Despite the weather an enthusiastic crowd came to The Wanted Stadium for the FA Cup Preliminary Round clash between West Auckland Town and Northallerton Town.
Both teams started well knocking the ball around with confidence in midfield but it was West Auckland who looked more dangerous in the final third of the pitch. In the 5th minute, Bailey found space on the edge of the box and unleashed a powerful strike, only to be denied by an acrobatic save from the Northallerton keeper.
In the 12th minute, West nearly snatched the lead. Nicholson’s low ball into the box found Jackson, but his effort sailed agonizingly over the crossbar, much to the relief of the Northallerton bench.
Northallerton found themselves in a tough situation in the 23rd minute when former West Auckland midfielder Leon Scott, received his second yellow card and was sent off. Down to 10 men, Northallerton had to dig deep to fend off West Auckland’s relentless attacking waves.
With the numerical advantage, West Auckland continued to pile on the pressure. Bailey seemed to have the measure of Northallerton’s defence, attempting another long-range strike in the 16th minute after a sublime setup from Gillies, but his shot narrowly missed the target, leaving the score line unchanged.
As the first half drew to a close, the score somehow remained goalless. West created numerous chances but the score line remained 0-0. Gillies had a great chance at the end of the half but his effort struck the post and fell kindly for the keeper.
In the second half, Northallerton Town, despite being a player down, showed determination to push for an advantage. In the 50th minute, they won a free-kick just outside the box, and Dale Hopson stepped up to take it. His well-struck effort forced Liversedge into an impressive save, pushing the ball wide of the post.
In the 52nd minute, West Auckland launched a scintillating counter-attack led by Jackson, who weaved past three Northallerton defenders. However, he was denied by a brave charge from the goalkeeper, and Scott’s follow-up shot hit the woodwork, leaving the crowd in disbelief that there still hadn’t been a goal.
The defining moment came in the 63rd minute when Cieran Jackson once again proved to be the catalyst for West Auckland’s success. Cutting in from the left flank, he dribbled past a couple of defenders before delivering a pinpoint pass to the onrushing Luke Bailey. The latter made no mistake and unleashed a thunderous shot that nestled into the bottom corner of the net, giving West Auckland a much deserved lead.
Buoyed by the lead, West Auckland controlled the proceedings, passing the ball with confidence and maintaining possession.
As the match approached its closing stages, West Auckland displayed their experience in managing the game, keeping Northallerton’s attacks at bay and retaining possession effectively. The clock ticked away, and the final minutes saw limited goalmouth action.
In the 82nd minute, Northallerton were awarded a dangerous free-kick opportunity in a promising position. The stage was set for a grandstand finish, but Liversedge had other plans. The West Auckland shot-stopper rose to the occasion, pulling off an extraordinary save to ensure his team’s lead remained intact.
In the 84th minute, West Auckland added an insurance goal, effectively sealing their victory. Gillies initiated a superb attacking move, setting up Scott, whose initial shot was parried by the keeper. Undeterred, Scott stayed alert and reacted swiftly to tap in the rebound, securing a two-goal advantage.
As the match neared its conclusion, the referee announced four minutes of added time, during which Northallerton fought bravely for a late lifeline. But it was not to be, as the final whistle blew, confirming West Auckland Town’s well-deserved 2-0 victory over Northallerton Town.
The heroic efforts of Luke Bailey and Cieran Jackson, as well as the exceptional goalkeeping display by Liversedge, were the standout performances that propelled West Auckland to the next round of the FA Cup. West Auckland will now face local rivals Shildon in the next round.