9th January 2018 - Ashton Athletic 1 v 2 City of Liverpool - And back again to Brocstedes Park for a midweek tussle featuring two capable units. It had been my first day back at work today after having time off to start the wildlife wanderings and tie up many loose ends from the previous 12 months. I needed an end of day treat and this game looked to have all the prospects of being a darn belter. We set off in good time to try and beat The Purple helmeted Army who, as ever, were bound to attend in good numbers and kick up a good racket in support of their reliable squadron of ball booting buggers. The thermals were lacking as usual at this time of year and I wondered if, at the end of 90 minutes, we wouldn't all be sporting more than just the aforementioned violet-flushed crowns. My fur-lined jockstrap was pulled tight, my recently acquired knitted nipple-cups tied in place and I settled down beside my good lady to view matters as they unfolded. Over the course of the match I scribbled and after deciphering the shiver-induced scrawls I ended with a tale that goes as follows.
The colour clash began, the Yellows against the Purps, a garish escapade that would put the fashion sense of Lady Gaga to shame (emphasis on the 'gag'). I donned my negating spectacles of neutrality and witnessed the first thrust to come via the humping loins of the predatory purple pack. It was a simple ball over the top, No 9 (Thomas Peterson) chased and released a fierce shot that was met with a firm impenetrable blockage. The game though was in a decent state of equilibrium early on although the COL crew were just shading matters and were remarkably industrious early on and offered their opponents no time to relax on the much sought after ball. It was the COL's Peterson again who was to cultivate the next peril when he executed a sublime sub-dummy swivel, lost his marker and put the ball across the face of the goal. It was unfortunate to see no takers for the flashing sphere.
Some dubious defending by Ashton now made the home sides task harder than it should have been and a lack of tight marking allowed the visitors to knock the ball around with swift ease and have time to choose their options. Eventually a 3 pass move was quicksilver smooth and was terminated by a sharp low shot that went searing across goal and into the far side of the net. No 3 (Franny Foy) was the man of the moment, a tremor of fear passed through the souls of the nearby Ashton Athletic fans - was this the start of a deluge? The home lads now called upon reserves of resistance, they scavenged for scraps but when the guests put together an 8 pass manoeuvre and the waspish Peterson was shouldered off the ball in the box it must have been some relief to the home 'erberts to concede only a corner and have a few seconds to re-organise the ranks. The corner was dealt with, the following attack culminated in a header that forced a tip-top save, what a beauty it was and only the offside flag dampened the true delight of the talent. The Purps came once more, a shot, deflection and side-netting and Ashton were now definitely under the cosh. Credit must be given where credit is due though and the hosts dug in, won a corner and were somehow only inches away from snatching an equaliser. The corner was tame but somehow a sense of parity was beginning to be felt. City of Liverpool had the next chance when a free-kick was won after a very clumsy challenge. The ball in was world class, again all it needed was the merest touch but all bodies were absent. Ashton pushed, No 6 (Jamie Harrison) was getting into the thick of the action and making a nuisance of himself and causing a certain irritation in the opposing defence. I am sure you know the kind of irritation I mean, a bit like when ones good lady insists on wearing a Ken Dodd mask whilst you are in the mood for love - quite aggravating don't ya think!
Towards the latter end of the half, after riding a small vessel of luck to shores of safety and seeing Peterson sneak in and fire wide Ashton paid back COL's intensity and awareness with some balls-out grit and determination. Suddenly, when the visiting No 5 (Daniel Dalton) was put under some serious pressure, made a crucial blip and was robbed he could only watch as the ball was hammered into the danger zone and slapped home by the awaiting No 7 (Daniel Regan). With only 2 minutes left of the first half there was little time for a reaction to this surprise equaliser and when the referee halted the frenetic action we knew we had a match on our hands.
Half-time, me and my good lady purchased a cuppa and wandered from the crowded seating area to the opposite side of the pitch to watch the second half. There we enjoyed the company of a keen non-league fan who chatted about this and that and enthused about his love of the game. As it turned out he was the son of that great Liverpool legend Ronnie Moran, no wonder he likes the game, tis in the blood it seems.
Onto the second period, a quick start was had with both teams working harder than Lisa Tarbuck in a sausage factory. A corner to the hosts was swung in fast but the mittman's hands were as safe as houses and a break was had. That pesky purple Peterson was at the helm, bearing fruit in the form of a free-kick which was punched clear and kept trouble at bay. The graft level was high, Foy of the visiting mob was pinging the ball, working like a trooper and making some good overlapping runs. At the other end, No 10 (Daniel Smith) and No 11 (Joshua Nicholson) were perspiring passion with the former player hustling hard and gaining a loose ball. Unfortunately what followed was a wild shot that was off the radar, a vital chance gone I reckon. City of Liverpool pushed back, a whipped in cross came from seemingly that void known as 'nowhere', a toe poked out and by crikey a 2 - 1 lead was had. No 8 (Michael Roberts) had bagged the goal, like a thief in the night, he came, he pilfered, he left the victim rankled.
The next animated point came after a Yellow breakaway charge. A free-kick won, Smith cracking it and landing only inches away from a finishing toe - there is still life in the old dog yet it seems. A Purple replacement came, No 14 (Jack Kelleher) was straight into the fray and involved himself in some action that led to a corner kick. The ball went in, a break came, Nicholson released and it was Regan who fired wide. Ashton continued to push, The Purple Pack took on a role similar to Errol Flynn on rabbit-based hormones - they played the field, looked to penetrate and used full width (ooh heck). The sub, Kelleher had a punt, the target was missed but into the dying embers we went with the home team denied any true chance of goal due to their opponents tireless work. The clock eventually ticked away, time had run out and left an away win to be recorded in the footballing annals of yore. Many good performances where witnessed but that No 3 of City of Liverpool (Francis Foy) caught the eye with a performance that had a touch of quality about it, was injected with a bold passion and etched through with a good understanding of the inner machinations of the contest. One to watch methinks!
FINAL THOUGHT - My take on the two teams on show tonight is as thus:- Ashton Athletic are a tough squad with a good work rate, a 'never say die' attitude and an ability to bounce back even after the lowest of blows. For me they play a little too narrow and don't spread themselves enough, as a pack that is. They will always hold their own though as they are a tough cookie to crack and one would be better off trying to get your hands on a nude photograph of Tony Gubba than score 3 goals against this lot - and that's tough! City of Liverpool have pace, alertness, a fine inner engine and just seem to prowl across the park as one hungry mutt. They are capable of squeezing out the narrowest of victories or slamming a side for six provided how fortune favours their opponents. In a year or so they will be vying for promotion and no doubt their support will increase and they will go on to bigger things. The last time anything purple was seen sporting any degree of success in the Liverpool area was Tommy Smith's nose after a winter bender with that sexual goalkeeping double and boozing legend Gordon Wanks. It takes all sorts but my advice is - keep on eye on this colourful pack, there be great things afoot (perhaps).