Boro returned to home league action for the first time since November as high flying Bootle arrived at the Brian Boys West View Stadium yesterday (Saturday). With Gareth Wager serving a one match ban for an accumulation of bookings, Arron Kirk reverted to a defensive role. He was replaced in midfield by the returning Lee Oldham, who made his first start since being injured in the second game of the season at Silsden in August. There was also a debut for new signing Jimmy Agoo, who came in for Kingsley Williams. Another recent signing, Luke Morgan, was on the bench whilst Haydn Paul finally got to sit out the last match of his three game suspension.
Despite having had an intensive fitness session at a local Boxing Club this week the home side started showing signs of rustiness compared to the visitors, who had been in action over the festive period. The warning signs were there for Bacup in the 12th minute when Joe Fowler fired over from a good position on the right but these signals were not heeded. Four minutes later Borough committed the cardinal sin of allowing a ball in to bounce inside the box and Jamie Hay needed no invitation to head the ball comfortably into the net past the stranded Ryan Jones. This setback seemed to momentarily galvanise the home side and shortly afterwards they equalised with the best move of the match. Matthew Bryan broke down the left with a fine surging run and his dangerous cross was met salmon like by Oldham with a superb leaping header to remind Bacup fans what they have been missing for the last five months during his injured spell.
The game was being played on a heavy pitch with both sets of players highly committed and asking lots of questions of the match officials. Martin Cosgrave was the first man into the notebook for a late challenge and on the half hour mark a battle of the two captains saw Paul Byrne booked for a rash tackle on fellow armband wearer Daniel Cocks. Four minutes later another Hay header restored the visitors advantage and once again manager Brent Peters will be disappointed at the soft manner in which the goal was conceded. He could have had no complaints, however, had Lee Madin’s fine swirling effort found the back of the net on 38 minutes, but on this occasion Jones pulled out an acrobatic leap to tip the ball over the crossbar. However, the keeper will be less happy at not getting something on Fowler’s speculative effort from distance a minute before the interval that crept beyond him into the corner of the net to increase The ‘Bucks’ advantage. There was still an opportunity to reduce the arrears for Boro before half-time but Dean Porter was equal to Bryan’s well struck free-kick, turning it around the post. HALF-TIME: Bacup Borough 1 Bootle 3
Spectators were expecting Peters may shuffle his pack at the break but he entrusted the same 11 with the job of turning the game around. However, the pattern of the game remained the same and Bacup’s task became even harder in the 59th minute after the defence failed to clear the ball properly and Fowler poached his second of the game with a fine first time strike to put Bootle 4-1 up. It could have been worse four minutes later, but this time Jack McCase flicked his effort wide of the target. On 70 minutes goalscorer Hay became the latest man to collect a yellow for bringing down Cocks and at that point Peters made a double substitution, bringing on Morgan and Paul Nelson for Shane Birtles and Steve Maden. Shortly after another caution was handed out, this time to Otis Gorman. With the change in system Borough finally started to look dangerous and enjoyed their best spell of the match in the final 20 minutes. First Cosgrave was denied by Porter at point blank range before Nelson produced an excellent low strike that flew like a dart into the bottom right hand corner of Porter’s net to reduce the arrears and give him his first goal for the club. Paul Socha replaced Cocks as Bacup continued to press for a way back into the game but time got the better of them and they were left to reflect on a disappointing league defeat.
Bootle looked a good solid unit and will prove difficult to beat in their title quest and with leaders Maine Road losing yesterday it was a great day at the office for them. However, Boro will no doubt reflect that they were architects of their own destruction for most of the goals and there will doubtless be a lot of work to do on the training ground this week ahead of another tough ask away at league leaders Maine Road next Saturday. FULL-TIME: Bacup Borough 2 Bootle 4
BACUP BOROUGH: Jones, Birtles (sub. Morgan 70 mins), Bryan, Kirk, Gorman, Maden (sub. Nelson 70 mins), Cosgrave, Oldham, Gray, Agoo, Cocks (sub. Socha 88 mins). Subs Not Used: Limabrooke, Arrowsmith. Attendance: 62.
MATCH STATS: SHOTS ON TARGET: Bacup Borough 7 Bootle 8 SHOTS OFF TARGET: Bacup Borough 3 Bootle 10 CORNERS: Bacup Borough 3 Bootle 6