AFC Liverpool 2-2 Ashton Athletic

AFC Liverpool scored a late equaliser in the opening round of the FA Cup to earn a deserved replay at Ashton on Tuesday Night.

The opening minutes of the match saw a dominant spell for the visitors, earning several free kicks to put pressure on the Reds back line.

In the 9th minute, Joseph Nicholson opened the scoring for Athletic, as he was allowed too much space to fire in a shot from the edge of the area, which went beyond the reach of Reds keeper Lee Carr.

AFC eventually settled into the game, with brothers Rhys and Zach Hardacre linking up well, with the latter firing just wide on 20 minutes. While Ashton’s shooting at the other end let them down, a swift ball squared across goal  saw Callum Schorah grab the equaliser in the 32nd minute following a goalmouth scramble.

While the equaliser buoyed the confidence of the home side, and saw them stay on the attack, they found themselves behind again in the 41st minute, as a crisp passing move undid the Reds defence and left Ashton’s Gary Burnett with a simple tap in to restore the visitors’ lead.

Once the teams emerged for the second half, AFC Liverpool began to see a lot more of the ball, with another chance for Zach Hardacre going narrowly wide.

Ashton were always a danger on the break however, and the Reds had Lee Carr to thank for some excellent saves, with defender Chris Brady also putting in a tireless performance, and Ben Lightfoot also impressing on his debut. The home side grew in confidence, and as the game progressed it was clear AFC Liverpool began to take hold of the game.

Rhys Hardacre sent in a lobbed strike which nearly fooled Martin Pearson in the Ashton goal, prompting calls for VAR from the stands.

Drew Lewis then fired in a shot that rattled the crossbar on 78′ minutes, but Ashton had a golden chance to seal the tie with another breakaway two minutes later, but the final shot was skewed well wide with only the keeper to beat.

Unfortunately the fixture was then delayed for several minutes following a bad injury sustained in the 82nd minute. Brady and Athletic’s Aaron Simpson had a clash of heads in a 50/50 challenge, but Simpson fell awkwardly then was stretchered off after treatment, and it was later confirmed he had suffered a leg fracture.

It was the overreaction to the collision, that saw a few minutes of madness which sadly marred a game that had, up till that point, been played in the right spirit. Tensions rose as it became clear the injury was serious, and an altercation between Bradley Owens and Ashton’s Matthew Reid saw them both dismissed.
Drew Lewis also saw a red card following a shove to an opposition player in the ensuing melée.

When play finally resumed after an 8 minute delay, both teams had been reduced to 9 men, as Ashton had utilised all three substitutes and could not replace the injured Simpson.

Despite the reduction in personnel, the Reds continued to push for an equaliser and they got it three minutes into the added ten. A quick throw in was crossed towards goal from the right flank,and Pearson was obstructed by his own back line as he attempted to punch clear. The ball spun across goal and Callum Schorah was on hand again to nod home into an empty net.

The Reds were even pushing for a third when the whistle was finally blown, and the stage is now set for another competitive encounter at Brocstedes Park on Tuesday night.
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