Jack Owen looks back at how 1874 Northwich performed in their very first Northern Premier League game at Clitheroe...

RYAN Mitchell found himself unmarked at the back post to head home a deserved equaliser for 1874 in their NPL debut.

Clitheroe had the best of the opening exchanges, playing a direct style through the impressive Sefton Gonzales. The striker had the first chance of the game, turning inside the 1874 area around Mark Jones and driving a left footed effort wide of the post.

The opening goal went to the hosts, Gonzales rising high at the back post from a corner taken by Cole Lonsdale to power a header into the top corner – giving Tony Aghayere no chance.

It took only two minutes for 1874 to hit back, and in style.

Jake Parker delivered an inch perfect cross from the right wing, which found Scott McGowan waiting in the middle. Our record goal scorer met the cross with a sensational bicycle kick finish, ultimately leaving Chris Thompson in the Clitheroe goal helpless.

Keeping up with the chaotic tempo, Clitheroe went down the other end and were awarded a penalty. Sam Hare was judged to have tripped Jamie Edwards as the ball was running out of play.

Lonsdale stepped up to send Aghayere the wrong way and put the hosts back in front.

The rest of the first half played out in an end to end contest. 74 had the next big chance, with Josh Askew smartly blocking a Taylor Kennerley goal bound effort.

A brilliant save from Aghayere on the stroke of half time stopped a downward header from Clitheroe’s Jake Connelly which looked to be destined for the net until the 74 stopper showed his excellent reflexes down low to tip the effort wide.

The second half commenced and 74 began to control the possession.

A good block by Clitheroe captain Billy Priestley denied McGowan an effort on goal from the edge of the area.

Club captain Matt Woolley had to withdraw on the 50 minute mark due to injury and he was replaced by James Ormrod.

The young midfielder was on hand to play in Mike Koral down the right wing, his cut back was hammered clear before it could find an awaiting Kennerley in the middle.

Harry Cain, introduced for Callum Gardner, sustained a serious looking arm injury and left the field on the 70th minute to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters.

1874 were now in full control, taking the game to the hosts while chasing an equaliser.

Kennerley came the closest, arriving at the back post to hit a sweet strike on the half volley, which ricocheted off the post and was scrambled clear by a relieved defence.

Parker had the next big chance. He combined with McGowan but his effort from just inside the area was tame and Thompson could collect with ease.

The dramatic equaliser came in the sixth minute of added time, Sam Hare’s free kick out on the right hand side of the box was headed away. It was kept alive by Parker, who drove to the by-line, looped a cross to the back post and found an unmarked Mitchell, who headed home and sent the large away support into elation.

The final whistle sounded and brought to a close an extremely entertaining contest, a fitting way to start 1874's debut season in the NPL.

Match facts:

Clitheroe (4-5-1): Chris Thompson (GK), Josh Askew, Cole Lonsdale, Ross Dent, Gary Stopforth, Billy Priestley, Jamie Edwards, Alex Turner (Danny Wilkins 76’), Sefton Gonzales, Joel Mills (Connor Gaul 50’), Jake Connelly (Jack Burrows 69’). Subs not used: Taylor Brickell, Mbako Chalashika.

1874 (4-3-3): Tony Aghayere (GK), Mike Koral, Lee Jackson, Mark Jones, Ryan Mitchell, Jake Parker, Callum Gardner (Harry Cain 58’, Ryan Jackson 75’), Matt Woolley (James Ormrod 51’), Scott McGowan, Sam Hare, Taylor Kennerley. Subs not used: Joe Woolley, Matthew Russell.

Attendance: 441