The first round of NPLFA fixtures for 2020 are in the books and they did not disappoint! Five games were played on Wednesday, including two NPLFA Cup quarter finals, a round of 16 cup tie and also two Sports Traider Division fixtures.
Belper Town (Black) hosted Leek Town in the first of the two cup quarter finals. Neither team could be separated and at full time the score was 1-1. This resulted in a penalty shootout that Leek Town came away from victorious, eventually winning 4-6 on penalties. In the other quarter final, Widnes smashed local rivals Skelmersdale United 6-1 to advance to the semi-finals.
In the rearranged round of 16 tie, Mossley hosted Mickleover Sports (Black) in what was to be an exciting 6-goal thriller. Four first half goals gave Mickleover the edge and helped them to a 4-2 win, advancing to the quarter finals.
In the Sports Traider Division, Brighouse beat Belper 3-0 in an impressive victory that sees the West Yorkshire side move up to fifth in the table. In the other Sports Traider game, Radcliffe hosted Ossett United. The visitors came from a goal down to eventually win 2-1 and claim all three points. The win moves Ossett up to fourth in the Sports Traider Division table.
With ten teams in action on Wednesday, and a whole host of brilliant performances being put in, the first #TeamOfTheWeek for 2020 was fiercely competitive. Congratulations to all students nominated and selected by their coaches for #TeamOfTheWeek and a special mention to Brighouse Town student, Elliot Denison whose performance in #MatchweekThirteen earned him the title of ‘Player of the Week!’.
The first edition of the Highlights Show in 2020 makes for a brilliant watch! Catch all of the match highlights and goal action below.
Game Review of the week comes from a local North-West derby in the NPLFA Cup quarter final where Widnes hosted Skelmersdale United.
WIDNES SMASH IN SIX AND ADVANCE TO THE SEMI FINALS
This is the third time the sides have met so far this season and after Widnes have claimed both victories in the league, Skem were motivated to break their duck against a strong Widnes side.
The home side had the first chance of the game after Connor Hughes broke the off-side trap and was played in over the top. Skelmersdale defender, Nathan Carnell was able to get his head to the ball but didn’t make good contact and the ball skimmed his head and into the path of Hughes who took his chance first time but the ball rolled wide.
The home side were in again on the 15-minute mark. Widnes captain Amir Hajri dropped deep to receive the ball and played a beautiful through ball forward to Jack Morton who was advancing down the left wing. Morton reached the corner of the Skelmersdale area and got his shot off but could only drill the low effort wide of the goal.
Soon after, the visitors had their first real chance of the game and could have gone one up in the tie. Fresh from being named as ‘Player of the Month’ for November and December, Jordan dainty picked the ball up in the Widnes half and played the ball into the feet of Josh Niblock. Dainty carried on his over lapping run into the Widnes box and Niblock was able to flick the ball around the corner and into the path of dainty. Unmarked, Dainty was one on one with the keeper but dragged his shot wide.
Just before half-time, Widnes broke the deadlock thanks to a thumping header from Connor Hughes. Some good link up play between Charlie Walton and Lewis Jackson on the right flank allowed Jackson to put in an inviting cross for Hughes. He made no mistake and put away his tenth goal of the season. Widnes 1-0 Skelmersdale United.
HALF TIME: Widnes 1-0 Skelmersdale United.
With the game still in the balance and all to play for in the second half of this NPLFA Cup quarter-final, the stage was set for the second half with Skelmersdale United needing to find an equaliser.
Widnes were quick to get on top in the second half, putting their foot in the middle of the park and making it hard for Skem to get on the ball and dictate the tempo of the game.
The home side came close to a second goal early on in the second half of the game. Matthew Jefferson stood over a free kick from 20 yards out and managed to get the ball up and down over the wall, forcing a good save from Jack Banks in the Skem goal.
Ten minutes into the second half, Widnes were able to double their lead through substitute Matthew Burke and Connor Hughes was instrumental again. Hughes collected a cross from the left side on his chest and blasted the ball across the Skelmersdale United goal. Creeping in at the back post, Burke arrived un-marked and tapped the ball home. Widnes 2-0 Skelmersdale United.
Now firmly in the driving seat, the home side started to flex their muscles and added to their lead just moments after scoring their second. Amir Hajri was played through into the Skem box and was brought down in the area after some fancy footwork. The Widnes skipper stepped up to take the penalty and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner. Widnes 3-0 Skelmersdale United.
In the 70th minute, Hajri scored his second of the game and it is definitely one to look out for on The Highlights Show. After winning the ball back on the half way for Widnes, Ben Forster clipped a beautifully measured ball over the top for Hajri. He brought the ball down and managed to shrug off a defender while being closed down by the keeper. With a very delicate ball roll, Hajri managed to open up an angle and sneaked the ball into the back of the net. Widnes 4-0 Skelmersdale United.
With 15 minutes left in the game, Skelmersdale United didn’t let the score line dishearten them and they carried on battling in the match. They could have pegged one back after a brilliant counter attack move that saw three Skelmersdale players baring down on goal with just one defender in their way. Gerrard Traynor flicked the ball through to Michael Grundy who cut inside on to his left foot. He got his shot off but it was smothered by the Widnes keeper and was cleared away.
The visitors did get their consolation goal on the 85th minute thanks to an absolute beauty of a ball from Jordan Dainty. The ball dropped to Dainty, who was named the Sports Traider Division Player of the Month for November/December, on the right flank and he drilled it into to box on the half volley. A widnes defender tried to control the pass on his chest, but Ashley Langley nicked the ball off him and blasted the ball into the roof of the net. Widnes 4-1 Skelmersdale United.
Fair play to the visitors who pushed men up the pitch in the dying moments of the game in search of a second goal, but Widnes didn’t ease off the pressure and punished them in the 90th minute after a nice counter attack. Jack Morton carried the ball down the left wing and played a forward pass into the feet of Hajri. He was able to turn inside a bit too easily and was advancing on the Skelmersdale area but was tackled before he could do too much damaged. The ball fell fortunately at the feet of Matthew Jefferson who was able to dance his way into the box and slot the ball into the back of the net. Widnes 5-1 Skelmersdale United.
Widnes rounded off an impressive victory over their local rivals by scoring a sixth goal with the last kick of the game. Jefferson was able to play in Burke down the right wing who crossed an inviting ball into the box. Substitute Josh Marshall was on hand to tap the ball home and cap off a dominant performance for Widnes, who progress to the semi-finals of the NPLFA Cup. Widnes 6-1 Skelmersdale United.
FULL TIME: Widnes 6-1 Skelmersdale United.