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City of Liverpool bagged their first win of the NPL West campaign with a committed team performance at Newcastle Town.
Michael Ellison was again forced to shuffle the pack having lost defensive stalwart Ryan Schofield early on against Glossop North End on Tuesday, whilst Jay Edgar is still missing with a foot problem.
The Purps manager gave a first start to forward Freddie Potter who has impressed during substitute cameos against Emley and GNE respectively in the past seven days.
Potter could have opened the scoring during a dominant opening to the match from the visitors. A great ball in from Adam Hughes was met by the head of the forward, and his looping header had the keeper backpedalling but dropped agonisingly past the post.
The Purps continued their early spell of possession and again tested home goalkeeper Mooney as skipper Nathan Burke dropped his shoulder and sent his opposition midfielder to the shop before firing a rasping left footed effort which was well held by the Town #1.
An inch perfect long ball from Adam Hughes then dissected the home centre backs, allowing Freddie Potter to burst onto it and fire an instinctive lobbed effort with the keeper in no mans land. As Mooney watched the ball float over his head, the travelling Purps expected the net to bulge but the ball dropped onto the roof of the net.
As Michael Ellison’s side and a vocal travelling support could be forgiven for wondering why they weren’t already ahead, the visitors finally broke the deadlock.
Nathan Burke dinked a delightful ball in behind the fullback for Jack Hazlehurst to race to the dead ball line before lifting a perfect cross to the back post where Freddie Potter was in acres of space, gratefully firing a composed finish home.
A delighted Potter wheeled away and was mobbed by his team-mates. It’d been coming.
As the half progressed the home side came back into it more, but not without the help of some dreadful calls from the officials.
First Nathan Burke robbed a home midfielder of possession and ran off on the counter, only for the referee to be conned by theatrics and call play back for a booking and yellow card for the Purps skipper.
There were two or three attempted dives which went unpunished too, leaving the City of Liverpool dugout incensed.
As the match became an attritional midfield battle, the Purps were content to hit the home side on the counter attack with the half closing out, and could have added to their lead.
In one passage of play Elliot Johnston burst clear and was denied by a fine block from Mooney, but with the ball still in play it eventually found Potter on the edge who fired narrowly wide with a long range left footed effort.
HALF TIME: Newcastle Town 1-3 City of Liverpool
After the interval it was a far more even contest, with the home side bombarding the Purps backline with long balls, leaving the match to become an aerial contest.
Early in the half Theo Roberts was called into action for the first time, and the keeper was more than up to the challenge, smartly holding a low cross-shot with Town players following in.
It was more of the same from the officials however, as the referee once again rewarded theatrics with a free kick for a phantom foul in midfield. It was punished by the home side in devastating fashion however, as Joseph Berks fired into the top corner from fully 30 yards.
It was a truly outstanding strike which left Roberts with no chance.
Newcastle Town deserved their equaliser for their play at the beginning of the second half, and now they had restored parity their tails were well and truly up. Michael Ellison introduced Zac Aley for Adam Hughes as he attempted to quell a Town tide of attacks.
The hosts could and should have taken the lead moments later, as the dangerous Baxter broke clean through on goal but shanked into the side netting with the goal at his mercy. It was a real let off for Michael Ellison’s side.
Ello introduced Xenon Bahula for Elliot Johnston, with the manager looking for Xenon’s injection of pace on the counter.
The Town tide continued for the moment, however.
The Purps were indebted to truly outstanding goalkeeping from Roberts as it looked for all the world that Town were about to take the lead. A wonderful ball in from the right was met by a powerful header inside the six yard box but Roberts somehow dived full stretch to top it over the crossbar from point blank range.
A truly magnificent stop from the former Wigan Athletic custodian.
The value of Roberts’ save was put into greater context moments later, as the Purps took the lead following a devastating counter-attack.
Substitute Xenon Bahula drove into the Town half and waited for the opportune moment to release Jack Hazlehurst into the box down the left. The Purple Messi floated a deep cross for Freddie Potter to rise like a salmon and power a header across the goalkeeper and into the net.
The Purps weren’t finished there however, as the Purps Matchday admin was still writing up Potter’s goal on Twitter, when they grabbed a third!
A match-winning two-minute salvo secured the points, as Bahula again raced forward on the counter and played a perfect ball across the face of goal for Stephen Rigby to fire home from close range.
Credit to Bahula who, for the third game running, influenced the outcome of the match off the bench. The youngster had been a real find and had a hand in both goals which saw his side come away with three points.
The late Purps double saw Town launching the ball forward at every opportunity, with the visiting defenders needing to be on their mettle in the air.
City of Liverpool rode their luck a touch late on, with Town hitting the bar from close range before the ball broke fortuitously into the grateful arms of Roberts.
At the other end Freddie Potter’s eyes lit up 30 yards up, but as he saw the match ball up for grabs he fired what could only be described as a Ben Stokes-esque six high over the crossbar.
With only injury time left, Theo Roberts calmed purple nerves by claiming the ball repeatedly as the home side continued the aerial bombardment. Finally the referee gave the fouls he should have been giving all match, with elbows and late barge from the Town forward leaving the Purps keeper in a heap.
At times the home side were in the ascendency in the second period, but the defensive solidity, fine goalkeeping and match changing subs from the manager saw the visitors deservedly take all three points on the road, in a game of two halves!
FULL TIME: Newcastle Town 1-3 City of Liverpool
MAN OF THE MATCH: It can only be one person really, can’t it. A brilliant performance from Freddie Potter on his first Purps start. Two goals and a fine overall display sees the Purps victorious on the road. Honourable mentions to Jack Hazlehurst, Theo Roberts for his wonder-save and Xenon Bahula’s cameo off the bench.
CITY OF LIVERPOOL: Theo Roberts, Adam Hughes (Zac Aley 60′), Louis Isherwood, Shaun Kelly (Ben Rydel 75′), Jack Hinnigan, Ethan Devine, Nathan Burke (c), Elliot Johnston (Xenon Bahula 72′), Freddie Potter, Jack Hazlehurst, Stephen Rigby.
Subs not used: Jay Salkeld, James Kirby.
We spoke to a delighted Michael Ellison at full time, who was pleased with his team’s overall display. The manager praised Freddie Potter’s contribution on his first start and was pleased with the two goals on the counter attack which sealed the win.
FULL MATCHDAY PHOTO GALLERY: