Northwich Victoria: 1. Ben Hinchcliffe, 2. John Disney, 3. Dave Fitzpatrick, 4. Dominic Collins, 5. Ian Kearney ©, 6. Kyle Armstrong, 7. Michael Roddy, 8. Jordan Johnson (Wade 72), 9. Tony Evans (Clarke 79), 10. Nathan Woolfe (Abbott 85), 11. Lewis Short. Subs: 12. Michael Clarke, 14. Steve Abbott, 15. Graeme Law, 16. Tom Smyth, 17. Ryan Wade.
Rushall Olympic: 1. Chris Gemmell, 2. Mitchell Tolley, 3. Jonny Haynes, 4. James Skedgel, 5. Decio Gomes, 6. Nick Amos, 7. Luke Bottomer (Obeng 60), 8. Martyn Naylor ©, 9. Craig Bannister (Brady 67), 10. Alex Melbourne, 11. Gary Fitzpatrick (Campbell 67). Subs: 12. Kyle Brady, 14. Danny Campbell, 15. Alex Forde, 16. Ahmed Obeng, 17. Louis Keenan.
Referee: Mr. G. Johnson
Rushall Olympic’s second visit in four days to The Weaver Stadium proved to be yet another unhappy experience as they followed up a heavy midweek defeat against Nantwich Town with a two-nil reversal at the hands of second placed Northwich Victoria.
The Pics made three changes to the starting line-up who had meekly surrendered during the second period on Tuesday evening as Decio Gomes came in for injured skipper Lucan Spittle; Martyn Naylor returned to the ranks as captain following suspension to replace injury victim Christian Dacres, while Nick Amos returned as Ahmed Obeng dropped to the bench.
Following an evenly matched opening spell it was the visitors who enjoyed arguably the first worthwhile opportunity in front of goal in the 13th minute when a throw-in from the right was eventually picked up by Amos who stabbed the ball low and wide of the near post from 10 yards out.
Three minutes later and the Pics had the ball in the back of the net when an excellent ball in by Alex Melbourne from the left by-line was clinically driven first time into the roof of the net by Craig Bannister at the near post. Unfortunately for Rushall an off-side flag had already been raised in the build-up and the goal was cancelled out.
As play moved swiftly to the other end a telling centre from Nathan Woolfe through the right channel had to be headed clear by Mitchell Tolley at the far post to avert the danger. However, moments later Northwich were back on the offensive through Jordan Johnson who sent a good effort wide of the right hand post from the edge of the box.
Olympic ‘keeper Chris Gemmell was almost punished for failing to collect a high ball at the periphery of his area on 22 minutes as a shot from Kyle Armstrong in the aftermath had to be hastily repelled by the defence as their custodian regained his position on the goal line.
Three minutes later and Rushall replied with a venomous strike on the run from Melbourne at the right hand corner of the box, with the ball being safely held by ‘keeper Ben Hinchcliffe.
Nine minutes prior to the interval and Melbourne again found himself in a good position around the periphery of the penalty area, but on this occasion his pacey strike fell just shy of the top left corner.
The 39th minute proved to be the defining moment of the contest for Olympic as a shot from distance by Johnson was extremely well saved by Gemmell at full stretch to his left. However, his colleagues were less alert to the inherent danger and were extremely slow to react to the loose ball, allowing Northwich to shepherd it back in to the danger zone where WOOLFE evaded a challenge and drilled clinically beyond Gemmell into the bottom corner.
Rushall’s problems effectively doubled within seven minutes when with first half stoppage time in progress a disinterested looking Tolley failed to pick up the run of midfielder MICHAEL RODDY who drifted inside from the left flank and proceeded to unleash a great lofted effort from distance that looped over Gemmell and dropped inside the far post.
Half-Time: Northwich Victoria 2-0 Rushall Olympic
Although the hosts had established a more than comfortable interval advantage, Olympic made most of the early running during the opening phase of the second period and in the 48th minute Melbourne again tried his luck from the edge of the box with a strike going straight into the arms of the Vics custodian.
Three minutes later and a deep free-kick from skipper Martyn Naylor was flicked goalwards by the head of James Skedgel, with his back to goal from 15 yards out, but ‘keeper Hinchcliffe was more than equal to the challenge and pushed the ball around his left hand upright to concede a flag kick.
In a six minute spell following the hour mark the visitors went on to use all of their substitutes as the services of Luke Bottomer, Bannister and Gary Fitzpatrick were all dispensed in favour of Obeng, Kyle Brady and Danny Campbell. However, the change in personnel failed to transform the fortunes of the Pics.
On 70 minutes Gemmell once more had to be at his very best to maintain the two-goal deficit as he pulled off a superb save to his left to deny Tony Evans who all too easily got beyond the last man after an aborted attack by the visitors rapidly broke down and the counter offensive was poorly defended by Tolley.
In the very next phase of play the Vics were again denied by the Pics custodian, when on this occasion Woolfe turned and fired in a peach of an effort from 25 yards out that Gemmell brilliantly tipped over for a corner.
The remainder of the game very much had an end of season feel about it with Northwich more than happy with their lot and Rushall appearing simply content not to sustain further damage with six goals having already been shipped over two games. However, with just two minutes remaining the hosts almost ended the game with a flourish when substitute Ryan Wade broke through the right channel and sent a low drive wide of the far post from the edge of the box as Gemmell frantically back-tracked.
Full-Time: Northwich Victoria 2-0 Rushall Olympic