League: Radcliffe Borough 3 - 0 Lancaster City
A subdued performance from Phil Brown’s side meant there will be no repeats of last season’s Macron Stadium heroics in the LFA Trophy.
With injuries continuing to bite, the City boss chose to rest a number of players against what turned out to be a surprisingly useful and athletic Radcliffe Borough side. With new investment, a new manager, and a new squad, Boro took advantage of a subpar Dolly Blues side who struggled to get going on a freezing wet Tuesday night.
After a bright start from City, and an early free-kick from Adam Sumner stinging the palms of keeper Tadhg Ryan, the first half was completely devoid of chances and goal mouth action. Lancaster had the majority of possession for the first 45 minutes but Jordan Connerton was a frustrated and isolated lone striker in blunt looking attack.
The game changing moment happened on the stroke of half time as City conceded in the most disappointing fashion. A long ball over the top was headed back towards Mike Hale by defender Josh Westwood, but without nearly enough power. With striker Lassana Nalatche onrushing Hale was caught in two minds to either clear the ball first time or to wait and collect the ball in the box. In the end, the City keeper did neither as his hesitation allowed Nalatche to nick the ball and pass into an empty net.
The second half started just as the first ended with another poorly conceded goal that really ended the tie as a contest. Tricky winger Elliot Rokka was quickest to react and latch onto a simple ball from deep through the backline. Despite being in on goal at a tight angle his eventual shot went between the legs of Hale and into the back of the net.
The majority of the second half was spent in the City half as Lancaster struggled to make any meaningful attacking play and generally looked well out of sorts. Phil Brown reacted with 20 minutes to go by bringing on Billy Akrigg, Jacob Gregory and Louis Mayers, with the trio making a notable impact on the game.
With extra bite up front and energy in midfield the Dolly Blues finally started stringing some attacking moves together and went close to getting back into the game with a number of chances. Connerton had a chance one-on-one but produced a tame shot that was easily saved, whilst Craig Carney and Akrigg produced well struck shots from distance that couldn’t beat Ryan in the Boro net.
After a sustained spell of pressure from the visitors a number of goalmouth scrambles followed, but no matter how many bodies City piled forward the ball simply would not bounce in their favour. Jacob Gregory brought another great save out of Ryan with a fierce strike from the edge of the box. The ball bounced under the keeper’s body but was cleared to safety before crossing the line.
The all-out-attack mentality naturally left City short at the back and Radcliffe sealed the win on the counter in the final minutes. Youngster Liam Baldeh, a product of the NPL Academy, cut inside from the right flank after some good work by Frank Van Gils and fired home from another tight angle to complete a comprehensive win.
With the grudge match against Colwyn Bay to come at Giant Axe this Saturday, Phil Brown’s side will be hoping to be back to full strength as they can now focus on the all important league campaign.