Eccleshall 0 Northwich Villa 1

Wednesday 19th September 2012
Eccleshall 0 Northwich Villa 1
North-West Counties League Division One
At: Pershall Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 33
Duration: first-half: 45:40; second-half: 50:34

If I do manage to complete 2012 and/or a century of games without seeing a 0-0 draw then I’m sure I’ll owe a big ‘thank you’ to Northwich Villa’s Kwame Barrett for scoring tonight’s only goal in the second minute of stoppage time. By the time the striker fired low past goalkeeper Stuart Plant, I’d settled for, and felt pleased about, my local side Eccleshall gaining a valuable point to double their tally for the season and keeping a clean sheet at the same time. So, thanks to Kwame, my current run extends to 86 games since the goalless draw at Wolverhampton Casuals on the 27th December.

This was my fifth visit to Pershall Park, found just over a mile to the west of the town centre in the village of Pershall on the B5026 towards Loggerheads. My first visit back in 1987 had been followed by more recent games in 2008 and 2011.

I like the ground with three separate areas of cover. The original stand with a bench at the back is still in situ behind the dugouts and there are around 50 seats in front of the clubhouse, as well as further covered standing in the corner behind the Chester Road goal One thing I noticed tonight was a superb level playing surface, ideal for passing football. As I and others have mentioned before, the chap manning the far paybox gave a friendly welcome. The clubhouse is a good place to relax before the game, complete with the ‘CafĂ© McHenny’ tea bar. Teams were announced over the tannoy, through I’d already obtained the lineups from the Secretary.

On Saturday, Eccleshall (17th with 1 point from 7 games) put their league form behind them and recorded a fine 3-1 win at Midland Alliance side Stratford Town to progress in the FA Vase to the First Round.

Northwich Villa (in green and white) got the action underway attacking the Chester Road end. Play was confined to midfield for the opening nine minutes until Eccleshall’s Ryan Smith hit a rising right foot drive from the right which the diving Villa goalkeeper Niiakai Sonne turned round the far post.

By the midway point of the first half, the only other notable chance was a drive over the home bar by Cameron Clarke from an offside position.

A couple of further chances were created and wasted before Dan Jones, in space, fired against the boot of Sonne. Jones according to the programme was named Man of the Match on Saturday by the Non-League Paper’s reporter at Stratford.

Just before the break, Dylan Norris, wearing the ‘33’ shirt, hit a rising 30-yard drive which Stuart Plant tipped over.

Half-time arrived goalless for the second game running.

Hope of a goal noticeably increased at the start of the second half with a flurry of chances. Kwame Barrett fired into the sidenetting and Smith saw a well-struck shot blocked by Sonne. Eccleshall’s Plant did well to hold another shot from Clarke.

Unlike the last two matches I saw without a first-half goal – Nantwich yesterday and Dolgellau last month on the Hop where, at both, one side had scored before the 61st minute – the second half wore on without anyone finding the net.

Was my run of 85 games without a 0-0 about to end?

Even the referee didn’t help my quest for a goal either by turning down a strong Villa appeal for a penalty when a defender appeared to pull the shirt of Barrett inside the area. The ref was far better positioned than me to make the decision he did!

Plant produced another save to deny Clarke a goal and, on 80 minutes, I settled for a goalless draw which meant that Eccleshall had gained a point and kept a clean sheet.

Substitute Daniel Colclough played a pass into the path of Lee Ratcliffe who got forward from defence and sent a 25-yard shot inches wide of the target.

I really didn’t know what to do when Northwich (13th in the table with 7 points from 7 games) scored the winner in the second minute of stoppage time. Barrett latched onto a throughball and coolly slotted low past Plant. Celebrate as ‘Tram’ would have done or feel for Eccleshall? It was more like the latter.

My thoughts turned to Eccleshall and whether they had enough time to bag an equaliser. They won a free-kick on halfway which Plant booted into the area and was cleared for a corner. Plant went forward, Colclough delivered the resulting corner and Jordan Flattley saw a volley blocked.

All in all, I enjoyed my fifth trip to Pershall Park and hope they have a few more Wednesday evening games during the season.

Eccleshall (blue and black stripes / black / black): 1. Stuart Plant, 2. Bradley Cooper, 3. Lee Ratcliffe, 4. Michael Davies, 5. Jack Warren, 6. Nathan Hunt (capt), 7. Ryan Smith, 8. Jordan Flattley, 9. Dan Jones, 10. Calum Hassall, 11. Jordan Foster. Subs: 12. Lee Summerfield (for Jones, 80), 14. Daniel Colclough (for Foster, 68), 15. Gary Gibson (for Waren, ht), 16. Mitchell Lovatt (not used).

Northwich Villa (green with white sleeves / white / green): 13. Niiakai Sonne, 2. Anthony Lloyd, 33. Dylan Norris, 4. Matthew Carr, 5. Lee Lloyd (capt), 6. Philip Clorley, 7. Romeio Gray, 8. Patrick Nolan, 9. Chris Peach, 10. Kwame Barrett, 11. Cameron Clarke. Subs: 12. Sean Rushe (for Gray, 56), 14. Martin Rushe (for Nolan, 73), 15. Lee Garwood (for Clarke, 80), 16. Oliver Bell (not used), 17. Wale Ajet (not used).

Referee: P. Ince (Bolton).
Assistants: N. Burke and A. Waring.

0-1 Kwame Barrett (90+2)

Eccleshall: Lee Ratcliffe (YC, 87)
Northwich: none.