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City of Liverpool progressed in the FA Cup after a comfortable victory over NCEL Premier Division side Emley at the VanEupen Arena.
After a busy first week of the season, manager Michael Ellison was forced to shuffle his pack once again, with James Edgar unable to play following the injury he sustained against Ramsbottom on the opening day.
Mitch Bryant was away so new signing James Kirby deputised up top, whilst the Purps were boosted by the return of captain Nathan Burke who had recovered from the leg injury sustained following a horrific challenge during pre-season.
There were starts too for Andy Kanga and Elliot Johnston with Michael Ellison looking for an injection of attacking threat from his side and pace in wide areas.
The Purps started the game well and immediately looked to profit from moving the ball quickly on the flanks and utilising the excellent hold up play of forward James Kirby.
The hosts could have opened the scoring early on after a delightful knock from wing back Zac Aley found Kirby who, in turn, released Elliot Johnston into space. The midfielder waited for the opportune moment to feed Andy Kanga who cut inside and hammered a fierce effort narrowly over the crossbar.
Emley looked like they had come to play and had a half chance of their own moments later.
Jimmy Eyles found himself in space and momentarily looked to be clear of the Purps backline, but good defending from Ryan Schofield held him up before the winger sliced the ball comfortably wide of Theo Roberts’ goal.
The visitors were backed by vocal travelling support and were screaming for a penalty when Jack Bennett collapsed to the deck theatrically under pressure from Schofield.
The referee was well-placed and correctly waved play on despite remonstrations from the away dugout.
Aside from the two early forays into the Purps box, the Emley forwards were extremely well marshalled by composed defending from the centreback duo of Jack Hinnigan and Ryan Schofield.
Their fledgling partnership of recent weeks looks to be growing nicely, and the pair were in tune with each other again in the opening stages of this tie.
The Purps looked certain to open the scoring moments later as Andy Kanga’s blistering pace saw him surge past a couple of defenders after a fine ball over the top. The winger took control brilliantly but was denied by a quite magnificent last-ditch challenge from Dominic Riordan as he attempted to pull the trigger.
City of Liverpool were growing in confidence and had a firm control of possession as they looked to make their pressure tell in the final third. They finally got the goal their early chances had merited and what a goal it was.
Skipper Nathan Burke picked the ball up fully 35 yards out and with Emley defenders backing off he took the invitation to shoot with both hands, arrowing a magnificent right footed strike into the top corner, leaving Emley keeper Sam Kelly catching flies as the ball whistled past him.
It was a worldy of the highest order from Burkey, who marked his return to the side in the most eye-catching of fashions.
The only shame is that PurpsTV wasn’t there to catch it, otherwise the FA Cup goal of the season award would surely be done and dusted already!
The Purps were purring and Kanga once again raced clear only to be denied by a last ditch challenge after more great link-up play from Kirby.
Kirby was then almost presented with a tap-in after a fine ball across the face of goal by Stephen Rigby, but the feintest of touches took the ball off his toe with the goal at his mercy.
The siege on the Emley goal continued with Sam Kelly producing a couple of fine saves. First he parried another fierce long range effort from Burke before quickly gathering the loose ball before Kirby could tap home.
Kelly then produced a great stop low down on the stroke of half time as Kirby wondered how he had not got his name on the scoresheet.
HALF TIME: City of Liverpool 1-0 Emley AFC
After the interval Emley came out with more purpose going forward, and the visitors were gifted possession on a number of occasions by wayward passing from the Purps.
First Jack Bennett got in behind before slicing horribly wide with the outside of his foot, with only Theo Roberts to beat.
Moments after James Kirby fired a swerving long range snapshot narrowly over the crossbar, Ryan Schofield was the hero at the other end with an inch perfect sliding challenge preventing Emley from getting in on goal.
Jimmy Eyles then had another golden chance to make the Purps pay for sloppily losing possession but the winger hit the ball straight into the grateful arms of Roberts.
Michael Ellison introduced Adam Hughes for Zac Aley as he attempted to quell Emley’s forays forward and retain possession.
Nathan Burke was a constant presence in midfield and thought he had a second only for his long range pile-driver to take a wicked deflection and fly agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
From the resulting corner Elliot Johnston tested Kelly’s handling skills with a rasping volley from the edge of the area, but the Emley keeper was equal to it, claiming the ball confidently after it whistled through a crowd.
Ello introduced Freddie Potter and Xenon Bahula with 19 minutes left to go and the change paid dividends almost immediately.
A surging run down the right from Elliot Johnston carved Emley open, and the midfielder selflessly played the ball across goal for Xenon Bahula to bundle home from close range.
It was the 18 year old’s first goal for the club after stepping up from the Steven Gerrard Academy’s youth set up during pre-season.
An inspired substitution if ever you saw one!
As the game closed out, the Purps looked dangerous going forward, with Bahula in particularly beating tired defenders with relative ease. Freddie Potter fired an instinctive lobbed effort narrowly wide of the upright which would have been the icing on the cake!
FULL TIME: City of Liverpool 2-0 Emley
Man of the Match: Nathan Burke’s return to the side was a welcome boost and the skipper lit up the tie with as good a goal as you’ll see. Every inch the best player on the pitch.
We spoke to Michael Ellison after the game and the manager was pleased with the result, seeing his side progress into the next round.
Ello then looked ahead to Tuesday night’s NPL West Division clash with Glossop North End at the VanEupen Arena.