Shelley FC 1-3 AFC Liverpool | Match Report

These lads. Don’t half make it hard for themselves at times, these lads. Don’t half love an uphill climb. Don’t half have absolutely loads about them though. These lads are capable of an opening 45 minutes like that, struggled like they did and yet have it in them to pull together and win their sixth league game on the spin. The test faced was a familiar one. A tough away game against a physical, well drilled team but again this side was more than equal to it.

As much as I’d like to just start with the second half, I’m a prisoner to time as much as anyone so I suppose I’ll just have to take you through it. The Reds were nervy in the opening minutes, misplaced passes would become a theme of the first half, many going straight in to touch while others placed undue pressure on the player receiving the ball.

After 10 minutes Shelley forward Brice Pouamoun was almost gifted an opener. A stray back pass and a slip from keeper Joao Mendes saw Pouamoun run through but excellent defensive work from Ben Lightfoot prevented a certain goal before winning a foul to relieve pressure. AFC Liverpool continued to be careless in possession while Shelley were content to pump the ball up field, contest for aerial duels and win second balls.

Neither side fashioned much in the way of chances until Shelley broke the deadlock in the 27th minute through striker Craig Billington. Billington received the ball on the edge of the area, turned well and struck the ball with some dip just over Mendes.

The Reds continued to look a bag of rags for the remainder of the half but a bright spark came through Callum Schorah 5 minutes before the break. Schorah picked the ball up inside the area after a good move and forced a brilliant one handed save from Paul Day.

The referee mercifully brought the half to a close as The Reds reflected on one of their poorest performances of the season. Fortunately though there was nowhere to go but up and with Shelley only one goal ahead, the game was still well within reach.

Second half was a different story, a different side almost and AFC were very nearly level just after the restart. A quick move down the left saw Schorah combine well with Drew Lewis and as players piled in to the area a shot struck the post, was blocked off the line and eventually well cleared by the Shelley defence.

For 10 minutes after the break The Reds huffed and puffed and in the 55th minute got their reward. Jay McGrane made a direct run down the right then dribbled into the box and squared the ball to Callum Schorah who converted beyond Day.

Shelley appeared to visibly tire following the equaliser and for a period the home side couldn’t get near the ball and struggled to get out of their half. Sonny Parr came close to putting The Reds in front after another good spell of pressure. Parr latched on to a deep cross but could only direct his diving header just over the bar.

A double substitution 10 minutes from time pushed AFC Liverpool up a further gear and pushed them over the line as strikers Jordan Foster and Anthony Lyons were introduced and a tactical shuffle was made behind them.

The Reds finally established the lead they deserved and Jay McGrane grabbed the goal he deserved in the 84th minute. Another mazy, solo run down the right saw McGrane jink his way inside the area. He then turned his marker, opened up his body and beat Paul Day at the near post with a composed finished.

McGrane’s goal effectively killed what little resistance remained from the home side but The Reds still chased a third. Substitutes Jordan Foster and Anthony Lyons combined to deliver number three and deliver the most satisfying of the goals which is so obviously the third goal in a 3-1 win. The let off, the relief and the unbridled joy that comes with establishing that two goal cushion, especially so late on, is unequal in any other sport.

The goal itself wasn’t bad either. Jordan Foster picked the ball up wide, beat his man easily and pinged a perfect pass over the top for Anthony Lyons to run on to. Lyons took a good first touch to move away from his marker, waited for the keeper to commit and buried the ball low into the corner.

As the final whistle went, The Reds were jubilant while some Shelley players dropped to the floor. The tempo AFC Liverpool set in the second half had clearly taken its toll and although it took time to get there, this side know now they have a level they can reach that a lot of teams will struggle to live with.

To Wednesday night, AFC Blackpool at Marine. A very different game, a different challenge that will no doubt require The Reds to reach for that level again. Reach it and we will be talking about a run of form not seen at the Club for a few years. But let’s not tempt fate. Six straight wins at any level is extremely difficult and should be celebrated and enjoyed.

For now though. Here we go. Six in a row.

Lineup vs Shelley

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