Ashton Town 3-4 AFC Liverpool

AFC Liverpool earned their first points on the board in the North West Counties Division 1 North, following an excellent fightback against Ashton Town.

It was the Reds’ second trip to Ashton-in-Makerfield in a week, following their FA Cup exit at Ashton Athletic on Tuesday evening, but it was back to league business, this time with Town as hosts.

The initial exchanges were even, but as early as ten minutes into the game Ashton, playing down their sloped pitch were starting to have the better chances. If they had been wearing their shooting boots, they could have had a brace before the 15 minute mark, but two one-on-one chances went awry with some weak wayward shooting, and Lee Carr then made an excellent save to deny Aron McGrath who was sent clear after a defensive mix-up.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic for the hosts, as Reds’ forward James McGrane was unable to direct his shot beyond John Courtney in the Ashton goal on 22 minutes, but 3 minutes later the Reds did take the lead with a poacher’s goal from Anthony Lyons.

However, the defensive problems which have plagued the Reds in the campaign thus far were laid bare, as Ashton dominated the final fifteen minutes of the half scoring 3 in the process. A breakaway run down the wing followed by a cross into the danger area, saw the ball spin up into the air, and it was bundled across the line with Sean Yeldrem getting the final touch for the equaliser.

Yedrem then doubled his tally 2 minutes later, as an attempt to lay off the ball to the keeper instead saw an AFC defender slip and fall to the floor, Carr was already committed to receiving the expected pass, but the Ashton forward took it wide and simply slotted the ball into the empty net.

Insult was added to injury with a minute remaining before the half time whistle, as Aron McGrath was simply allowed to walk through the Reds back line. He set himself for the shot just inside the 18-yard box and sent the ball beyond the reach of Carr to make it 3-1.

A change was needed for the Reds, and it came in the form of two half-time substitutes, Harry Avis and Jordan Foster., followed shortly after by a third, Callum Ruttledge, who came on in place of the injured Bakare Aliu. With the back line now more settled, the Reds could concentrate on reducing the deficit, which they did on 55 minutes as McGrane was put clear on goal. This time the Reds forward made no mistake and placed the ball underneath the approaching Courtney to make it 3-2 to the hosts.

Ashton kept the visitors at bay for the next 20 minutes, pushing the ball into wide areas, and earning a series of corners and free kicks to keep the game in the Red’s half. Eventually, AFC Liverpool began to hit the home side on the break. Reds captain James Howell tested Courtney from distance, and then in the 82nd minute, McGrane latched on to a ball over the top, shielded it from the keeper, and laid it off perfectly to the advancing Howell who smashed home the equaliser.

If the AFC Liverpool faithful were content to earn a precious point, it would appear the AFC Liverpool players were not. The Reds were determined not only to keep Ashton Town at bay for the remainder of the match, but they kept up the pressure for a winner. As normal time switched to time added on, Harry Avis, who had been industrious down the left flank, was clearly shoved over in the area in full view of the referee. There was no hesitation and he pointed to the spot.

Rhys Hardacre stepped up to take the penalty, kept a cool head and struck the ball past Courtney to make it 3-4. The comeback was complete, sending Reds fans into raptures at the final whistle.

Man of the Match: Jay McGrane




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