Great Harwood Town 2 Bootle 0
Town see off challenge of First Division Bootle
GREAT HARWOOD TOWN, currently level on points at the top of the Second Division, turned on the style to clinch a place in the fourth round of the North West Counties League Cup with a very impressive victory over First Division Bootle.
Goals either side of the interval by strike partners Mark Bennett and Peter McCrae earned Harwood a place in the last 16 of the knockout competition and proved that they need have nothing to fear from top flight opposition.
Harwood contained the Merseysiders well in the opening stages and after going 2-0 up within three minutes of the resumption after half time, held onto their advantage well, with their defence looking as solid as ever.
The visitors, who are in the bottom half of the First Division, looked lively in the opening stages and in fact had an attempt by Paul Brown from 10 yards cleared off the line by Mark Jones with Dave Mottershead-back in the Harwood goal after injury-lying beaten.
Apart from that, Bootle’s first half excursions forward brought little reward, with Mottershead looking in fine form and the back four coping well with whatever came their way.
Harwood’s first chance of the match came in the seventh minute when a shot by Steve Benko was parried by Bootle’s ‘keeper Terry Cullen but the rebound was put wide of the target by Nigel Burton.
A minute later, Bootle’s Alan Clark fired wide of the target from 20 yards after a good run.
In the 22 nd minute, a neat chip by Benko was caught just under the bar by Cullen and then came that effort of Brown’s which was cleared off the line at the other end.
After 34 minutes, Harwood went desperately close to breaking the deadlock when a header by Benko from a right wing cross seemed to be heading into the bottom right hand corner of the net but Cullen got across well to tip it round the post.
Four minutes later, however, Harwood made no mistake as Bennett, who had a very impressive game, gave them the lead, latching onto a loose ball 20 yards out, taking it forward, beating the advancing Cullen and slotting it home from just inside the area.
That gave the home side the advantage and three minutes into the second half, they added to their lead when Bennett laid off a lovely ball to McCrae from a long ball by Shaun Astin and McCrae, who scored his first gaol for the club in the league draw at Warrington 10 days earlier, put the ball away.
Harwood remained good value for their lead throughout the second half, coping well with some heavy pressure from the visitors as they desperately tried to get back into the reckoning.
With the cushion of a two goal lead, Harwood always looked the stronger side and hopefully, the victory over opposition from a higher division, will prove a morale-booster in their promotion bid as well as bringing them a lucrative tie in the next round of the league cup, not due to be played until late February or early March.
The Bootle tie was initially scheduled to be played last Saturday but was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch and the midweek re-arrangement certainly brought the financial boost of a far bigger gate than the club could have expected on a Saturday.
Great Harwood Town: Mottershead, Vercoe, Astin, Martin, Jones, Blackburn, Moran, Benko, McCrae, Bennett, Burton Lally. Sub: Gouldsborough.
Bootle: Cullen, Walmsley, Humphreys, Gillespie, O’Connor, Kinnear, Winstanley, Renshaw, Grant, Brown, Clark. Sub: Brennan.