1874 extended their impressive undefeated run of games to fourteen with this hard fought draw at The Delta Taxi Stadium, Bootle on a wet but far from miserable Tuesday evening.
Manager Ian Street opted to revert to a back four and so Lee Duckworth returned to the starting line up as did Neil Chappell in midfield following his one match suspension and this meant that Lee Jones and Daley Woods started on the bench. The home side started the game at a fast pace and initially took the game to 1874 with O’Connor, in particular, looking threatening in most of their attacks and indeed it was he who almost opened the scoring as early as the ninth minute but he was thwarted by an excellent well-timed tackle by Danny Thomas on the edge of the area, which allowed Mitchell to clear the danger. Moments later and it was Neil Chappell’s turn to show his defensive skills as he too made a brilliant tackle this time to prevent McGrane from scoring. In the opening quarter Bootle seemed more comfortable with the conditions as they moved the ball about well in defence, through their midfield and in to their attacking players and 1874 needed to be strong and resilient with their defensive work whilst Ward, Woolley and Chappell tried to get a stronghold in midfield. It was quickly becoming a fascinating contest and on 25 minutes McGrane had another good chance to score but he shot weakly and Conkie saved easily. It was five minutes later when 1874 had their first real sniff of a goal opportunity when Ward beat off the attentions of two opponents before hitting his shot from 30 yards wide of the target. Five minutes later and the persistence of Chappell nearly brought the opening goal but his quick left-footed shot, following his excellent run forward was well saved by Moran in the home goal low down at his near post. Matty Ward was getting more and more into the game and five minutes before the interval he dispossessed Roberts in midfield 40 yards out, quickly moved another 10 yards forward but once again his well-hit shot was off target. The half closed with Bootle threatening on two occasions to open their account for the evening but once again it was Mitchell and then Thomas who came to the aid of their side and the half ended amazingly with no goals. Bootle came out of the traps quickly and strongly for the second half and in the 46th minute O’Connor nearly scored but his clever flick was deflected for a corner. However, he was not to be denied his goal and from the resultant corner he scored easily when he was allowed too much space in the penalty area. This reverse stirred 1874 into more action and they slowly started to take the game to the home side. In the 51st minute, Paul Connor looked to have equalised when he headed home an excellent cross from Beadle but he was adjudged to be off side. Almost immediately, 1874 could have been two down when the home captain Kilroy hit a free kick well but Conkie managed to turn it away for a corner. This game was certainly one for the spectators to enjoy and perhaps to “nail bite” as well as it moved at a pace from end to end throughout and after good work from Tandy on the left and his excellent cross into the path of Ward the equaliser would surely have come but Ward’s control, for once, just let him down and the chance had gone. Moments later and excellent work by Chappell and Ward left Tandy with an opportunity but his effort was well saved by Moran and almost immediately play switched to the other end and Sherlock perhaps should have done better when presented with an excellent chance from 22 yards but he hit his shot wide After 66 minutes Paul Connor was substituted and replaced by Daley Woods . Minutes later Ward’s trickery earned 1874 a free kick on the edge of the box and just 20 yards out which allowed 1874’s newly discovered free kick expert – Lee Duckworth – the opportunity to once again show his skills. Up he stepped and everyone must have thought he had scored but his almost perfect effort rebounded off the crossbar with the keeper a mere spectator! Eventually the equalising goal that was justly deserved arrived as Chappell finished off a glorious move sweeping the ball home from ten yards as he met a perfectly delivered cross from Ward in the 72nd minute Soon after Woolley had a shot well saved and then Ward once again showed his all-round ability by beating a defender before finding the marauding Chappell 30 yards out and his powerful shot thundered against the bar before bouncing away to safety! However, although 1874 were seemingly well on top at this stage they still had to be aware of Bootle’s attacking threat and indeed on 78 minutes Bootle restored their one-goal advantage when McGrane scored the goal that perhaps his input on the night deserved. Many teams would have felt sorry for themselves at this juncture but not 1874 and certainly not their Manager who continued to urge his troops on. After 82 minutes last season’s top scorer Mike Brandon was brought on to replace Kevin McGrath as Ian Street went again with a back three to allow more strike power up front and wow did this plan pay off handsomely! In the 82nd minute Chappell, Beadle and Ward worked more trickery on the left hand side and eventually worked the ball out to Woods on the right flank. Woods tricked his marker advanced to the by-line and then delivered the perfect cross to the on rushing Brandon who crashed the ball home from close range much to the delight of the travelling 1874 faithful supporters and his team mates. This finale was almost surpassed in the dying seconds when 1874 had a free kick wide on the left and Daley Woods stepped up to hit another thunderous shot towards goal but amazingly for the third time on the night Bootle were saved by the ball hitting the cross bar and rebounding to safety. So near yet so far in some ways but this was an excellent game of football by two equally matched sides and probably enjoyed by everyone who was lucky enough to have been there to see it 1874 Team: Conkie; Mitchell; Duckworth: McGrath; Thomas: Connor; Chappell; Woolley; Beadle; Ward and Tandy. Subs: Brandon for McGrath (82 mins) and Woods for (Connor (66 mins) unused subs: Jones and Stewart Goals: Chappell(72) and |Brandon (87) Attendance 207 Referee Shaun Mohan