Westend Tigers Under 13s suffered their only defeat of the season so far in a home game against Kirkheaton back in October and, despite a late rally from the home side, they managed to avoid the same fate in the return RCD League Division III meeting.
Westend looked the more positive from the start and forced Kirkheaton into their own half for long periods but, after 20 minutes of dominance, the Tigers failed to produce a single shot on target as the tight defence of Ryan Grady, Joel Shepherd, Jack Donaghey and Sam Tunstall proved difficult to break down.
On a cold, windy morning, the last thing either goalkeeper needed was to be standing around with nothing to do but, with both sides cancelling each other out, Westend keeper Zak Masterson and
Kirkheaton’s Jacob Mularkey had to work hard – running around their respective penalty areas to keep warm!
The deadlock was finally broken by Westend in the 22nd minute, thanks to a large slice of luck, when Dev Patel and Joe Straszynkis combined to send Nathan Morrell on a left wing raid and his driven cross managed to swerve and dip under the bar and into the net via the far post.
A Marshall Johnston shot from the edge of the area which went wide of the Kirkheaton goal was the only other effort in a lacklustre first half.
The introduction of Billy Ringrose gave Westend an extra edge with some searching raids on the right and it was from a Ringrose cross that Johnston rose above the Kirkheaton defence to head Westend into a 2-0 lead.
Charlotte Ackroyd produced Kirkheaton’s first testing effort of the game with a shot from 20 yards that looked destined for the top corner but, despite having little to do for most of the game, keeper Masterson pulled off a fine fingertip save to retain his side’s two-goal advantage.
Westend defenders Harry Martin, Alex Morton, Sam Gledhill and Patel had proved an impossible barrier for the home side but, when a corner fell to Ethan Wilson 10 yards from goal, the Kirkheaton striker’s clever turn ended when he was brought down, giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty.
Wilson stepped up to drive a low hard shot to the keeper’s right and, although Masterson got a hand to the ball, he was unable to stop it crossing the line.
Westend’s lead was now reduced to one and, having dominated the game for so long, the visitors became increasingly nervous and ragged in the face of the real threat that Kirkheaton might actually grab an equaliser.
Caelen Hadwin, James Roberts and Shepherd pushed Kirkheaton hard in the last 15 minutes but the home side lacked any real fire-power.
Midfielders Zain Tahir and Nathan Morrell continued to work hard to try to put the result beyond doubt but late efforts from Niall Gallagher and Tom Roberts were wide of the mark.
Mid-table Kirkheaton were equal to Westend in every department but, if they want to join the Tigers at the top of the division, they will have to find a way of breaking down defences.