A GAME in which 1874 Northwich will wonder what might have been.

It is fair to say Lady Luck was not smiling on Greens as their FA Vase journey came to an end.

West Auckland Town - runners-up in this competition twice in the recent past - gave them a lesson in clinical finishing and returned to the north east with their dreams of a return to Wembley Stadium very much intact.

Despite bossing much of the first half, 1874 found themselves 3-0 down at the break and left themselves a mountain to climb.

Jordan Blinco struck twice - the second of which was a superb curling effort - after captain James Harwood had headed the visitors into the lead as three of their four first-half efforts on target ended up in Tony Agayhere's net.

Their attempts to do so were admirable but ultimately, they left themselves too much to do.

Matt Woolley reduced the deficit just after the break, but a Michael Hoganson penalty sealed 1874's fate in what was their first game for a month following the national lockdown.

Northwich Guardian:

Matt Woolley was on the scoresheet for 1874. Picture by Karl Brooks Photography

"They deserved to win the game," 1874 co-manager Wayne Goodison said.

"I’ve got no issues with how teams come and play against us and they were certainly very effective in how they went about it, so good luck to them.

"We don’t feel we quite got going today. Whether that was down to the break, I don’t know.

"When we did get going for a spell, we could have made it 3-2 and were well on top, but we didn’t quite push it or capitalise on it enough.

"On the whole, we played in fits and starts.

"We always said it was going to be whichever team managed to pick some momentum back up after not playing and unfortunately, we didn’t."

The main disappointment from an 1874 point of view is that all three goals that put them on the back foot were entirely avoidable.

Harwood was allowed a free header from a corner for the opener before Blinco capitalised on the hosts switching off from a quickly-taken free kick.

Even though Blinco's second was superbly executed, it stemmed from 1874 surrendering possession cheaply.

"We said at half time that we felt they hadn’t created anything against us," Goodison said.

"That sounds daft as we were 3-0 down, but the goals were down to us not doing certain things right.

"There’s two set-pieces that we have been caught on that we think we should be doing better with.

"For the third one, we’ve given the ball away a bit too easily."

And yet, it all could have been so different had any of the home side's big opportunities at key times been taken.

Just after Harwood's opener, 1874 opened up the West Auckland defence to get debutant striker Aaron Burns in behind but keeper Jon Ball stood up well to save.

Northwich Guardian:

Aaron Burns is denied a goal on his debut. Picture by Karl Brooks Photography

Lucas Weir - 1874's stand-out player on the day - then curled in a superb free kick  from the right wing that evaded everybody but struck the inside of the post.

To sum up their luck, West Auckland's second goal came just a minute later.

"We’d got in a couple of times – Taylor (Kennerley) got in but had a shot blocked, Aaron got in and in fairness, the keeper did really well.

"We looked threatening at set pieces and on another day, Lucas’ free kick goes in instead of hitting the post and going straight into the keeper’s hands."

Northwich Guardian:

Lucas Weir's free kick strikes the West Auckland post. Picture by Karl Brooks Photography

While they had a mountain to climb, there was enough encouragement to know there was joy to be had going forward.

That was particularly the case on the West Auckland right, where Kennerley was giving right-back Andre Bennett a torrid time.

On a booking, Bennett was walking a tight-rope but after half-time, he was not tested enough.

The goal their efforts deserved did come, though, as Woolley reacted well to turn home after a cross fell to him inside the area.

It was game on and when Jake Parker found himself with time and space in the box, he really should have halved the deficit but Ball denied him.

That, in truth, was the last big chance as West Auckland did well to take the sting out of the game.

In Kyle Fryatt, they had a pacey winger who could get them up the field and it was that kind of running which saw him draw a foul inside the area.

Hoganson did the rest from the spot - crashing his effort straight down the middle - to wrap things up.

"They were clever at what they did," Goodison said.

"They mixed it around and I’ve got no issues with that.

"The right-back could have gone in the first half – prior to the booking he made a horrendous challenge on Russy (Matty Russell) but got away with a talking-to.

"I genuinely don’t think they’ve cut us open. We know we’ll create chances but from a defensive point of view, we weren’t sharp enough."