Snapping a winless streak

MORE than two years since their first meeting, and after seven previous failed attempts, Northwich Victoria’s supporters can at last celebrated a victory against 1874.

They made the most of it.

A distance between the team was narrow on the field, a fact reflected by the result too, but there was enough between them for Vics to claim they deserved maximum points.

While their goalkeeper, Danny Taberner, made the most eye-catching saves – to deny Taylor Kennerley and Scott McGowan, twice – the home team’s attackers posed more of a consistent threat.

And had the shooting of both Joel Brownhill and Rob Doran been sharper they may have had to endure a less nervy finale than they did.

Making set-pieces count

Wayne Goodison admitted his frustration afterwards at how 1874 had needlessly conceded free-kicks that led to Vics’ first two goals.

Paul Connor’s foul on Darrhyl Mason, and James Ormrod knocking Doran off course, invited Harvey Whyte to send a dangerous cross into the visitors’ penalty area.

Andy Fitzgerald met the first, and Doran the second, with firm headers to inflict maximum punishment on their guests for moments off indiscipline.

Goodison told the Guardian: “Vics are good in those situations; we know that, and had talked about not giving them an opportunity to put those deliveries into our box.

“In games like this, when the two teams are evenly-matched, it’s those details that decide the outcome.”

Northwich Guardian:

Northwich Victoria full-back Jack Fleming makes a sliding challenge on 1874 Northwich wide-man Michael Koral that prompted referee Dale Baines to award a penalty to the visitors during Saturday's encounter at Wincham Park. Picture: Ian Dutton

Was it a penalty to 1874?

On first glance, for sure.

Steve Wilkes said after the final whistle that debutant Jack Fleming claimed he hadn’t fouled Michael Koral after the 1874 attacker accelerated towards Vics’ goal.

“Jack insists he got the ball and our goalkeeper has backed him up,” he added.

“He’s disappointed to have given away a penalty, and we’ll have a look at it again on the video, but it doesn’t matter too much because we won the game.”

A second glance at footage of the incident shows Fleming did indeed touch the ball.

However it is clear that his first contact is with Koral and referee Dale Baines, who was positioned perfectly, was right to award a spot-kick.

A battle for the middle ground

Matty Clarke was preferred to Dom Craig by Vics manager Steve Wilkes, a decision he admitted afterwards had been a difficult one to make.

He was thoroughly vindicated though.

In the first-half, Clarke and captain Brad Cooke – supported by the energy and enthusiasm of Whyte – certainly had the edge on 1874’s midfield trio of James Ormrod, Jack Irlam and Sam Hare.

That allowed the home team to play on the front-foot, and they were effective too at limiting supply to Kennerley in particular.

Wilkes said: “I felt Matty would give us more defensively; he wins tackles and headers, plus he’s a Northwich kid and so knows what this game is all about.”

1874 responded in the second-half, and kept possession better following Kazim Waite-Jackson’s introduction as a substitute, which made for an even contest.

Northwich Guardian:

Captain Brad Cooke, left, and his Northwich Victoria teammates enjoyed the better of a battle with Jack Irlam, right, and the rest of 1874 Northwich's midfield during the first-half of Saturday's game at Wincham Park. Picture: Ian Dutton

Doran’s dominance and defensive absences

Doran is a man in-form and while his shooting wasn’t as accurate as he would have liked he certainly made 1874’s defence uncomfortable.

Brownhill and Mason were always in position to make the most of their strike-partner’s prowess in the air, both in open play and from set-pieces.

Vics’ opponents had received a blow in the morning when defender Danny Meadowcroft confirmed he hadn’t recovered from a virus in time to feature, prompting management duo Paul Bowyer and Wayne Goodison to select Jack Lever for the first time this season.

With Mark Jones, so effective at the heart of their back-line this season, also ruled out by an injury the alternative was Harry Johnstone – a promising, but inexperienced, 17-year-old.

Meadowcroft, for certain, would have made that aerial battle less one-sided.