Lacklustre Purps fail to break Ashton
City of Liverpool FC could not break down a plucky Ashton Town side at the Delta, in a dreadful game which finished goalless in horrendous conditions. It was a result ex-COL's striker, Rob Abelwhite, would have savoured, with a point going towards his new side's chances of getting off the foot of the table.
The COL's featured a couple of changes from the weekends 2-1 Reusch Cup comeback over Cheadle Town. Chris Lester was welcomed back into the side in place of Joel Hills who dropped to the bench. Weso also reappeared alongside Josh Dures, so Barry Moore made way. In midfield, Chris Dykes and Kev McEllin took the places of Mike Roberts and Nathan Ferguson. Other players to lose their places were Matty Williams, Josh Sumner due to injury and, surprisingly after his man of the match performance at the weekend, Billy Webb. Webb and Williams were both on bench alongside the aforementioned Hills, Ferguson and Roberts.
City of Liverpool took the onus from the kick off in this game, immediately seizing possession of the ball and probing Ashton early on. Shouts of "GET IT WIDE!" were frequently heard from the home bench, particularly from Phil McDiarmid. The aim seemed to be to pull Ashton around the pitch and try and draw them out. The tactic seemed to work as the opposition frequently pressed the ball high. But the Purps lacked runners and were not attempting to penetrate the away sides back line.
8 minutes into the game, the Purps did manage to fashion a chance against an Ashton side that would give them no change. Mike Smith took possession on the edge of the centre circle in his own half and sprayed a magnificent 50 yard ball to Woods on the left. With an excellent first touch, he brought it inside and ran towards the byline. From there he squared to Tom Peterson, who took one touch onto his left foot and shot straight at the keeper. From there though, Ashton managed to keep the Purps at bay at the edge of their 18 yard box with their organisation and bloody-mindedness.
City of Liverpools next meaningful chance came on 41 minutes. The home side won a free kick on the edge of the Ashton box in front of the Dodge Kop. Daley Woods took and fired straight into the wall. However the ball ricocheted right back to him. He took a couple of touches to his right before releasing a snap shot that went through multiple bodies and was saved stupendously by the Ashton keeper low to his left. After some stoppage time added on for an injury to the Ashton number 6, the ref blew his whistle for half time. If the lads were looking forward to getting into the warm dressing room at the break, I'm sure they will have been eager to get out again once Simon Burton and his coaches walked in. They can't have been happy with what they had seen in the first half.
At the start of the second half, the Purps looked to carry on where they left off before the interval in terms of controlling the play. They got an early corner from the right that was lashed in by Mike Smith. Josh Dures didn't head cleanly, but the ball pinballed around his feet before he curled it just over the bar from around 9 yards. An early warning for the leagues bottom side. However, as conditions worsened and the rain continued to pour down by the gallon, Ashton continued to frustrate City of Liverpool. Again, the home side were drawing the opposition out of position but movement ahead of the ball from the purple forwards was not good enough. Simon Burton responded by bringing on Billy Webb, Mike Roberts and Matty Williams for Daley Woods, Chris Dykes and Tom Peterson respectively. But it had little effect on the game and the conditions were playing havoc with the lads' first touches, especially when the ball was fizzed into them on the edge of the box.
As time ebbed away, it looked like we were in for the first ever goalless draw for City of Liverpool but they started to create dangerous chances. 3 minutes from the end, Matty Williams found himself with the ball on the left of the 6 yard box. His shot beat the keeper but not the post, and the ball bounced back to an Ashton defender who cleared his lines. Deep into stoppage time, the Purps gained another free kick that was pumped into the box by Mike Smith. The ball was headed away as far as McEllin on the left of the area about 30 yards from goal. He lifted it back into the box and, for a second, it looked like it might loop into the goalkeepers top right corner before he managed to tip it over the bar to pull off another tremendous save. That turned out to be the last kick of the game as the referee blew the full time whistle before the corner could be taken. A roar went up from the Ashton players and fans, who themselves showed great support for their committed side. The COL's however trudged off with only a point to show for their efforts.
With that result neither side has altered their league position, with Ashton still propping up the table and City of Liverpool now 2 points of automatic promotion in 3rd place. A disappointing result for the Purps and a performance to match. Conditions played a major part in this game. In a match that required quick passing and movement to break down stubborn opposition, a greasy and wet surface for the ball to skid and spin off was the opposite of what was needed. Nonetheless, a team bottom of the league should've been beaten without fuss if the Purps want to be champions. City of Liverpool go into their away game with Eccleshall on Saturday knowing a win is necessary to keep their league hopes alive.
Attendance - 318