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City of Liverpool’s double header with NPL West side Clitheroe ended with a resounding defeat at the VanEupen Arena on Tuesday night.
Fresh from Saturday’s excellent 1-0 win over the same opponents in the FA Cup, Michael Ellison’s side went into the fixture full of confidence following three wins on the bounce.
The Purps were boosted by the return of Jay Edgar from injury, whilst recent signings James Salkeld and Ryan Gibson were also handed their first starts.
Ellison was however missing top scorer Freddie Potter, who scored his fourth goal in three games when he bagged the winner against Clitheroe on Saturday.
City of Liverpool started the game brightly with Jack Hazlehurst almost getting in behind the Clitheroe defence down the left.
The Purple Messi was held up well by the visitors but play continued and when the ball was half cleared Ben Rydel fired a rasping effort over the bar from distance.
It was a similar story at the other end, where much like Saturday’s fixture both sides were restricted to long range efforts in the opening exchanges.
Jamie Edwards, playing in a more advanced role than he did on Saturday for the visitors, rifled an effort from the edge of the Purps area but it flew high and wide without troubling Theo Roberts.
The first real chance of the game went to the Purps. Ryan Gibson raced away down the left with blistering pace and was only denied a chance to foray into the box by an excellent sliding challenge.
The throw in was taken quickly and Gibson curled in a delightful ball for Jay Edgar to power a header goalwards, but it was too close to Clitheroe custodian Chris Thompson who was well-positioned to pluck the ball out of the air.
Moments later the hosts were made to pay as an uncharacteristic error from Shaun Kelly gifted the visitors the chance to open the scoring.
The centre back played a back-pass which was too short and Sefton Gonzales, with one of the NPL’s best marksmen, gleefully took the opportunity, rounding Theo Roberts to tap home the opener.
Clitheroe then had their tails up and were pressing high up the pitch, but the Purps were creating problems of their own making.
Kelly was robbed of possession by Danny Wilkins, who surged into the box and was only denied by an excellent low save from Roberts.
City of Liverpool were soon further behind though.
A long ball into the box found centreback Harrison Burke, still advanced from a previous set-piece, who had the time to control the ball before hammering a vicious left footed effort which gave Roberts no chance at all.
The Purps rallied and could have found a goal back just before half time as Zac Aley raced forward and put a dangerous ball in, but debutant Salkeld was slightly on his heels which allowed Thompson to smother the ball and prevent a tap in.
On the stroke of half time Clitheroe player-manager Gary Stopforth was booked for the most cynical foul you will ever see. He dragged Hazlehurst to the deck after the Purps midfielder skipped past him.
A wide free kick was delivered in, but the Clitheroe defence marshalled by co-manager Billy Priestley cleared well, as they had done all half.
HALF TIME: City of Liverpool 0-2 Clitheroe
Michael Ellison made one change at the interval with Shaun Kelly being replaced by Ryan Schofield.
Clitheroe started the second period as they had played much of the first half, dominant in midfield and looking to extend the scoreline.
They did so within four minutes of the restart as a good run down the right from Stopforth produced a neat cut back for Richard Baker to side-foot an effort which squirmed past Roberts and into the net to make it 0-3.
At the other end the Purps continued to press for a consolation goal, with James Salkeld involved in much of the play in advanced areas.
Firstly, the debutant was played in behind the Clitheroe defence, but was again slightly on his heels which allowed Thompson to race out and smother the ball at his feet.
It was Salkeld again who threatened moments later, racing clear of a couple of defenders only to be denied by a brilliant last ditch sliding challenge out for a corner… only for the referee to give a goal kick. It just wasn’t our night!
Jay Edgar fired a long range effort which fizzed past the bar, but in truth this was as close as the Purps got, with Clitheroe looking likely to extend their lead.
Dangerman Sefton Gonzales whistled a shot across the face of goal and was then denied by a good low save by Roberts as the game became an end-to-end affair.
Deep into injury time the Purps misery was compounded by a penalty awarded after Ryan Schofield tripped Alex Turner just inside the box.
Cole Lonsdale stepped up to bury the spot-kick and complete a deserved victory for the visitors.
FULL TIME: City of Liverpool 0-4 Clitheroe
Man of the Match: Jack Hazlehurst. On a miserable night for the Purps Jack continually looked to create openings and carry the ball at Clitheroe defenders as we sought to find a way back into the game.
CITY OF LIVERPOOL: Theo Roberts, Zac Aley (Xenon Bahula 71’), Louis Isherwood, Shaun Kelly (Ryan Schofield 45’), Jack Hinnigan, Ben Rydel, Nathan Burke, James Edgar, James Salkeld (Stephen Rigby 76’), Jack Hazlehurst, Ryan Gibson.
Subs not used: Ethan Devine, Elliot Johnston.
MATCHDAY PHOTO GALLERY: