City of Liverpool travelled to the Sandbach Community
Football Centre sitting top of the Hallmark Security NWCL Division One and on a massive high after brilliant exposure on Sky Soccer Saturday following their fantastic 6-1 home thrashing of Holker Old
Boys the weekend before.
Due to manager Simon Burton’s absence, assistant gaffer Tom Spearritt took charge of the Purps as they looked to maintain their excellent run of form which had seen the team only lose one in the previous 11 matches.
With Bartosz Kowalczyk not available due to a festive return to his homeland, the Partisans were unable to sing of having a “.. big Pole in our goal ..” however, we did see the return of Ste Longrigg between the sticks, which raised a few surprised eyebrows when the team was announced.
Also coming back into the starting line up was Joe Camozzi, who occupied the left wing back role. The bench saw a return for Danny Dalton who has been out with a hamstring injury, Billy Webb after his birthday shenanigans – Dublin style, and also, what would be a debut for new signing Dave Forbes, a striker signed from Runcorn Town.
The expectation was high as The Purps kicked off, both teams have been in good form, and with Sandbach having played 4 games fewer, nothing less than a victory would be good enough.
Straight from the kick off The Purps were denied what looked a blatant free kick as Aaron Rey was clearly shoved in the back as he jumped for a header, nothing given by the referee, which would become a bit of a consistent theme for the visitors throughout the match.
Sandbach immediately broke forward. Allen Weston slid in for a tackle, the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. We were only 2 minutes into the match.
If ever there was a way to announce you’re back, then Longy had it here, a chance to be a Purple Hero saving an early penalty, alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as Sandbach’s #11 Josh Lane ran up and fired home, sending their bench into raptures. 1-0 to the home side.
The COL’s were being completely overrun in the opening quarter of the game, and just couldn’t seem to get any flow or width without being closed down by a highly organised Sandbach side. A couple of corners came in as the home side continued to press and looked to build on their early lead, Longy punched the second one clear, only to have been fouled in the process.
The subsequent free kick found its way to Declan Gregson on the flank, who crossed in only for a shot by Michael Roberts to be blocked.
Sandbach were being first to the majority of loose balls, and had an ability to break with speed, precision and flair, something the Purps were struggling with on both counts.
A good pick up by John Connolly, with his tricky feet, freed up Daley Woods, who’s shot unfortunately went wide.
Connolly again spread a ball out wide to Camozzi, who crossed for Gregson, shot blocked. More good work by Gregson saw a corner to the Purps, but a bad delivery from Michael Roberts saw Sandbach collect and clear on a swift counter attack.
A cross was sent in and #8 Christopher Jackson had a free header that was met with a flying save by Longy. A shot came back in, and hit the post as Sandbach kept up the pressure.
Despite the odd half chance falling to City of Liverpool, the home side dominated the first half with their quick breaks, dogged tackling and a level of determination that seemed sadly lacking in the Purps’ play.
Half Time 1-0
The Purps came out for the second half with a bit more bite. Rey putting himself about and providing a good cross into the box, however, no one was there to meet it.
A foul by Roberts saw Sandbach come forward in the attack, good tracking back by Gregson cutting out the danger. Josh Lane fired in a dangerous cross for the home side, again Gregson was there to pump the ball upfield and relieve the pressure.
The Purps were able to have a bit more attacking play in this half as they searched for a much needed equaliser. Rey winning a good climbing header.
Moore sent in a good cross, again nobody in the box to take advantage of the opportunity. Gregson then broke on the right and put in a tempting low cross that reached Rey. With the goal gaping, Rey skied his effort well over the bar, what an opportunity missed for the Purps. Another cross by Gregson, this time Woods was hustled out of the header, though nothing given by the referee, despite many Partisan voices calling for the foul.
Sandbach broke, and Moore made a great tackle, however, he was clattered into by #9 Daniel Bartle with a terrible challenge, one that saw the Sandbach striker booked.
The home side had a great chance to increase their lead as the ball rolled agonisingly across the Purps goal line, fortunately for the visitors, no Sandbach player was able to stab it home.
Tom Spearritt decided on a change, and motioned to Matty Williams to get ready. The home side did make a change on 63 mins #10 Aaron Knight replaced by #12 Alfred Hammond.
This potentially unsettled Sandbach, as a minute later Daley Woods broke away on the left flank and floated in a teasing cross to the back post. Aaron Rey was there to meet it. He rose brilliantly and powered home a fine header into the opposite corner. The Purps were level. Game on. 1-1
A couple of minutes later, Williams did enter the field of play, replacing John Connolly.
Sandbach were constantly pressuring, looking to regain the lead. Excellent clearances and mopping up at the back, first by Weso, then Dykes, and Roberts enabled City of Liverpool to hold firm
Parity however, only lasted until the 70th minute. Again Sandbach broke strongly, a shot was fired in and hit the post. The rebound was immediately returned with a fierce drive by sub Alfred Hammond and despite Camozzi’s best efforts to prevent the ball crossing the line, Sandbach regained the lead. 2-1
The fog began rolling in across the far end of the ground and the whole landscape began looking like a scene out of Wuthering Heights.
Visibility became difficult, in fact, after the match, the referee said he was close to stopping the game altogether, no doubt many a Partisan would have been happy with that based on the final result.
Tom Spearritt made a couple more changes, Dave Forbes making his COLFC debut on 76 minutes replacing Woods, and Billy Webb replacing Joe Camozzi on 78 minutes, as the Purps were desperately searching for an equaliser in this match.
As we approached the final ten minutes, Dykes was booked, his 5th booking of the season, meaning he’ll have to serve a suspension, most likely missing our trip away to Stockport Town on New Years Eve.
The Purps tried to muster some chances late on, Forbes went clear and crossed for Rey, who seemed to chest the ball when the Partisans had their collective hearts in mouth thinking the equaliser was on the cards. Webb crossed again minutes later only for Forbes to shoot wide of the goal. Even a couple of corners deep into injury time couldn’t produce the much needed goal to salvage a point and maintain our unbeaten run.
The final whistle blew. The Sandbach bench erupted with delight, a massive victory for the home side. However, it was disappointment all round for the Partisans, even worse as other results went against us and we found ourselves dropping to 3rd place in the table.
No game for a couple of weeks now until the trip to Stockport Town, plenty of time for the management and coaching staff to get the lads pumped up and hopefully end the year with 3 points on Stockport’s plastic pitch.
Onwards and upwards. Wishing everyone connected to the club and all the Partisans a very Merry Purple Christmas and hopefully a Promotion Winning , Cup Celebrating New Year!
Attendance - 175