Ashton Athletic 1-0 AFC Liverpool

The narrowest of margins and the hardest of lines for AFC Liverpool this afternoon. Guilty perhaps of starting the game too slowly and rushing decisions at times in the final third, The Reds were narrowly beaten by an Ashton side sat near the top end of the table for a reason.

The Reds made a few changes as Dylan Fitzsimmons and Mason Nevitt were given their debuts while Anthony Lyons made his first start for the club. Other than that the lineup was unchanged from the side that won at Maine Road a fortnight ago.

As mentioned AFC Liverpool didn’t start the match positively enough whereas Ashton played with intent, kept the ball well and moved it with purpose through the thirds.

The Reds lethargy was punished after only 19 minutes after a through ball out wide was whipped into the box and converted neatly from close range by Dale Korie-Butler.

Ashton Athletic pushed on for a second but in doing so began to lose the ball cheaply and left themselves exposed to the counter. AFC gained possession high up the pitch a couple of times and looked to spring Mason Nevitt and Anthony Lyons but the final ball was without the quality to cause the home side trouble.

5 minutes before the break AFC Liverpool started their best move of the match so far. Quick one and two touch passes around the left hand side of the Ashton area saw Mason Nevitt running through on goal before his marker came across and floored him. What looked like an obvious penalty was waved away as the referee backed himself to the hilt and issued Nevitt with a yellow card for simulation.

The Reds went in at half time trailing 1-0 and although they had hard lines with the penalty decision, performances had been disappointing in the opening 45.

The managers had clearly addressed this at half time as AFC started the second half with a much greater intensity. Ashton continued to move the ball quickly but The Reds were now much sharper in the press and forced their opponents into mistakes. For a short period after the restart, AFC Liverpool created a couple of half chances through winning the ball back in the Ashton half. Dek Hill just blasted wide from distance and Mason Nevitt did well to work his way into the box but couldn’t keep his effort on target.

AFC Liverpool pushed for an equaliser as Andrew Lewis came close after a neat turn on the edge of the area and a curled effort just wide. Nevitt would also come close after latching on to an inch perfect ball over the top, controlling it well with his chest and just failing to keep his shot under the bar. Despite a better showing this half from The Reds, the home side were still a threat and forced a couple of good stops from Jack Cookson who put in another assured performance.

Moments before the end Andrew Lewis would have a final chance to snatch a point for AFC but his shot from inside the area had too much lift and just cleared the bar.

The referee blew and Ashton Athletic claimed all three points. The home side had defended nervously for spells in the final 20 minutes, however AFC Liverpool didn’t force the issue enough. Conceding so cheaply so early left them chasing the game and although The Reds attacked well at times and created chances, the Ashton keeper never really had a save to make which ultimately cost them.

Defeat at Ashton and results elsewhere have saw AFC drop back down into the bottom three but the focus must now move to Northwich Victoria on Tuesday and our third successive away fixture. Northwich Victoria are without a win since Boxing Day and while The Reds form is only marginally better, we must now be targeting any and all points from any and all of our remaining fixtures.

Despite the defeat there are reasons to be optimistic. The Reds newfound balance and solidity under the leadership of Stuart Keir and Ben Williams have made this side much harder to beat. As new signings gel with the current squad these lads will only improve and with 17 games still to play, survival remains firmly within our control.

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