Ashton Athletic 4-1 AFC Liverpool

AFC Liverpool travelled to Brocstedes Park for their FA Cup replay with Ashton Athletic. The Reds started brightly with Zach Hardacre taking a shot within twenty seconds, deflected away for a corner.

The opening fifteen minutes saw end to end stuff without any clear cut chances, but then Athletic’s Gary Burnett fired wide at one end, with Rhys Hardacre then testing the keeper at the other.

Both teams had seemed to cancel each other out as the clock the half hour mark, but the Reds had given a good account of themselves. On 33 minutes the Reds went close as Callum Schorah floated in a cross. Chris Brady got a touch but couldn’t’ quite bring the ball down to fashion the shot.

The Reds were starting to have the better of it, as a long distance strike from Drew Lewis was saved after a neat passing move, followed by a Zach Hardacre header going just off target after James Mc Grane floated a cross in front of goal.

In the 41st minute, the Reds got their just reward as Drew Lewis turned on a sixpence and fired low past the Ashton keeper. A great strike to give the Reds the lead, and they maintained the scoreline until half time.

The Reds continued playing in the manner in which they had finished the first half, with Zach Hardacre going through one on one, under pressure, but his shot was released too close to the keeper and was blocked.

In the 52nd minute, Ashton levelled the score against the run of play with a superb strike from Joshua Nicholson from outside the area. The ball was hit sweetly and went in the opposite top corner, giving Lee Carr no chance, and the game was even.

The Reds continued to work hard, and Schorah chased a ball heading for the corner flag and cut back to Zach Hardacre, but the shot was mis-hit and bobbled through to Martin Pearson in the Ashton goal

The game seemed to turn on an incident in the 65th minute. Callum Schorah was put clean through on goal and had left his marker behind as he drove forward into empty space beyond the centre circle. An Ashton midfielder cynically grabbed a handful of shirt and pulled the Reds forward to the ground. A clear goalscoring opportunity had been denied, but only a yellow card was shown.

Following this, the Reds began to get frustrated as several off the ball incidents went unpunished by the referee. Rhys Hardacre went off with an injury, replaced by Bakare Aliu, forcing a change of formation.

On 70 minutes, the hosts took the lead, as a mistake in the Reds midfield saw an Ashton player go through one-on-one with Lee Carr. The Reds keeper was able to make two brave blocks from the same player on the edge of his area, but the ball broke to Matthew Reid, and he curled it around Carr into the empty net.

From this point, the Reds had to commit more players forward, and gave a good account of themselves, but the Ashton back line continued to frustrate them. Meanwhile they became more vulnerable to the counter attack.

With five minutes to go of normal time, Ashton scored a third to effectively end the contest. Ashton had a breakaway attack following an AFC free kick at the other end. A goal-bound shot came in but Carr and one of his defenders both went for the interception, collided, and the ball came off one of them and was bundled across the line.

It was already a harsh scoreline considering the effort and performance of the Redmen, but Ashton then added insult to injury by scoring a fourth goal in time added on. Kristian Bell was the player who beat the offside trap this time, and he was able to cut in from a wide position to slot the ball under the approaching Lee Carr.

4-1 the final score then, and the Reds must wait another year for the chance of an FA Cup run, They could take credit from their playing performance, but there are lessons to be learned about managing games in the face of physicality and aggression from the opponents.

AFC Liverpool Man of the Match: Callum Schorah

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