League Cup

Report courtesy of The Congleton Town website
Congleton Town 2 Norton United 1

NWCFL League Cup Second Round – 14th November 2006

After a period of ten days with no competitive football to play, the Bears took to the field against bottom of division two side Norton United in the second round of the League Cup. Team talk was the order of the day with three new faces on display and a bizarre turn of events that saw Andy Paxton debut in goal. The long term replacement for Terry McCormick, who joined Skelmesdale last week, was former St. Helens ‘keeper Paul Forester, but he picked up an injury playing at the weekend and Paxton, third choice ‘keeper at Skelmesdale, was drafted in at short notice.

Jordan Barnes, son of the legendary Liverpool and England midfielder John Barnes, made his debut on the right side of midfield and Sam Wood, who is loaned out from Leek Town was given a place on the bench. Elsewhere, newly appointed Assistant Manager Allan Glover was rested, with Scott Williams returning from injury to start in the left-back position. Top scorer Gerrard Courtney was unavailable due to weekday work commitments and so Skellern and Hurst started up front.

The Bears took hold of the game right from the starting whistle, passing the ball around nicely. Hurst had the opening chance in the second minute as Petrie picked up the ball down the left and fed the ball inside to Bailey. His ball forward was met by Hurst whose shot was deflected out by Robinson for a corner. From the resulting corner the Bears had claims for a goal ignored by the referee. Barnes delivered the ball into the penalty area and after an almighty scramble it appeared that Norton ‘keeper Latham collected the ball from behind his own goal-line.

Hurst and Barnes had off-target efforts in the opening five minutes before Norton showed they were prepared to make a game of it, Adlington getting in a cross that Murcott cleared behind for a corner. Larusso’s delivery caused panic in the Bears defence with Paxton scrambling to claim the ball. Seconds later, Adlington broke into the left side of the penalty area, but fired wide.

The Bears took the lead on 11 minutes after the ball was worked out to the right wing where Barnes delivered an accurate cross that found Petrie unmarked at the back post. Petrie brought the ball under control but in the wet conditions he slipped as he took the shot. It wasn’t to matter though as his shot rifled into the top of the net.

Congleton were passing the ball around with consummate ease and just one minute later could have extended their lead. Williams fed the ball inside to Petrie whose cross saw Skellern get in front of his defender to head the ball downwards but straight at Latham. Play continued this way with the Bears creating a number of half-chances, before finally doubling their advantage on 28 minutes.

Hurst chased a ball down the left and forced a corner. The ball was played in and found its way out to Petrie on the left touchline. He was bundled over by Robinson, who was annoyed at the referee’s decision to award a free-kick. Bailey’s first attempt from the free-kick was returned to him and his second, much deeper, cross was met by Andy Alston, who rose high at the back post to head home.

So the Bears were dominant and cruising to another home victory, with Williams and Barnes effective down both wings, Hurst chasing down the middle, and Bailey making those powerful forays from midfield. Kerrigan had to be replaced by Willington for Norton after suffering a hamstring strain on 39 minutes.
What happened next though changed the whole complexion of the game.

A long through-ball saw Paxton advance out of his area, with Colclough in pursuit of the ball. Instead of clearing the ball, Paxton backed off to allow the ball to run into his area so that he could collect it. Still back-pedalling he stooped to collect the ball, which rebounded off his forearms and straight to the Norton striker who calmly rounded Paxton’s despairing effort to recover and fired into an empty net.

That gave Norton the boost they needed and stunned the Bears. A minute from half-time Adlington broke through into the area and from an acute angle fired into the arms of Paxton who needed safe hands this time to collect the ball at his near post. The half ended with the Bears having been dominant for 40 minutes but with only a slender one goal advantage to show for it.

Half-Time: Congleton Town 2 Norton United 1

Congleton tried to put the record straight early in the second half with Hurst denied in the opening minute by a last ditch sliding tackle from Robinson to concede a corner. A minute later and Congleton were to be denied again. From the left Hurst fired across goal, Latham did well to parry the ball which fell to Skellern at the foot of the post, but his sliding effort, under pressure, could only find the side netting. Hurst then chased down Pattison and the ball broke through to Skellern who fired high and wide.

As the second half progressed, Congleton’s chances became more and more sporadic, whilst Norton started to gain a foothold on the game. Larusso had a powerful effort from the right deflected out for a corner. He was then to combine well with Rigby with just the final ball through to Colclough being hit too hard and Paxton was able to collect.

Lee tried to stop the changing of the tides, replacing Baker with Wood on 63 minutes. A minute later Congleton earned a free-kick half way inside the Norton half. The ball was delivered in to Skellern who shot straight at Latham. Three minutes later Petrie fired high and wide from 15 yards out.

On 69 minutes a corner for Norton would see the ball cleared to Shotton who picked up the ball and fired a curling shot wide of the far post. A free kick for the Bears on 71 minutes would see Andy Alston again rise above everyone, but this time head straight into Latham’s arms.

Adlington was replaced by Murphy on 75 minutes. A minute later and Barnes would cut in from the right and feed Skellern, who advanced into the penalty area, but fired wide to the right. Hurst was then replaced by McAllister for the Bears. Three minutes later and the Bears were denied a third goal as a snap shot from a corner cannoned back of the goalkeeper’s face, a save he knew little about until afterwards. The ball fell to Andy Alston, who fired over from 15 yards out.

In the last ten minutes of the half the game became very scrappy with Congleton looking to hang on to what they had and Norton prepared to push men forward to try and force the game into extra time. Houghton replaced the tiring Barnes on 83 minutes. With five minutes of the game remaining, Murphy broke through the Congleton defence and delivered a ball beyond the far post with Larusson lurking.

In the dying minutes, Murphy headed wide from a Rigby cross, whilst at the other end, on the break, Houghton was fed through by Bailey only to see his near-post shot collected by Latham. With almost the last kick of the ball, Murphy fired in a cross from the left corner that Murcott narrowly missed putting into his own goal as he deflected the ball behind. As the ball was cleared from the resulting corner the referee ended the game, putting the Bears through to the next round.

Overall it was a game that the Bears should have won comfortably, particularly in light of their dominance in the first half. It’s likely that that would have been the case were it not for Paxton’s unforced error. It became a nervous game for the Bears in the second half, but with a few new players still needing time to integrate into the team, the performance on the whole was very promising. Norton will feel that this performance can give them confidence for the challenges ahed.