Congleton Town FC

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Rovers 'v' Willaston. 12.09.18

(Mark Arneil 17/09/2018)
Rovers welcomed title favourites Willaston to CHS for the opening home fixture and an evening kick off to boot. Willaston were soon showing why they are favourites for the league with some neat play which led to the opening chance which saw a shot flash wide. Rovers were unlucky not to go one up when Reardon found Wedgbury who saw a shot blocked and the rebound well saved. Willaston continued to press the Rovers defence, but Arneil, Hopkins, Johnston and Braisby were doing everything to keep them at bay. Sharpe showed good hands when crosses were swung in to the Rovers box. Rovers went one down when Willaston sprung the off-side trap and the striker rounded Sharpe to score despite a desperate slide by Hopkins. Willaston soon made it two with a powerful shot which proved too hot for Sharpe to keep out. Rovers could easily have let their heads drop but that was far from the case. Riley went off on one of his trademark driving runs only to be halted with a last-ditch tackle. Rovers were far from out of the game especially when Riley and Negus linked up to feed Wedgbury who made it 1-2. With Evans and Statham starting to get control of midfield, rovers looked the more likely to score the next and that's what happened when the influential Negus flicked the ball to Riley who tucked the ball away for the equaliser. Willaston carried on passing the ball around nicely and this passing led to them regaining the lead. With a hard-fought half ending, a lovely little give and go between Riley and Evans saw a good stop to prevent another equaliser. With Rovers playing a high defensive line the ball was played through them and Sharpe couldn’t quite get off his line in time, allowing Willaston to take a 4-2 lead. Willaston now had their tails up and wanted to finish the game in the 1st half but the defensive quartet worked extremely hard to keep the score at 2-4.
Three half time changes by Rovers saw F. Evans replace Sharpe, Edwards replace Wedgbury and Moreno on for Arneil. Rovers looked to get on the front foot from the kick off and some nice play in midfield from Statham and Evans trying to feed the front players wasn't quite coming off. The yellow wave continued to probe without any real conviction due to a well drilled Willaston defence. Riley eventually found a small pocket of space and got his shot away which drifted just wide. On a rare Willaston attack they continued with their passing and this passage stretched the rovers back line and an unmarked forward tapped the ball in to make it 2-5. Once again though Rovers never gave up and continued to attack. Braisby was galloping down the right from his full back position, and an attempted Negus cross was blocked with a hand. Penalty to Rovers, Negus smashed the ball home 3-5. Willaston realised Rovers weren't going to give in and Riley chased down a ball which saw the keeper panic and pick up the ball outside his area, many thought he got away lightly with a yellow card. Riley saw the free kick deflected off the wall. Rovers back line looked strong but due to a clash of heads Hopkins had to be replaced by Simpson. Rovers looked to up the tempo and a quick break saw Riley, play one – two with Negus, before leaving the Willaston defence for dead, only to see his shot flash just over the bar. Another Rovers change saw Walton come to replace an unusually quiet Edwards. It looked like Willaston had survived the continuous waves of Rovers pressure, before they then forced two good saves from F Evans to keep Rovers in the game. Riley took a nasty bang on the thigh which led to his withdrawal to be replaced by Wedgbury. Rovers almost made it a grand stand finish, but Reardon saw his glancing header saved. Full time 3-5. Rovers first league defeat in over a year but a lot of positives to take from this match.