AFC Liverpool 0-0 Squires Gate

AFC Liverpool started 2018 with a point at home and the fluid, attacking football which characterised much of former manager Chris Stammers’ tenure looked to have been tempered somewhat. The reckless abandon which had at times cost The Reds so dearly in the first half of the season also showed signs of waning though on a bright, cold January afternoon.

Interim joint managers Stuart Keir and Ben Williams were in the dugout for the first time and in a short period have drilled a solid side with loads of nous who all fought hard for one another. A bluntness in attack would ultimately prevent AFC from claiming all three points but building a solid defensive foundation gives the new management team something to hold on to and build upon.

AFC Liverpool started brightly and pressed the visitors from the first whistle and forced Squires Gate into an error which almost led to a goal. Pacy forward Danny Boden intercepted an attempted clearance and his shot was deflected wide for a corner which was headed just wide by John Holmes.

Squires Gate could only threaten from distance in the early exchanges as they struggled to penetrate the solid AFC back line.

I’m going to take a minute out to gush about the defence actually and might do throughout…

Converted midfielder James Howell played at right back like he’s been there all his life. This alongside other cameos at centre half this season highlight his adaptability and the selflessness to put the collective ambitions of the team ahead of his own. John Holmes was a colossus throughout and won most of his aerial duels but also possessed a composure on the ball that is surprising for a lad of his size and build. Skipper Lee McConchie put in a complete captains performance and boxed off absolutely everything that came near him. McConchie was an organiser, vocal throughout and set the tone for his team mates solidity.

Finally then to left back Chris Anderson and back to some sort of chronological account of what happened in the game – Anderson put in an understated but assured performance and should have had an assist to his name after only a quarter of an hour. Anderson beat his man down the flank and whipped in a great ball across the face of goal but could only skim off the forehead of Joe Whittington in the middle. A fraction more contact would have seen the ball directed home to break the deadlock, as it was though it remained 0-0.

Whittington responded well to his near miss though and after a lengthy spell sidelined by injury he looked hungry to make things happen from wide areas. James Howell pinged a long diagonal ball across field and Whittington controlled superbly, spun his man and looped an audacious effort beyond the keeper but was just wide.

Pressure mounted on the visitors and the best chance of the game fell to AFC Liverpool and captain Lee McConchie following a series of corners. A cracking delivery was met by McConchie and his powerful header was tipped over brilliantly by Benjamin Fletcher.

A scrappy midfield battle emerged as the half wore on with The Reds struggling to get their feet on the ball. There was a real breakdown in fluidity between the midfield and the forward line as the bang in form Kevin Edgar looked isolated at times.

The half petered out, the sun went down and both sides went in level.

AFC Liverpool kicked off the second half and the floodlights kicked in but the match continued in much the same vein with neither side able to fully impose itself on the other.

Squires Gate got some joy down the wings through Tarren Moxon and Joseph Mullen as they crossed dangerously and put The Reds defence under pressure. For much of the visitors control of possession however they didn’t force many stops from keeper Jack Cookson, who had a fairly quiet afternoon.

The Reds new signing Callum Schorah made his debut 10 minutes after the restart in unfortunate circumstances as Joe Whittington was caught late and had to be replaced. Schorah was direct following his introduction and looked to run at the Gate back line.

AFC Liverpool would make two final changes before the end as James Sloane and Callum Ruttledge were brought on to freshen legs in the forward line and midfield and both contributed to The Reds stable performance. Ruttledge played much deeper than he is used to but kept the ball well and Sloane was a constant out ball as Squires Gate tried to push on for a winner.

Lee McConchie would shepherd the ball out of play and make a vital block late on to ensure the points would be shared and secured himself man of the match in process.

A stuttering attacking performance from The Reds but plenty of positives at the other end of the pitch as a solid defensive performance confirmed the first 0-0 of this league campaign. They will not be able to rest on their defensive laurels on Tuesday night against Holker Old Boys in the Macron Cup however and will have to threaten more going forward as the match will go straight to penalties if level after 90 minutes.

A clean sheet is nothing to be sniffed at though and will hopefully provide The Reds a platform to push on and take the game to Holker.

To Tuesday then. Up the Non League Cup Run Reds.

Alan Williams Man of the Match – Lee McConchie

Match attendance: 142

Alan Williams Man of the Match: Lee McConchie

AFC Liverpool Line-up:

Jack Cookson, James Howell, John Holmes, Lee McConchie (c), Christopher Anderson, Adam Weston, James Anderson, Lee Hughes, Daniel Boden, Joseph Whittington, Kevin Edgar. Subs: Dominic Garner, James Sloane (Used), Callum Ruttledge (Used), Deklan Hill, Callum Schorah (Used).

Squires Gate Line-up:

Benjamin Fletcher, Andrew Richards, Jacob Higham, Michael Hall (c), David Rossall, Paul Carroll, Joseph Mullen, Dean Ing, Gary Pett, Mark Buchan, Tarren Moxon. Subs: Jordan O’ Mahoney (Used), Corey Moorheam, Mark Thornber, Lewis Masters, Radim Cech.

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