DISAPPOINTMENT ON MERSEYSIDE
Daniel Cockerline scored a 77 minute goal which was enough to send Brent Peters, Borough side home empty handed from Merseyside.
It was a bitterly disappointing evening for the team after going toe to toe with the promotion contenders for large periods of the game only to concede after one lapse of concentration. The game was scheduled for a Friday evening fixture due to AFC Liverpool ground sharing with AFC Marine and under the floodlights it was a chance for Borough to impress and show what they could do against strong opposition. It was also an opportunity for new signing, Josh Brennan to make the transition from local football into the semi professional game, and up against the league's most solid defence it was always going to be a difficult evening.
AFC Liverpool started the stronger of the two sides with some very impressive one and two touch link up play, and on several occasions broke free down the Borough left only to find Bradley Hancock in good positions to clear the danger with timely tackles. Borough were playing their first game since that 3-1 defeat at home to Atherton LR on the 8th February, and with a number of players out through injury and suspensions it was important that the team worked collectively for one another.
AFC Liverpool saw a lot of the ball in the early encounters but Borough were able to close down the space quickly and effectively causing the Merseysiders to often go backwards and recycle the ball.
As the game progressed, Brent Peters team slowly started to gain some momentum, excellent play from Kyle Siddle, Callum Hewitt and Michael Gervin through the middle meant that it was now AFC Liverpool doing the defending. On twenty-five minutes Borough almost took the lead. A good piece of play through the middle found Gervin in space, and from 35 yards out Borough’s playmaker struck a delightful left footed shot against the crossbar. At this point it was the young Borough side who were taking the game to the hosts with confidence and assertiveness. Gervin almost scored again with another carbon copy of his first attempt, this time narrowly going over the AFC Liverpool crossbar.
Every single Borough player was working hard for the cause, and up against a team second in the league with only six defeats all season it gave you an indication of how difficult this game would be. At times you could clearly see why the Merseyside club are situated near the top with a good range of passing and intricate, one and two touch link up play. On numerous occasions they’d break down the wing only to find the captain, Laquan Esdaille and Gareth Wager taking up good positions and able to quash any such danger. Just before half time the Borough keeper, Harry Turner was called into action. Positive build up by AFC Liverpool down their right, and a shot from the edge of box brought out an acrobatic save from Turner, a shot which looked destined for the top left hand corner.
In the second half much of the same from Borough. Organised and well drilled throughout the team, it was important that they didn’t allow the strong athletic hosts to gain the upper hand. Josh Walne was putting in a good shift down the Borough right, and with new signing, Josh Brennan constantly closing down space in the final third, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the home side to get into their stride. Frustration was creeping in and a few untimely tackles and scuffles were starting to develop.
Peters continued to bellow from the sidelines as only he can. And with this regimented display on show you could see that the birthday boy was enjoying how his team were applying themselves.
With 90 goals scored so far this season, AFC Liverpool were always going to get chances, and one lapse of concentration was enough. A ball played down the right found red shirts in space, before the ball was played square across the box and into the path of the oncoming, Daniel Cockerline to tap beyond, Harry Turner. An horrible feeling to endure after watching the Borough fight and go toe to toe with the hosts for long periods of this game. Peters brought on Joel Gnabouyou to bolster the frontline, and with 4 minutes on the clock the substitute should’ve equalised. A good ball played through the middle by the imaginative Gervin found Joel one on one with the keeper, and from 15 yards out he could only chip the ball over the onrushing, David Potter to watch his shot go wide of the post.
At the final whistle there was a sense of achievement tinge with disappointment after working so hard for 90 minutes against a team who are heading towards the North West Counties Premier Division next season. But with a threadbare squad to choose from and young inexperienced players just cutting their teeth at this level for the first time it was an impressive display from Peters, Borough side.
This was our first game for three weeks, so starting back and having to go to AFC Liverpool after such a lay off was bad enough, but to also be without the services of some of our players due to injury, suspension and sickness only added to the daunting task we was facing. Credit to each and every player, we were well organised, the defence looked solid, the lads in midfield all put in an unbelievable shift, up front we asked questions, we were up against a very good AFC Liverpool side who are competing on three fronts for success but our boys took them all the way to the wire, it was a late break through that ended up separating us by the odd goal which obviously was disappointing, without any doubts we deserved to come away with a point, but I said before the game that we could only ask for the boys to give us their best and their best they did which we applaud equally we also applaud our hosts not just for their slender victory but for the plaudits our young team received.
WAGER GETS NEW LEASE OF LIFE
Gareth Wager is a player that certainly plays with his heart on his sleeve, and even though the result against Atherton LR wasn’t the best return to football for the experienced defender, it was a moment to cherish that he’d actually made the return to the game at all.Back in March 2018 the Borough defender suffered a serious injury whilst playing for Abbey Hey against Irlam. It would be an injury that would result in Gareth being out of the game for 16 months, a long time for a player who relishes the battle of the semi professional game.
Talking to Gareth about this difficult period he went through during that time and the several meetings he had with the specialists, he said. ‘I saw a specialist, and after several scans it was determined that I had severed the ligaments on both sides of my right ankle, as well as breaking the bottom of my leg. I also had a slight fracture in the ankle and the cartilage on the bottom of my leg had become detached. To be fair it was a great tackle!!! The surgeon and the staff were excellent and huge credit must go to them and also to Ian Liversidge the physio who is a good friend of mine, he helped me gain strength back in my ankle that I needed to play again.’ Honesty and humour from a player that was under no illusions that it was going to be a long road back to recovery.
The weeks and months that followed were extremely challenging for Gareth. Here was a player who had played every single week since the age of five and been relatively fit
throughout that time with only minor aches and pains getting in the way, but this was a totally different obstacle to face and would need a lot of determination and long hours of painstaking rehab.
I asked Gareth about those closest to him, and what family and friends were like during his rehabilitation. He told me about his wife’s amazing support and how her words were inspiring him to get fit. ‘She’s been amazing. Huge credit must go to my wife Zoey though, she picked me up when I felt down. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever known and her positivity and motivation gave me the confidence to get fit and get back playing. She also got me into yoga which has helped keep me fit and helped me build even more strength in my ankle.’
As the months followed, Gareth’s ankle became even stronger and more and more he thought about the prospect of getting his boots back on. It is at this point I asked him about how the return to Borough had materialised and what Brent had said to him that persued the experienced defender to return to the Brian Boys Stadium.
‘Well, Steve. If I’m honest it all happened at Christmas when I was away in Tenerife with my wife and some friends and family. Danny Cocks, who is a Bacup legend, was with me, and after a few too many beers we started to FaceTime a few people we hadn’t spoken to for a while. One of them was Brent! He knew we’d had a few so he humoured us, but he was more disappointed in us that we’d gone away during the football season! On my return from holiday Brent and I got in touch with each other and the rest is history. A couple of other clubs had also been in touch and I have thanked them since, as to be wanted after 16 months out meant a lot to me, but Borough is a second home to me, so it was an easy decision.’
Quite clearly this was a player that had no doubt in his mind about coming back to his old stamping ground and to play for a manager who he trusted and admired both as a manager and a person. Sitting down with Gareth I asked him, were there any other reasons for a return to the Borough, he said. ‘Definitely. I’d watched this young bunch of players a few times and thought that we could achieve something together. We have a seriously talented group that can go far in the game. For most of them, this is their first season at this level, so they do not have much experience but that will come with time and I wanted to be a part of their progression’ He also went on to talk about the famiIirity between the former sides and this current crop of young players. ‘I predict great things for them as a team and as individuals, as long as they
stick together. They have a togetherness that reminds me of the squad we had back in 2011 when we won the Challenge Cup, so watch this space!’ Wise words from a player who knows what it feels like to win things under Brent.
He also mentioned how easy it is at this level to bounce from club to club as some clubs have the added incentive of being able to pay expenses, and that you should always strive to play where you enjoy it. He concluded by saying, ‘Cash is secondary and if you’re playing football just for the money, you’ll never truly enjoy it. Find a club that looks after you, treats you well, and where you are always made to feel welcome, and for me, that’s Bacup
Borough. Gareth Wager is a tough tackling no nonsense defender, but the person you see on the pitchisn’t the same person off it. Getting to know him in such a short space of time I can clearly see that he’s an intelligent individual who is a born winner, and those qualities are exactly the type of characteristics Brent Peters is looking for. Gareth will be an asset to Borough in a number of different ways. He’ll be somebody who can help nurture this current crop of talented youngsters, both as players and as young men starting out in the semi professional game. Everybody at Bacup Borough is delighted to see him return to the club. And if this
young crop are lucky enough they may even experience Gareth’s flair for poetry.
BOROUGH 1-3 ATHERTON LR
It turned out to be another frustrating afternoon for Brent Peters and his Borough team which saw them suffer their third consecutive defeat in a row this time at the hands of Atherton LR.
In recent weeks the word, clinical and missed opportunities has been mentioned on numerous occasions and unfortunately for Borough this afternoon would be no different. Borough did get off to a positive start though with a goal within 4 minutes from Anthony Hall. A solid tackle in midfield by Ryan Siddle, and a delightful pass over the top and into the feet of Hall, found the young forward in space and from the edge of the penalty box he slotted home beyond Ryan Garner and into the bottom corner. A confident finish from a player who has scored 5 goals since arriving back at the club from Prestwich Heys in mid December.
It was also encouraging to see Boroughs, Gareth Wager in action for the first time in 18 months after suffering knee ligament damage. And with Alex Luby getting the thumbs up ahead of Joel Gnabouyou after impressing for the U21s in midweek, there was a real optimism that Borough would flourish against a team who's last win was away at AFC Blackpool back in November. A lot of Boroughs early possession was confined to the middle of the pitch with one or two bursts down the wings with Luby operating on the left and Kyle Siddle down the right but overall it was a game lacking in excitement.
Borough did continue to push and probe forward in search of a second goal on an afternoon when Storm Ciara was just beginning to make her appearance through the Rossendale Valley. But on 16 minutes it was the visitors who nearly scored an equaliser. Sloppy play by Luby allowed Nathan Strong to find some space out on the Atherton LR left, and from an acute angle he smashed the ball goal bound bringing out a top class save from Boroughs Harry Turner. A wonderful piece of goalkeeping from the leagues Goalkeeper of Month for January.
Both dugouts eagerly tried to gather momentum from their players with the wind constantly creating problems and making it almost impossible to communicate. On 35 minutes Borough thought they'd won a penalty. A ball played into the feet of Michael Gervin from Luby on the left, Gervin then managed to drive into the box before going to ground in what seemed a coming together between himself and the chasing defender, the referee waved play on and the Borough forward was left aggrieved by the decision.
On 40 minutes Peters side should've scored a second. Yet again it was Gervin digging out a ball inside in own half and setting Luby free down the left wing, the ball across the face of goal managed to go through the Atherton LR defenders legs and somehow from 5 yards out Anthony Hall scuffed his shot and Garner saved with his legs and away from danger. As the teams made their way off for the half time team talks I'm certain that Peters would've been highlighting missed opportunities and relaying the message that his young Borough side need to be more clinical and ruthless in front of goal. With Borough playing with the wind behind them in the second half the ball was finding its way forward with a little bit more ease and within 5 minutes of the restart Borough were presented with another chance to score. A break down in play on the halfway line found Callum Hewitt, and the former Rochdale Amateur placed a pass over the top into the path of Hall who was forced out wide by an onrushing Atherton LR keeper.
More and more the visitors began to impose themselves on the game. Plenty of shouting and animation being shown in the Atherton LR technical area. And on 51 minutes the breakthrough came. It was a ball played through the middle by Lucas Robinson, he found Nathan Strong in space on the right and with very little difficulty he managed to almost walk right through the heart of the Borough defence and slotted the ball beyond Turner to make it
At this point Atherton tails were up and they were showing real intent on taking the game to the host with some strong tackling all over the pitch. On 71 minutes they struck again. This time it was a throw in on the half way line, the ball was played through the middle after it looked like Callum Hewitt was being held down by a Atherton player, the ball fell to Connor Comber, and he's driven a low shot from the edge of the box and into Harry Turner's bottom right hand corner, a bitter pill to swallow after it seemed Hewitt was being purposely held down by Nathan Strong, to say that the Borough manager wasn't happy with the referees decision was an understatement, and if that wasn't enough, Ryan Siddle was initially sin binned for a comment made towards the referee, and then as he's made his way off the field he's made a further comment resulting in a red card, Borough were committing footballing suicide.
They did try to create problems for Atherton LR and committed bodies forward in search of a response, and in doing so they also ran the risk of leaving gaps at the back for the visitors to exploit, that is exactly what happened on 78 minutes. Play broke down in the oppositions half and an instinctive pass through the middle found Nathan Strong in space, the number 7 out paced Gareth Wager and the captain, Laquan Esdaille before rounding the keeper and slotting into an empty net, a good afternoons work to complete his Man of the Match performance.
Gareth Wager made way for Joel Gnabouyou and Peters tried everything he could to possibly get his team back into the game. The manager also received a yellow card for his troubles after directing a comment towards the referee and a miserable windy afternoon at the Brian Boys Stadium was complete. Borough are finding it extremely difficult to find the opponents goal of late. And since the departure of their leading goalscorer, Matty Bryan to Wythenshawe Town its been very
challenging for Peters to find any kind of solution to his striker problems. Making chances doesn't seem to be an issue for this young talented bunch of players but the clinical and ruthless nature that is needed at this level of the game simply isn't there, that costs money.
And in the words of Brent Peters, ‘We ain’t got any money’