AFC Liverpool 3-3 Steeton AFC

A good point, or two points dropped? Context is important and we’ll of course go through the match, the goals and the late fight back but only come April will we know for sure whether that will cost us or whether this single point contributed to the goal, what we all want for this Club; players, supporters, staff – for now though my glass is half empty.

In an opening period of the game with little quality from either side, The Reds were particularly poor, struggled to get going and lost the ball cheaply time and again. The visitors on the contrary were content not to have much of the ball, to soak up pressure and play direct over the top and in behind to break.

Despite the slow start, it was AFC Liverpool that broke the deadlock after 20 minutes when a Steeton defender made a clumsy challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. Rhys Hardacre stepped up and placed the ball in the corner to give The Reds a lead and some confidence to kick on.

For the next 20 minutes, AFC played something approaching their normal game but still struggled to move through the gears. A couple of players though had no interest in the passivity going on around them and instead tried to will things in to being. Jay McGrane and Callum Schorah stood out and were tireless throughout the first half and posed continuing and ever changing questions for the Steeton back line.

McGrane dropped deep then made a darting run in behind only to be dragged to the ground by what looked like the last man but the referee disagreed and Stephen Pearson escaped with just a caution. Schorah then linked up well with Jay Howell after The Reds captain made a surging run down the wing, Howell played the ball across but Schorah dragged his effort wide from 18 yards. Schorah was in again moments later after he refused to give up on a loose ball, cut inside and forced a good stop from keeper Joe Mash.

As the half drew to a close and The Reds looked to be establishing superiority, a couple of defensive errors let the visitors back in. First, a routine diagonal ball in between the centre halves wasn’t dealt with. Next, AFC keeper Jack Ferguson rushed off his line and just misjudged the bounce of the ball which allowed Andrew Briggs space to nod the ball around him towards the byline. Ferguson panicked and hauled the striker to the ground leaving the referee with little option but to give a penalty. Aaron Hollindrake placed the ball on the spot and fired into the roof of the net in the 41st minute to put Steeton level.

Whilst the play was still sluggish, AFC created a couple of good chances almost from nothing in the final couple of minutes of the half. Jay Howell drove from deep, beat his man and laced a cracking shot from 30 yards just narrowly over before Callum Schorah blasted against the crossbar from distance with the last kick of the half to confirm it would be all equal at the break.

After the restart, The Reds had a good 5 minute spell were they looked to move the ball much quicker and defender Chris Brady was unlucky not to score from a neat Rhys Hardacre corner. The ball was dinked to the near post but Brady was slightly off balance so was only able to turn his shot into the side netting.

It was the visitors who went ahead however just before the hour mark after AFC conceded a soft free kick deep in their half. Toby Jeffrey delivered well and Hollindrake was allowed to run across the face of goal and glanced his header beyond Ferguson to make it 1-2 to Steeton.

The Reds didn’t react well to going behind as they continued to cede possession in dangerous areas and were finally caught out in the 63rd minute. A stray pass was jumped on and Andrew Briggs was put through on goal. Lee McConchie was unable to commit to much as he was last man and Briggs struggled free and finished. Jack Ferguson was unfortunate really as he got a lot on it when he made his save but the power took the shot over the line and gave Steeton a two goal cushion.

AFC allowed two to become three far too quickly in that spell and gave themselves a mountain to climb but with a two goal deficit to overcome they began to play.

McGrane, Schorah and Howell continued to cause problems for the Steeton defence and Rhys Hardacre managed to hit the bar direct from a corner as The Reds built towards something. That something came with 10 minutes to go through a moment of individual brilliance from Jay McGrane. The forward received the ball just outside the area, took a good touch to create space for himself and curled a perfect finish into the top right corner with Joe Mash nowhere near it.

Now within a goal of a point at least, AFC made some necessary changes. One of which unfortunately for McGrane as he pulled up with an injury after his goal with Drew Lewis, Anthony Lyons and then Jordan Foster coming on for The Reds. The visitors looked dead on their feet at this point as AFC finally started to tick. A defensive lapse gave Toby Jeffrey a chance but he could only hit the woodwork – this aside, AFC were banging down the door.

Callum Schorah took up position out wide, clearly instructed now to get chalk on his boots and stretch the visitors weary back line which he did to great effect and in doing so created the opportunity for The Reds to salvage a draw. Schorah picked the ball up on the left flank, turned his man and cut across to substitute Jordan Foster who held his position well just inside the area. Foster set himself with his first touch and angled the ball perfectly into the bottom right corner where Mash couldn’t reach to equalise in the 93rd minute.

In the closing moments of the game AFC pushed and pushed for a winner but unfortunately the come back was left too late for anything more than a point. It was an odd sort of game. A six-goal thriller but neither side played particularly well and barring McGrane’s pearler and Foster’s ice-cold finish there were few moments of quality.

Just the one point then. As I opened with – whether it’s a good point or not will be clearer further down the line. What was telling, at least for me, was once the euphoria and the roar and the flailing limbs of a last minute goal ebbed away I was left feeling not relieved but disappointed. Disappointed we hadn’t started earlier. Disappointed in the knowledge, and no disrespect to our opponents, that this is a game we should be winning. Of course no match is a cert, particularly at this level and we got what we deserved in the end but that doesn’t erase the disappointment that comes when you fail to win a game you should be winning.

So yes, for now at least, the glass remains half empty. 26 glasses left, though. Starting with Ashton Town next Wednesday.

Lineup vs Steeton

Attendance: 110

Alan Williams Man of the Match: Jay Howell

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