Audlem Football Club were knocked out of the Crewe FA Sunday Cup after an entertaining 5-3 defeat at Willaston White Star on Sunday. Despite matching their higher division opponents for long periods, the visitors ultimately fell short.
Audlem went into the game on a high after a penalty shoot-out victory over Raven Salvador a fortnight ago, and a squad of 16 were available to choose from. After heavy rain overnight and all morning, the newly created White Star pitches were heavy and muddy, churning up during the warm-up, but perfectly playable.
After an impeccable two minute silence, the game kicked off. It was Audlem who created first, with Will Cork getting on the end of a slick passing move, only for the White Star 'keeper to pull of a good save.
The hosts played their way into the game, and took the lead on ten minutes. After working the ball wide, Audlem were to slow to stop the cross, which was turned in from close range. 1-0.
Both sides were cancelling each other out, with Audlem taking a more direct approach than usual due to conditions, and Ben Walker and Nick Gregory causing problems for the White Star defence. The team were linking well, but it was a piece of individual magic which brought them level. A mis-placed pass out of defence from Iain Chaulker fell at the feet of Nick Gregory, who took aim 35 yards out, and smashed the ball into the top corner. An absolute worldie, and goal of the season contender. 1-1.
The hosts were rocked and Audlem created more chances, forcing corners and free kicks which were defended unconvincingly. Will Cork had a decent opportunity which was well saved as Audlem turned the screw. But it was Willaston who retook the lead. A long ball down field wasn't dealt with, and the striker finished low into the bottom corner. 2-1.
Things nearly got much worse for the visitors, and the Willaston centre forward drove into the penalty area and was brought down between two defenders. The resultant penalty was brilliantly saved low by Connor Baxter. 2-1 at the break.
Into the second half, and as conditions worsened Willaston stepped up through the gears. Following an attack down the right, the winger was brought down, and a second penalty of the morning was awarded. No mistake this time. 3-1.
Audlem hit back within a minute. A Rich Goodwin free kick from deep was headed home by Nick Gregory. 3-2.
As before, every time Audlem got back into the game, Willaston edged ahead again, but this time, with huge controversy. After a Willaston corner, the ball was bundled home off the hand of their player, seen by everyone except the referee. 4-2.
Substitutes came on, and added legs onto the pitch, and it was Shea Bebbington who was at the centre of the action, as he was lashed out at by a Willaston player, who received his marching orders. Down to 10 men, and 20 minutes to play, Audlem changed formation and went more direct, and started to pin the hosts back. Good chances came and went for Nick Gregory, before a drive into the box resulted in a clear penalty. Nick Gregory completed his hat-trick. 4-3.
The hosts were rocking, and Audlem continued to create, but despite forcing a number of corners, the clear opportunity never came. With eight minutes to play, the game was put to bed. Following a break away, a Willaston player was fouled on the edge of the area. The resultant free kick was put away well into the bottom corner. 5-3.
The game fizzled out with no more incident, with Willaston taking a hard fought victory to progress to the next round. On a challenging pitch, Audlem were a match for their Premier Division opponents, but ultimately fell short by small margins.