A sunny evening in Salford saw ActiveWin FC finally break the curse of Steel’s Tips, with a 2-0 win over their title rivals.
ActiveWin’s preparation didn’t get the evening off to the best start, as they failed to field any substitutions and didn’t fancy their chances against their ‘bogey’ team.
Once again, there were a couple of changes to the starting eleven. First Achieve’s James Harries continued in goal, with Captain Fantastic Eddie Jordan and Bryn May at the heart of the defence. Eliot Jacob was MIA so former ActiveWinner Benj Loofe was drafted in, with player-manager Adam Jackson dropping deep. The midfield also had a new look, with Josh Tyndall joined by Greg Jacobs, Marcus Jackson and newcomer George Scholes. Jake Gallagher took the lone striker role, with Adam Rowley behind for support.
It was a confident start from ActiveWin and, right from the off, there was a sense that this game wasn’t going to follow the usual script of an AW v Steel’s Tips match.
Rowley applied pressure and Jordan delivered a throw in. A good touch from Gallagher brought the ball down and he controlled it well, he went for goal, but put it wide.
At the other end, Harries pushed the ball out and there was good link-up play from A Jackson, M Jackson, and Greg Jacobs. Rowley did well to keep possession under pressure and passed back to May.
Steel’s Tips were all over us but AW were holding firm, and an ST corner was headed out by Jordan.
It was end-to-end action, Rowley sent the ball out but Steel’s Tips were straight back in, until Jordan won the header.
A Jackson tried to head clear but couldn’t quite get it away, Harries made a lovely low save and the resulting ST corner was blocked but again, not quite cleared.
A Jackson found Loofe back to A Jackson to Loofe to Rowley did well to keep possession.
Jordan’s thrown in was intercepted Steel’s Tips sent it up the pitch but it came back in through May. Steel’s Tips won a corner but A Jackson stopped them in their tracks.
A lovely passage of play ensued – Jordan to Tyndall to M Jackson good control on the ball up to Gallagher and back to M Jackson who sent a great little ball over to Scholes on the wing.
A Jackson stopped the ball on his chest, brought it down and passed to Tyndall to Rowley to and back to A Jackson moving down the wing.
A Jackson passed back to Jacobs to start working the channels again and Jacobs found Gallagher.
1-0 GOAL! – Loofe pitched a great ball up to Gallagher who dinked it in to open the scoring for AW. Unfortunately, in doing so, Gallagher injured himself, ruling him out of the rest of the game.
It later turned out to be Gallagher’s last game for the club as the risk of recurring serious injuries outweighs the reward. Gallagher will be a big loss to the team, but the immediate priority was replacing him on the pitch for the remainder of the game.
AW were briefly reduced to ten men, but managed to hold their own. A Steel’s Tips free-kick hit the crossbar and went wide.
Back-up came in the unlikely form of one of the Salford Community Centre reception staff, Callum MacNichol.
He had been lined up to provide fresh legs, if needed, in the second half, but was called into action earlier than expected.
Thankfully for AW, Macnichol proved himself to be a useful player.
At the other end, Jordan picked out Scholes who had gone on a good run, he won a corner, which was delivered by Loofe and out for another Jordan throw in.
Steel’s Tips mounted a counter-attack but were thwarted by A Jackson as they tried to force an opening.
Rowley back to Harries back to Rowley across to Loofe, well played Jacobs to Tyndall.
The experience of Loofe and Rowley showed through as they kept it clean and simple until they could bring in MacNichol.
A Jackson brought it back up the pitch and Rowley managed to keep ST’s off the ball as they ran out of steam and wasted their corner.
Jordan played the ball to M Jackson, to May, to Rowley and out to Loofe – a good passage of play which resulted in an AW throw in.
ActiveWin were in search of a second, and a good ball from M Jackson found Tyndall who drew a save from the ST’s keeper.
A great ball from Loofe set AW on the attack once again and there was good movement from Jacobs and Scholes.
Rowley tried a long-range shot but couldn’t quite get it on target.
A Steel’s Tips free-kick went over the AW wall but straight into Harries’ hands.
A Jackson tried to clear, Scholes to M Jackson, ST intercepted but Rowley regained possession.
Jordan’s throw in found Jacobs, M Jackson picked it up and went for goal.
At the other end, Harries’ save helped ActiveWin close out the first half one nil up.
Riding high on an excellent first-half performance, ActiveWin lost no time in going on the attack, and their efforts soon paid off.
2-0 GOAL! – Super sub MacNichol took his time and picked his spot, finishing with aplomb.
Jacobs sent a good ball to MacNicol to M Jackson who pitched a long-range shot. AW kept up the pressure as A Jackson ran it down the pitch.
MacNicol found Scholes but ST’s kicked it out. Loofe’s throw in found Rowley, to M Jackson, A Jackson, and back to Rowley who found MacNicol.
Jordan won the ball in the area, trying to force an opportunity, before Rowley sent the ball across the goal but couldn’t quite bend it around.
May stayed strong on the wing, winning a throw-in, which Jordan delivered into the box.
Steel’s Tips cleared, but their counter-attack was deftly dealt with by Harries.
ST’s were hammering the goal but getting no joy, with Harries keeping his wits about him and working well with his defence.
M Jackson was on the move but saw his effort go over the bar, ST’s hit the side netting.
A well-timed clearance from Jordan earned ST’s a corner which Harries kept out.
AW were forced to soak up the pressure as ST’s tried everything they could think of to get back in the game.
Another Harries save set ST back put they maintained the pressure. Rowley blocked and A Jackson sent the ball back up the pitch.
Scholes ran at the ST’s keeper but couldn’t force a third, then Rowley did the hard work but hit it at the keeper and Tyndall couldn’t get it on target.
At the other end, Harries came out to secure the ball and soon followed that up with a superb save from an ST’s corner.
Loofe tried to string some passages together and ST’s sent a shot wide.
Loofe and Rowley maintained pressure, as Jordan and May mopped up at the back.
MacNicol was ruled offside as he tried to boost AW’s tally, and ST’s fired over the bar.
Loofe did well to keep possession, M Jackson did all the hard work but couldn’t make it count.
It didn’t matter though. May booted it up the pitch with the last kick of the game and ActiveWin were home free.
Line up: Harries, Jordan, May, A Jackson, Loofe, Tyndall, Scholes, M Jackson, Jacobs, Rowley, Gallagher
Man of the Match: Nobody had a bad day at the office, but even in a classy team performance a few players stood out. Greg Jacobs put in a good shift, Loofe, Jordan, and May were very effective at the back, and Harries made some great saves to secure the clean sheet. However, player-manager Adam Jackson was a cut above and drove his team on to victory with both a first-class performance and a motivational managerial attitude.
Verdict: This was a huge win for AW FC and the best performance of the season so far. Despite, or possibly due, to being short on numbers, everyone brought their A game and thoroughly deserved the win. Next up it’s W&G Plastering and a win will set up a title clash with current table toppers PHMG. Could this be ActiveWin’s season? Stay tuned!