Reece White’s last-minute strike proved enough for new Eccleshall manager Nick Farrington to start the new season with an away win at Maine Road, who were relegated from the Premier Division last term.
Farrington gave debuts to Izaak Walsh and Brad Carr, whilst goal scorer White, who has been signed from Silverdale Athletic and Liam Baker-Haynes who has moved up from the youth team were amongst the substitutes, Jake Standbridge took on the duties of media man as he served a one game ban, held over from last season.
In the opening minutes, the home side had a couple of half chances after Eccy had given the ball away in their own half, but once Farrington’s young side had found their feet, they started to dominate possession.
On ten minutes, Eccy were almost in front, Walsh’s diagonal switch to Carr prompted a ball into Shay Finney, but the home keeper was able to foil Saki Ahmadi as he got onto Finney’s pass. A minute later and it was Dan Needham’s turn to have a shot saved, this time it was Louis Downs, playing in a deeper role hitting the diagonal ball after a fine turn by Finney on the half way line.
The opening goal came just before the twenty-minute mark, Callum Feeney set Ahmadi in on goal and the electric paced forward found the corner despite home keeper James Downhill getting a touch on the ball. Within a minute the Eagles almost doubled their lead, Downs fed Needham, whose shot was well saved, at the other end Maine Road nearly equalised with a header from a corner.
For the remainder of the half Eccleshall should have had the game wrapped up, Downs and Needham had efforts saved, Needham’s coming via Jordan Bennion’s diagonal pass, Needham then found himself on the end of a move that involved Ahmadi and Downs, Downhill again did well to smoother. Carr had a curling shot saved and just before the interval he almost got on the end of Needham’s cross.
HT. Maine Road 0 Eccleshall FC 1
After the break Maine Road showed more purpose in their play and came close to levelling the game on two occasions, although Reece Quinn wasn’t called into action. At the other end Eccy were still making chances, Downs missing the target and Needham losing out as battled his way through the home defence.
On sixty-seven minutes Farrington made his first change, White replacing Carr, who had been struggling with an ankle knock, picked up last Saturday.
Maine Road were still having the better of the game and the equaliser came with twenty minutes to go, a cross from the left was met by Joseph O’Brien, who gave Quinn no chance from 10 yards. The home side then pushed on for the winner, but again Quinn wasn’t forced into action.
Matt Quimby replaced Walsh, who had had an excellent debut, Quimby went into right back and skipper Harvey Collins anchored the midfield.
Eccleshall regained a hold on the game, Downs had a shot blocked and Ahmadi and Finney fired over the bar, Ahmadi then almost found White and then Needham, Ahmadi and Downs were all involved in the move that ended with White’s shot being saved.
The winner from Eccleshall was a stunning goal, Finney played White in down the left, the young striker moving the bouncing ball back onto his right and then found the top corner on the half volley.
Eccleshall survived late pressure as Quimby was forced to head over his own bar, but were able to see the game out.
FT. Maine Road 1 Eccleshall FC 2
Man of the match : Dan Needham
Farrington, who was taking charge of a side for the first time in a competitive match said “The lads produced a perfect, mature away performance in the first half we completely controlled the game, creating four or five genuinely good chances which we have to be more clinical with. In the second half Maine Road upped their performance level, with constant long balls and pressed us harder. They got their goal and looked to be the team to kick on and win but we showed great heart and courage to continue doing the right things and Reece White has taken down a pass from Shay Finney with a sensational touch before launching a half volley into the top corner with a minute to play. The scenes both on the pitch and in the dressing room after really do highlight what a special group we have. The important thing is now to take our qualities displayed today forward throughout the season”.
Eccleshall FC : Quinn, Collins (c), Feeney, Thomas, Bennion, Carr (White), Needham, Walsh (Quimby), Finney, Downs, Ahmadi (Dunn). Sub not used : Baker-Haynes