There were several leading candidates for MOM this week, including debutant Josh Dures, Chris Lester, Kevin McEllin, Michael Roberts, Andy Fowler, Michael Smith & Daley Woods, but the Rocket Claims MOM for this game goes to Kevin McEllin for an outstanding football display in centre midfield, but to be honest it could have been any one of the outfield players!
Purps dominant in Alsager win
In a game that was meant to be among our toughest of the season, City of Liverpool put in a committed display to come out 2-0 winners at home to Alsager Town. Second half goals from Daley Woods and Chris Lester claimed all 3 points for the Purps, who stay 3rd in the league thanks to this crucial win.
Simon Burton rang the changes prior to this game. Josh Dures, who hasn't even trained with the team yet, came in at centre half in place of Danny Dalton who could only make the bench. Michael Roberts made his debut in place of captain Chris Dykes, who was ill. Mike Smith also came into the fray in place of Andy Fowler. He also made the bench. Fowler and Dalton were joined in the dugout by Matty Williams and two new signings in the shape of midfielder Nathan Ferguson and right back Joel Burns.
The COL's made their usual quick start to this game, the difference being that their passing was incisive and their movement was sharp. The midfield three of Roberts, McEllin and Smith were linking up tremendously. Their understanding of each other, as well as their movement and recovery of the ball when they lost possession, was making it extremely difficult for their Alsager counterparts to get anywhere near them. However the home sides good start was disrupted within the first 12 minutes, when Declan Gregson had to be taken off and was replaced by Andy Fowler. Gregson later said on Twitter that he felt his hamstring twinge so hopefully he won't spend too long on the sidelines.
On 17 minutes, City of Liverpool nearly made the breakthrough their play deserved. Michael Smith took a corner from the right at the Dodge Kop end. Daley Woods flicked it on at the near post and the ball managed to evade everyone, even Tom Peterson who was flying in at the far post but couldn't get a toe on it to convert. 3 minutes later, City of Liverpool missed another glaring chance. Another corner from the right came in. Josh Dures' shot was blocked on the line but trickled across. Tom Peterson was flying in but couldn't bundle it into the back of the net. Peterson had handled in the process though and was duly booked. Surely a COL's goal was inevitable.
From there, Alsager started to come into the game. They started to challenge in midfield, and as the tackles flew in from Smith and Roberts, the ref deemed that the latter went in a little too forcefully in one exchange and he was also given a yellow card. Alsager also started to create chances. A long ball upfield was flicked on by Lowe to Chadwick. Chadwick controlled, turned Weso all too easily and fired wide of Longys left hand post. A warning for the COL's. Not long afterwards, Alsager got a corner on their left. It was met at the near post by the head of Vickers, who smashed the post from 4 yards out. However, this was the last the away side would see of the purple penalty area for this half. City of Liverpool went in at the break looking comfortable within the game, but still without that vital goal.
As the 2 teams came out for the second half it was clear that the home side were keen to maintain the pressure they had built on Alsager, and not repeat the mistakes of last week's defeat to Prestwich Heys. The midfield continued to not give their opposition numbers any time on the ball and, the attack, especially Woods and Fowler who both had terrific games, started to click into gear. On 53 minutes, the deadlock was broken.
Alsager were dispossessed in midfield by Tom Peterson, who attacked the right back. He came inside and shot across the keeper who could only parry away to his left. Andy Fowler took control of the loose ball, turned and had his shot blocked by the defender. The ball fell to Daley Woods who smashed home from about 9 yards to give the home side the lead and break his 10 game streak without a goal. The jubilant goalscorer sprinted over to the partisans and high-fived everyone he went past. A deserved goal and a deserved goalscorer.
City of Liverpool did not rest on their laurels and pressed ahead. Not long after the goal Michael Smith got a free kick central on the edge of the centre circle. He played it into Woods, who held off his defender, turned, and fired wide past the right post of keeper Bourne's goal. But on 64, the lead was doubled by an unlikely source. Chris Lester attacked down the right and played the ball to Andy Fowler. Fowler cut inside the defender and was not closed down urgently enough. He shot from the corner of the box and Bourne fumbled. Nobody in Alsager white reacted, nor did they notice Lester continuing his run into the box. He ran across Bourne and poked underneath him into the corner of his net, before continuing running into the shed to celebrate with the partisans again. It seems likely that if the partisans hadn't have stopped him, he'd still be running now!
Alsager made a sub and switched to a back 3 in the hope, by pressing men forward, they could get something from the game. However City of Liverpool never looked troubled and Roberts, Smith and McEllin sustained their governance of the middle of the park. Alsager were easily dealt with when they did get through by Weso and Dures, who looked cool on the ball and swift across the pitch. He did however have one hairy moment in the last 5 minutes, when he mistimed the high bounce of a long ball forward. Lowe ran through and looked certain to score, but could only lift the ball over Longy and past the post. City of Liverpool saw out the last 5 minutes from there easily and, when the ref blew the final whistle, the delight was clear on everyone's faces - on the bench, on the pitch and on the terraces.
As the only game of the day in the league that could affect the top end of the table, this win didn't see us move any higher and the Purps stay 3rd behind Charnock Richard and Whitchurch Alport. However, with 4 games in hand on us, it was imperative that we took 3 points in order to keep the pressure on Alsager in those 4 games. They stay 4th, behind ourselves, now 5 points behind.
Recent performances would have warranted a nervous outlook going into this game. City of Liverpool have recently struggled against sides in and around us and Alsager Town, who came down from the league above last season, are a fantastic side who had only been beaten once this season previous to this game. But the Purps were fantastic to a man. They were first to every ball, dominant in key areas of the pitch and took their chances when they came. To put in a performance like the one they did today, says a lot about the character of these lads in purple. A deserved win and a well earned 3 points.