’s good work down the left side set up Camozzi. The City of Liverpool skipper was the quickest to react to the ball in the box and slotted beyond Cookson.

The closing minutes of the match saw The Reds defence steel themselves and just refuse to be beaten. Picking out individuals would actually miss the point. It was the collective that was the star, the team. All of the AFC rear guard made vital blocks, clearances and interceptions in the final minutes to protect the point – a most precious point given recent results.

Aeons passed before our eyes, galaxies exploded into life and then collapsed again in the space between added time and the final whistle.

That feeling when it was blown though…

Although only a point was gained, this felt like a result that can turn a season, such were the wholesale differences displayed. Lessons from previous games had clearly been learned by The Reds. At 1-1, their discipline only strengthened. Moments were taken out of the game to breathe, to think and to regain shape ahead of the next passage of play – a demonstrable improvement to The Reds game management.

In previous weeks, the urge to chase a winner may have been AFC Liverpool’s undoing. This week though, the points wouldn’t just be handed over to a grateful opponent, the points would be shared as both sides contributed to a breathless match that would not have looked out of place at any level of the game.

AFC Liverpool now have 10 days until their next fixture, at home to 1874 Northwich. 10 days for the injured to heal. 10 days to train and work together, for each other, as they did today. 10 days in which to some how preserve the momentum gained this afternoon, to be extracted when it’s needed most.

These Reds must remember their performance from today, individual and collective, as they learned much about themselves and each other. From the pragmatism of the game plan to the effectiveness of its execution, Chris Stammers and the lads may just have laid the foundation for the fight back and for something to build on to get our league campaign back on track.

10 days and counting…

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