AFC Liverpool 2 Alsager Town 3

Sunday 7th August 2011
AFC Liverpool 2 Alsager Town 3
North-West Counties League Premier Division
At: Valerie Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £2
Attendance: 185
Weather: cloudy, occasional rain
Duration: first-half: 47:10; second-half: 49:16

The game was originally an Alsager home game but the devastating file at Wood Park last month forced the switch. And with AFC Liverpool’s landlords Prescot Cables hosting Marine yesterday in a pre-season friendly, a Sunday kick-off was agreed.

So up the M6 I headed. Lee ‘SanktPaulee’ West had the same idea as me and he provided good company particularly during the second half.

For me, a couple of interesting things surround this game. With AFC Liverpool being a promoted side, this was the fifth season I have seen a side play their first game at the highest level they have achieved – Farsley Celtic (2007), Dinnington Town (2008), Padiham (2009), Handsworth (2010) and now ‘The Little Reds’. Add also to that list Stafford Rangers’ first game back in the Nationwide Conference in 2005. And, putting on my ‘anorack’, this was third visit to Valerie Park and on each occasion seeing a different team play a home game – previously Prescot (December 1993 with the suffix ‘Cables’) and Runcorn FC Halton (March 2005).

Valerie Park, hidden amongst terraced houses close to the north end of the town centre, was dominated by a huge stand with changing rooms and bar below. The pitch (orientated just about north-south) ran lengthways from the entrance on Eaton Street with the aforementioned stand being down the left-hand touchline with a couple of rows of terracing in front. Behind the near goal was a ‘V’ shaped terrace with the nearest half covered.

The teams were available from the press box after the announcer had read them out and played the familiar anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’!

Alsager (wearing their normal kit of black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the covered terrace end and wasted a great opportunity to take the lead in the 14th minute. They were awarded a penalty when Darren Torpey hauled back Liam Rigby inside the area but Leigh Skellern saw his spot kick superbly saved by Michael Christopher.

However, the Bullets made up for the miss when they took the lead in the 32nd minute. The home defence failed to clear a diagonal ball into the area and James Marrow fired home from 8 yards out.

Alsager thought they’d scored again six minutes later when Matt Pearson headed home George Barlow’s free-kick but the ‘goal’ was disallowed for offside. There were no doubts at all about the visitors’ second goal scored just before the interval. Skellern picked up the ball in space on the left and slotted it wide of the advancing Christopher into the far bottom right corner of the net.

AFC Liverpool (of course wearing all red) needed to respond after the break and did so four minutes after the resumption in bizarre fashion. Darren Torpey hit a long free-kicktowards goal which Alsager keeper Tom Harrison juggled over the line. An own goal to me but officially credited to Torpey.

The visitors bounced back to restore their two-goal advantage. Skellern was allowed to get down the right and deliver a low cross which unchallenged Marrow sidefooted home at close range.

However, in the 57th minute, Alsager were reduced to 10 men when Rigby was shown a straight red card for retaliation. Shaun Gardner should have halved the deficit when put clear by Aaron Stafford but the substitute failed to hit the target with just Harrison to beat. Gardner made up for his miss in the 82nd minute when he finished off a lovely move down the left by slotting home Stafford’s low cross at the far post.

Joseph Gibbons created a late chance for Stafford who couldn’t keep his shot down in stoppage time and his side’s chance of grabbing a point was over.

AFC Liverpool (red/red/red): 1. Michael Christopher, 2. Steve Corris (capt), 3. Darren Torpey, 4. Conor Murphy, 5. Jack Sinnott, 6. Phil Stafford, 7. Shaun Chart, 8. Daniel McGahon, 9. Steve Jones, 10. Stephen Edwards, 11. David Clayton. Subs: 12. Shaun Gardner (for Edwards, 67), 14. Joseph Gibbons (for Clayton, 61), 15. Aaron Stafford (for McGahon, 72), 16. Joe Bennett (not used), 17. John Parry (not used).

Alsager Town (black and white stripes / black /black): 1. Tom Harrison, 2. Scott Burge, 3. Liam Rigby, 4. Kieran Ellis (capt), 5. Paul Bowyer, 6. Ryan Mitchell, 7. George Barlow, 8. Matt Pearson, 9. James Marrow, 10. Leigh Skellern, 11. Jack Sherratt. Subs: 12. Ryan Ball (for Skellern, 79), 14. Ashley Westray (not used), 15. Chris Jackson (not used), 16gk. Stuart Heeps (not used).

Referee: N. Gibbons.
Assistants: N. Jones and D. Watson.

0-1 James Marrow (32)
0-2 Leigh Skellern (45)
1-2 Tom Harrison (50 og)
1-3 James Marrow (54)
2-3 Shaun Gardner (82)

AFC Liverpool: David Clayton (YC, 58), Daniel McGahon (YC, 66)
Alsager: Ryan Mitchell (YC, 16), Liam Rigby (RC, 57)