AFTER opening their NWCFL Premier Division season with a midweek win at Barnoldswick, 1874 Northwich slumped to a disappointing 3-2 defeat against Irlam in their first home league game of the season six weeks after their previous home game, writes Garry Clarke.

1874 thought they had made a dream start when Harry Cain found the back of the net in the second minute, however his effort was disallowed as he was adjudged to have been offside by the slightest of margins.

Things got worse for 1874, Max Bardsley-Rowe immediately broke down the ring wing, a cross found Callum Nicholas unmarked on the edge of the area. The Irlam forward volleyed the ball past a helpless Tony Aghayere to put the visitors one up.

1874 recovered from this early setback by dominating proceedings.

Taylor Kennerley had a shot blocked, Aaron Smith landed a free kick on the roof of the net, Harry Cain smashed a shot from a tight angle against an upright and Irlam keeper Lee White saved well to deny Smith.

1874 were handed a way back into the game in the 26th minute when a Cain cross struck an Irlam defender on the arm from close range prompting referee Nalbi Sadek to harshly award a penalty. Captain Matt Woolley successfully converted from the spot to level the score.

1874 hit the front two minutes later, Smith won the ball in midfield, fed Kennerley whose pass freed Cain. He ran clear of the cover and calmly chipped the ball over the advancing White.

Irlam drew level in the 37th minute when Ryan Ledson rose highest at a corner to head home via the post.

In the closing minutes of the first half Smith directed a header just wide from a Kennerley cross, Jack Irlam had a shot blocked and Aghayere pulled off a good save to keep out a shot from Mwiya Malumo.

Irlam regained the lead five minutes into the second half. With 1874 pushing forward a diagonal ball from former 1874 player Jack Lever found Bardsley-Rowe in acres of space. Advancing towards goal, before the covering defender could reach him, he fired off an angled drive which flew into the far side of the net.

On the hour mark a long ball down the middle of the pitch caused confusion in the 1874 rearguard, Jordan Icely prodded the ball past Aghayere, 1874 managed to scramble the ball clear as Irlam appealed in vain for a penalty claiming Icely had been brought down from behind.

Irlam were reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute when Sam Oliver, already booked earlier in the game, was red carded for a tackle from behind on Cain.

The dismissal affected the flow of the game.

It seemed to galvanize Irlam who reorganised their ranks and dug in to maintain their lead, while 1874, who had failed to find their first-half rhythm after the break, struggled to string passes together as their play became more frantic, although they did create numerous opportunities to snatch a point.

Woolley, Parker and Lucas Weir drew good saves from White.

Irlam went close to making the game safe in the 85th minute but Aghayere did well to save a fierce shot from Malumo and reacted quickly to scoop up the rebound as Icely was about to pounce.

1874 thought they had grabbed a point four minutes into stoppage time when the ball was bundled into the net from close range, however it was not to be as the referee had spotted a foul in the goal mouth scramble leading to the “goal”.

1874: Aghayere, Hind, Russell, Ormrod, Jones, Parker, Cain (Gardner), M Woolley, Smith (Woods), Irlam (Weir), Kennerley. Subs not used: Connor, Hare

Attendance: 237