Despite a valiant attempt in the closing weeks of the season AFC West End sadly failed to hang onto their place in Division Three thanks to this final day defeat to North Scarle. With The Beers needing victory to edge out of the drop zone they ultimately fell short, losing 4-3 to a decent Scarle side on the unfamiliar setting of the Cowpaddle.
West End took the initiative inside the opening quarter of an hour with a well taken goal from Mike O’Keefe. The winger dispossessed the North Scarle right back to break down the left before cutting inside and curling a fine finish into the far top corner. When they got the ball down West End were looking threatening, but gradually Scarle came back into the game, with their five man midfield at times controlling the game.
Midway through the half Scarle levelled as one of their forwards found space on the edge of the area before curling an unstoppable strike into the far top corner. On the half hour mark the same player struck again with a near carbon copy of his first goal, carrying the ball forward before curling it into the same top corner to put the visitors ahead.
West End had threatened a couple of times going forward, but struggled to test the Scarle keeper and instead the home side soon found themselves 3-1 down. Scarle worked the ball to the left byline before delivering a low cross that was turned in at the far post. With five minutes left to play West End were handed a life line as the visitors were reduced to ten men, their full back finally having enough of Jack McDonnell’s whinging and delivering an albeit pathetic headbut to McDonnell to earn a red card.
Against ten men West End unsurprisingly controlled much of the game, but struggled to threaten the goal and really test the visiting ‘keeper. Despite much pressure only a couple of off-target headers from Joe Harper and O’Keefe really came close to hauling West End back into the game. At the other end Scarle often threatened on the break, but a driven shot just wide of Christian Sales’ right hand post was as close as they came.
Having already switched to 4-3-3 to exert more pressure, West End went gung ho for the final quarter of an hour to try and salvage something, moving to 3-4-3 for the closing minutes and the change proved dividends as a set-piece was bundled in at the far post by Harper. Time for a popular substitution as Stephen ‘Alf’ Pearce came on for his first game since breaking his leg a year ago, and the sub made something of an impact as West End drew level with just three minutes to go, this time Adie Gray bundled the ball in at the far post, sparking a one man pitch invasion from Dan ‘Mourinho’ Hill.
However, as West End pressed for a dramatic late winner they were to suffer a cruel blow as Scarle’s most irritating player struck a winner for the visitors on the break, cutting inside the despairing lunges of Jonny Dyas and James Dewhurst before finishing low into the bottom corner. A cruel end of the season, but a brave effort from West End who will be keen to have a much stronger push in a lower division next time out.
AFC West End line-up (4-4-2); Christian Sales; James Dewhurst, Joe Harper, Adrian Gray, Martin Robinson; Dave Capps (Stephen Pearce), Glen Wilson (Jonny Dyas), Rich Vickers, Mike O’Keefe; Sam McDonnell (Ryan Smith), Jack McDonnell
Man of the Match: Mike O’Keefe (5 and a half votes), Adrian Gray, Stephen Pearce (3), Dan Hill, Jack McDonnell, Martin Robinson, Dan Hill’s celebration, the guy on the bike (1), Ryan Smith (half)
Dick of the Day: Rich Vickers (6 votes), Dan Hill (3), Stephen Pearce (2), Dave Capps, Adrian Gray, Joe Harper, Mike O’Keefe, North Scarles nbr 7 (1)