My first visit to a league game this season took me to the Wanted Stadium, home of West Auckland. A ground I had never visited before tonight, but one I’ll definitely be looking to go back to when the heavens aren’t well and truly opened.
West Auckland’s visitors tonight were Guisborough Town. Guisborough had an exceptionally poor start to last season that was only, just about, recovered towards the back end after their relegation was overturned following an appeal to the FA. So Guisborough would obviously be looking to get off to the best possible start to avoid all that happening again. But it wouldn’t be an easy game, against a very strong West Auckland side, in not very favourable weather conditions.
West Auckland were the side that got us underway, but the first chance fell to the visitors. A smart ball to Thomas Bligh from Connor Smith was crossed invitingly into the West Auckland penalty area. Guisborough’s Nathan Steel was the player who met the ball with his head, only to see his shot go narrowly past the post and out for a goal kick. Hopefully a sign of things to come for the travelling Guisborough faithful!
But it wasn’t to be, as it was West Auckland who struck first after some smart play in the centre of the park. The ball was played out wide to Jack Walker who put a sublime ball into the area which was met confidently by Nathan Fisher who prodded the ball towards goal and past the helpless Jordan Nixon. 1-0 to the home side after just 8 minutes.
And just two minutes later, West Auckland had their second. A smart run from Amar Purewall was attempted to be stopped, only for the ball to fall back at his feet and 1 on 1 with the Guisborough keeper. Purewall confidently finished past the outrushing Nixon to make it 2-0 to the home side, who now looked firmly in control of the game. ‘It’s a long time since we’ve been two goals up after 10 minutes’ is what a West Auckland supporter had said to me shortly after the previous goal. He had a lot more to look forward to!
And, surprisingly enough, it was soon 3-0. Amar Purewall, again, was slotted through very smartly, beating Guisborough Town’s offside trap. Feeling déjà vu from 8 minutes ago, Purewall again finished smartly past the outrushing Nixon. You could hear the shock from the West Auckland fans as they started laughing between themselves as opposed to cheering. It would be a long evening for Guisborough if they didn’t change something soon.
It wasn’t the best first half of the season for Guisborough so far, but they kept on fighting and attempted to get forward. But West Auckland matched Guisborough exceptionally well, staying very professional, even with their comfortable lead. Guisborough had one more meaningful shot in the first half, with Steven Roberts laying the ball off to Ben Hugill. Hugill’s powerful shot went just past the post, but a clear sight of goal that really needed to be capitalised on at this stage of the game.
But, apart from some speculative efforts from both sides, the first half finished 3-0. West Auckland very much in the driver’s seat, but if they can score three goals in 45 minutes, so can Guisborough, as long as they didn’t let their heads go down.
As Guisborough kicked the second half off, the main thing they had to focus on was sticking together and ensuring it didn’t get any worse for themselves. And, for 12 minutes, they did just that. Playing some very good Football, the away side created some promising opportunities for themselves, but couldn’t work any clear chances.
Unfortunately for Guisborough, it was West Auckland who managed to get the next goal, and almost putting the game out of the away side’s reach. West Auckland’s Amar Purewall passed the ball across to Nathan Fisher, who finished very well and secured his second goal of the game. It was noticeable at this point that the away side had started to become a bit demoralised and frustrated, lunging needlessly into tackles and losing the ball very easily. 4-0 to the home side, with little over 30 minutes still to play.
The next real memorable moment of the game, again, came from West Auckland. A fairly average corner was whipped in for the home side. The corner was cleared by the Guisborough defence as far as West Auckland’s Michael McKeown who sent the ball back into the area. The ball was flicked on to Nathan Fisher who headed easily into an almost empty net to make it 5-0, and grabbing his hattrick in the process.
It was starting to get out of hand for the away side now, with everything seemingly going against them. And so it would prove in the 71st minute – A freekick sent into the Guisborough box ricocheted around before somehow going into the back of the net. I couldn’t see what happened too well from where I was standing, but it was Matthew Lovatt with the OG, although Nathan Fisher definitely wanted to claim it.
And it was soon seven! West Auckland substitute Denver Morris passed the ball across the edge of the area to another substitute, Ben Wood. Wood struck the ball sweetly, being described as a ‘thunderbolt’ by the West Auckland Twitter team, straight past the helpless Nixon in the Guisborough net to make it 7-0. I don’t think anyone had predicated this from the start but, from a neutral point of view, it was a perfect night. West Auckland were still massively up for this game and, with 15 minutes left on the clock, there was plenty of time to add to their tally.
To the 77th minute, and it was West Auckland still powering forward. Some smart play around the Guisborough area from Morris and Wood, again, found some space for a cute little pass across to Amar Purewall, who sliced under the keeper, making it 8-0. The previous goal also made Purewall the second player to score a hattrick tonight – an achievement I’ve never seen before in a league game.
And the home side saved the best until last! A West Auckland corner, taken by Adam Mitchell, was cleared well by the Guisborough defence, only to fall to Michael McKeown, who struck the ball from 20 yards. The resulting shot kept rising and rising, until it found the top of Nixon’s net, making it 9-0 to the home side.
And that’s how it finished.
West Auckland 9 (nine) – Guisborough Town 0
I’ve got a lot of love for Guisborough Town, and I hope tonight was just one to get out of the way early so they can crack on and have a great season, because they deserve it! But West Auckland were superb tonight, and they didn’t allow Guisborough a moments peace.
The Wanted Stadium was my 25th North East ground visited, and not very many games will be as memorable as this one was! Best of luck to both teams for the forthcoming season.