AFC Liverpool 3-2 West Didsbury and Chorlton

There’s the easy way and there’s the way these lads prefer to go about their business.

Few feelings in sport or elsewhere can match the release of emotion brought on by a last minute winner. The best way to win a game of football bar none, not best for the health of the supporters mind you but ask anyone there last night who has invested anything into this club and they will rightly tell you they’d take that over a 1-0.

Though the way was hard the result is all that matters now and those 3 vital points lifted The Reds out of the relegation zone.

AFC Liverpool named a good side with strong options on the bench but started very much on the back foot as the visitors bright start saw them go ahead after only 9 minutes.

A series of long diagonal balls behind the full backs finally paid off as winger Ben Steer latched on to a cross field ball. AFC keeper Jack Ferguson made a decision to rush off his line as Steer lobbed the ball towards the goal and Ashley Woods rushed in to make it certain.

So began West Didsbury’s best period in the game as The Reds struggled to get out of their own half and Jack Ferguson was called upon time and again to drag his teammates out of the fire. It was the range of stops Ferguson had to make that were most impressive, tipping a low shot acrobatically around the post, palming over the bar from close range and stopping the ball on the line will have frustrated the visitors no end as they still had only one goal to show for their efforts.

Although they conceded an early goal and were under siege for much of the game so far, The Reds kept their heads up and fought to get back into the game. This spirit was embodied in the performance of Callum Schorah, excellent throughout, who scrapped and chased down absolutely everything and would level the score in the 32nd minute.

Schorah’s initial shot was blocked but James Howell kept the attack alive and moved the ball out wide. A dangerous cross back into the box caused chaos in the visitors back line and Schorah was most alert to it and turned the ball in to make it 1-1.

Ferguson made another important save just before half time. A curled freekick wrong footed the keeper but he recovered well to deflect the ball around the post with his legs.

With the score level at half time there was no doubt who the happier of the two sides were as Jack Ferguson proved to be the difference maker in the opening 45.

AFC Liverpool started the second half much sharper and for the first 5 minutes after the restart hemmed West Didsbury in around their own box. The visitors defended well though and the score remained level for much of the second half.

West Didsbury and Chorlton lost their skipper Matthew Eckersley through injury just after the hour mark which proved a turning point for the away side. The team’s discipline waivered after their captains departure and a spate of bookings followed, some for late challenges and some for dissent.

Around the same time The Reds made a decision which would ultimately turn the game in their favour when Leon Arnasalam was replaced by Zach Hardacre after being targeted by a string of late challenges and getting a knock.

As AFC Liverpool pushed for the lead they left themselves vulnerable and it was West Didsbury who went ahead just 8 minutes from time. The visitors countered well and capitalised on The Reds failure to clear their lines with Matthew Kay applying the finish.

For all their industry in the second half, AFC Liverpool found themselves 2-1 down with time ticking away but they kept going, kept scrapping, kept chasing absolutely everything and would get their reward just a few minutes later. Substitute Zach Hardacre controlled a sublime pass on the edge of the area, a sharp turn left his marker on the floor and a neat finish levelled the score at 2-2 in the 86th minute.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors after goal scorer Matthew Kay was dismissed for a second yellow card. West Didsbury now rattled played reactive football and tried in vain to hold on for a point.

An inch-perfect ball over the top was brought down by Hardacre and his first touch took him clear into the box, his second touch was heavy but he was too quick for the on rushing goalkeeper as he poked the ball home in the 93rd minute to launch AFC Liverpool clear of the bottom four.

That’s what last minute winners look like. Anyone who loves this game knows what’s happening in that picture, context free. Last. Minute. Winner.

The uninhibited joy on the pitch was matched in the stands, the roar then the relief. The expectation, then the sinking feeling that this was just another one of those games.

And then that. This is what we’re in it for, why we turn up in hope and fear that if you care, if you give yourself over to something you just might get that in return.

Arguably the most important win of the season so far and it should be enjoyed as such, though we’re not out of the woods.

Barnton away next, 6 games left, don’t say it yet.

Match attendance: 106

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