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MATCH REPORT: QUARLESS IS FLAWLESS ON DREAM DEBUT

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City of Liverpool returned to winning ways with an inspired performance against high flying Leek Town at the VanEupen Arena on Saturday.

Michael Ellison’s Purps were boosted by the return of defensive stalwart Shaun Kelly, whilst new signing Josh Quarless was thrust straight into the starting line-up following his move from Burscough.

There was also a place on the bench for former Stockport, Chester and Bala Town midfielder Glenn Rule who signed from Vauxhall Motors on the eve of the fixture.

Louis Corrigan returned to the side at left back and wore the captain’s armband in the absence of club captain Nathan Burke.

The Purps started the match brightly, with lone striker Josh Quarless the focal point of all his side’s good work in the opening exchanges.

The big #9 linked well with Jack Hazlehurst, enabling the Purple Messi to profit from flick headers into space, giving the Leek Town defence plenty to think about going back towards their own goal.

The visitors rode their luck somewhat in the early moments, with Jack Walls’ inviting cross being sliced agonisingly beyond Quarless who would have had a tap in.

Quarless was then the creator from another Walls cross, releasing Hazlehurst into space but a covering defender arrived in the nick of time to clear as the #10 sensed an opportunity to open the scoring.

The fledgling relationship between Quarless and Hazlehurst continued to show promising signs, as Josh’s inventive flick on the half-way line released Jack into acres of space.

Hazlehurst weaved beyond a couple of challenges before seeing his left footed effort blocked on the edge of the area.

As the half progressed, Quarless had an increasing influence on proceedings with the Leek Town defence unable to keep him quiet.

The forward’s excellent hold up play, awareness of space and ability to bring others into attacks saw him look well-suited to his role as the lone man up top, as Michael Ellison’s side looked dominant in both periods of possession and counter-attacks.

The latest purple foray forward saw Elliot Johnston, operating in a more familiar central-midfield role, have a deflected effort from the edge of the area.

His strike almost wrong-footed Town keeper Daniel Roberts, but the custodian recovered well to smother the ball down low.

The Purps pressure continued and after Town half cleared a corner the ball dropped invitingly for James Murphy to chest and volley from just inside the area.

Just as the ball was arrowing goalwards it was headed off the line by a defender with the keeper beaten.

At the other end, former Liverpool prospect Daniel Trickett-Smith was dangerous on the counter-attack but well marshalled by the excellent Jack Walls who outmuscled the attacked just as he looked to surge into the box and have a chance on goal.

Town came more into the game as the half progressed and had a golden opportunity to grab a goal their play hadn’t merited when William Reeves skipped into the box and was one-on-one with Danny Taberner.

The Purps #1 raced out to make a brilliant low save with his feet, his first involvement in the match, which prevented a certain goal.

City of Liverpool then found another gear and Quarless went close, his quick feet sending a Leek Town defender to the shop, before firing a left footed effort which was slightly sliced and watched wide by Roberts.

A lovely counter-attack then saw Jay Murphy running from half-way before releasing Jack Walls down the right, who put in a fine cross which saw Quarless have a shot blocked at the near post.

It wouldn’t be long before the pressure told, however and the Purps finally had the opening goal their play had deserved.

Jack Hazlehurst’s corner from the left was flicked on by Shaun Kelly and met at the back post by a deft header by debutant Quarless who despatched the ball home.

Quarless wheeled away in delight and was mobbed by his team-mates and what debut it was turning out to be!

On the stoke of half time the significance of Shaun Kelly’s return was demonstrated by a vital sliding challenge, as the last man prevented a golden opportunity for the visitors to restore parity.

As Will Saxon raced clear on the right of the area the defender had to time his intervention perfectly and despatched the ball out for a throw in a typically assured and commanding manner.

 

HALF TIME: City of Liverpool 1-0 Leek Town

Leek Town came out for the second half with more attacking purpose, with the Purps happy to soak up the pressure and launch counter attacks.

The visitors had a gilt-edged chance to get back on level terms as a ball in from the left was met by Will Saxon at the back post who headed wide with the goal at his mercy.

Will Grice also had a half chance, carrying the ball to the left of the area before firing a low effort which was patted wide by Taberner.

At the other end, the Purps continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack.

Jay Murphy was released down the right by Walls and scampered into the box before firing a right footed effort which took a slight deflection and was parried by Roberts.

The loose ball evaded both Quarless and substitute Ryan Gibson who were lurking for a tap in.

Gibson was next to go close, with the winger hammering a fierce right footed effort which whistled narrowly over the crossbar.

Michael Ellison introduced Xenon Bahula off the bench and it proved to be an inspired substitution with the winger having an immediate impact.

Louis Corrigan released Bahula down the left and he whipped in an inviting cross for Josh Quarless to hammer home with aplomb at the back post.

It was no more than the Purps deserved.

There was still time for Leek Town to mount a comeback, and the Purps had to be on their mettle to ensure they took home the points their performance had warranted.

With time running out, a corner broke in the box and was fired goalwards from close range only for Danny Taberner to be at his very, very best to claw it out.

As the loose ball broke Jay Murphy cleared before being caught by a poor challenge and play was called back for a free kick, as Purps applauded yet more outstanding goalkeeping from Taberner.

 

Quarless will rightly take the headlines but after man of the match performances in his first two games, Tabs provided another telling contribution here with two vital stops that saw the Purps on their way to three points and another clean sheet for their custodian.

FULL TIME: City of Liverpool 2-0 Leek Town

Man of the Match: Josh Quarless capped a dream debut with two goals in an outstanding display on his own up top. The forward was a real focal point for the Purps, linking particularly well with Jack Hazlehurst and was a constant thorn in the side of the Leek Town defence. Quarless looked very much at home in purple.

City of Liverpool: Danny Taberner, Louis Corrigan (c), Jack Walls, Shaun Kelly, Adam Hughes, Ethan Devine (Glenn Rule 68’), Jay Murphy, Elliott Johnston, Josh Quarless, Jack Hazlehurst (Xenon Bahula 79’), George Hassall (Ryan Gibson 60’).

Subs not used: Scott Lycett, Freddie Potter.

MATCHDAY PHOTO GALLERY:

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