!Audacious 2 – 5 Northgate
Clark’s second absence in as many games meant that Elkington took the Northgate squad Manchester-bound to face !Audacious for another classic Pink vs. Orange showdown. Kicking off early due to derby days in both Liverpool and Manchester meant an early start up the M56 with a Northgate Squad hungry for yet another three points.
Northgate were without Jones and Campbell from the win against Oasis Reds, with Kapasi and Holden also both failing late fitness tests. However a return to the midfield for both Morgan and Heathcote would boost the Northgate ranks. A concerned Hilsden returned to the centre of defence to stake a claim on his coverted position; he lined up alongside Tonks and trusted full-backs Broomhall and Scott. Davenport once again started between the sticks which meant another outfield start for Sharrock on the left with Thomas retaining his position on the right. In the centre, a trio of Elkington, Slade fresh from his MOTM performance and the long awaited return of Morgan. Roberts once again led the Northgate line.
From the off the Gaters got stuck into the game and despite one of the worst pitches played on this season, started to put some really intelligent football together. Five minutes is all it took for a breakthrough. With the ball at Morgan’s feet, he looked for options left and right and upon finding none decided to take a little stroll: he wandered out to the far right and held the ball there with several opposition players nipping at his feet. Morgan afforded himself half-a-yard, looked up and saw that others had now rallied together in the box; he whipped in a peach of a ball that was met solidly by the head of Elkington running into the box to thump one in, and open his Northgate account. It was the start that Northgate needed and they began to take control of the game. Just ten minutes later the Morgan-Elkington combo was reversed, when Elkington tackled in the middle to break down the !Audacious attack and fed the ball into the feet of Morgan who still had plenty to do. Morgan rounded the defender to put himself one-on-one with the advancing goalkeeper and calmly slotted the ball under him to make it 2-0.
The game began to get a little feisty and in a bizarre turn of events the ref gave a free kick against Hilsden who literally put his head on the line with a salmon-esc dive at the ball on the ground. At the 25 minute mark Heathcote replaced Elkington in the centre and before halftime arrived the Gaters created several more chances. Roberts came close, sliding in at the back of the six yard box as the ball flashed across the goal and again moments later when he headed just over. The last chance of the half fell to Heathcote on his favoured and trusty left foot; however in an attempt to quiet the critics he opted to hit it with the outside of the right boot but could only find side netting.
Half time came and the boys regrouped for tactic talks, evaluation and hot chocolate. Elkington came back on into the centre with Theo coming off to make space for Heathcote out on the left and moving Sharrock onto his more favourable right side, but would it pay off…?
The lads knew that they needed a strong start to the half to see this result through to the end. *WARNING* (the following contains a generous portion of poetic license). An early searching cross field ball found Slade with space to execute what can only be described as “something Ronaldo would be proud of…” With pure style, technique and finesse Slade abandoned traditional headers and volleys and opted for the overhead showstopper……what resulted left Slade himself in a heap on the floor laughing at his own efforts. *footage available on Match of the Day highlights…!!
Having injected a little comedy into the game, Northgate got down to serious business once more with Morgan carving his way through the opposition before sliding the ball to the edge of the box for Elkington. The far off cry was heard from the voice of Heathcote who had made his run into the box. Elkington hit a first time ball into his path with the keeper quick to close Heathcote down and narrow the angle but the winger dinked the ball over the advancing keeper for Northgate’s third.
A brief lapse in concentration saw a long ball forward go unchallenged by multiple Gaters leaving the !Audacious striker with room to poke one back for the home side. Was this the moment that Northgate would crumble…? Not if Sharrock in his new found wide right position had anything to do with it….. A loose ball this time at the other end was not cleared properly and Sharrock boosted by his half time hot chocolate rose high above all others to nod in his second of the season. A series of high challenges and one elbow taken to the chest of Scott resulted in not one but two yellow cards issued to !Audacious players. But Northgate kept their cool. Against the run of play !Audacious caught Northgate on the break, putting together there slickest moves of the match before letting loose with a shot low to Davenport’s left which he got a hand to but just couldn’t keep out.
4-2 would have reflected the score line from the last time these two sides met, however Sharrock was all too keen to give the No. 9 shirt the outing it truly deserves. Controlling a cross-field ball from Heathcote and one more touch to knock it ahead of himself to round the defender; the next strike saw the ball introduced to the back of the net!
Once again Northgate played out the game giving everything they had right to the final whistle, displaying just why they currently possess the tightest defence in the league. Hilsden and Tonks were winning everything in the air, Broomhall raced over from left back to cover with a challenge following a burst forward from Scott, and Scott himself slid in with precision timing to deny their striker even a sniff of goal. The pinnacle of effort was displayed for all to see when the !Audacious striker whilst one-on-one with Davenport lobbed the ball over to the now vacant goal. Cue Dave Tonks to the rescue, giving it everything he had left in the tank to chase down the ball and clear off the line up and over the crossbar.
Yet another tremendous display from a truly determined Northgate team showing great communication, creativity and team spirit. Another massive three points won, keeping Northgate hot on the heals of 3rd place.
Ben Davenport (GK)
Steve Scott (RB)
Matt Hilsden (CB)
Dave Tonks (CB)
Mark Broomhall (LB)
Theo Thomas (RM/ST)
Josh Slade (CM)
Rob Elkington (CM)
James Sharrock (LM/RM)
Russ Morgan (CAM)
Mark Roberts (ST)
Subs: Mike Heathcote (CM/LM)
MOTM – James Sharrock