The feeling on Merseyside has very much been purple since City of Liverpool’s FA Trophy win over Buxton. But Wednesday night left them feeling slightly grey with disappointment as they held Widnes.
Josh Quarless came back to haunt his former club as he levelled proceedings just 10 minutes from time in a 1-1 draw, after Sean Miller opened the scoring with a superb free-kick.
The Purps returned to league action, days after their famous FA Trophy win over the National League North. Callum Schorah, Quarless and Danny Mitchley etched themselves into the history books with the goals to down the 2021-22 Northern Premier League champions.
After enjoying such a high then to be drawn out of the hat at home to Hartlepool United, a former Football League side – now a midtable National League outfit, the Purps failed to match the heights of their previous trip in a drab game in Widnes.
The focus returned to the Northern Premier League West where they sat eight points off the playoffs, going into their Wednesday night encounter at the DCBL Stadium.
It was a largely uneventful first 45 between 14th and 15th in the Northern Premier League West.
Elliot Morris looked sharp and fashioned the first opportunity of the match on his City of Liverpool debut, after completing a move from Northern Premier League side FC United of Manchester this week.
But after a tense opening 40 minutes, the hosts broke the deadlock. Sean Miller expertly curled a free-kick past Calvin Hare from long-range to send Widnes into the break in front.
“I’m disappointed we haven’t won it but I’ll take the point because I don’t think it was a very good game,” Paul McNally reflected post-match speaking to Off The Park.
“Until half-time, I thought we were lethargic, disinterested and we wasn’t in the game, a point is probably is probably a good one.
“In the second-half we were better, we were on the front foot, a bit more hungry to the first and second balls, playing with desire but there wasn’t really any quality from either side.”
Much alike the first, the second half was scrappy with neither side enjoying a grander share of possession. With flashes on goal, Widnes threatened but it was City of Liverpool who knocked on the door in search of an avenue back into the game.
Jack McGowan was introduced as a half-time substitute for the hosts and almost made an immediate impact, flashing an effort past the post.
Miller also came close to doubling Widnes’ lead and his tally for the evening when his curling effort whistled past the post.
City of Liverpool responded through Jawad Jebrin and Jack Hont. The former Lower Breck attacker unleashed a half-volley from 12 yards but could only sting the palms of Cameron Terry.
Hont couldn’t keep his poked effort down, moments later, after reacting fastest to a loose ball in the box.
McGowan would then squander a golden opportunity to add a two goal cushion as he failed to cap a fine move after Kris Holt burst forward, as he was dispossessed at the crucial moment – in what would be a rare venture forward for Widnes as they weathered a storm from the visitors.
But 10 minutes from time, it was the Purps contingent in Halton who were making all the noise, after Quarless was Johnny-on-the-spot to equalise for McNally’s side.
Max Allen, who enjoyed a solid midfield performance, swung a ball in which ricocheted goalwards only for the towering forward to acrobatically poke home against his former club.
And it was the hosts who would push for a winner. Allen’s free-kick on the edge of the box looped agonisingly wide before Hont was left looking despairingly to the gods after his effort hobbled through a sea of bodies and go the wrong side of the post.
However, neither side could be separated and were made to settle for a point.
“It’s only a good point if we back it up on Saturday with three points and another one after that. It becomes a bad point if you don’t win your next few games,” the City of Liverpool boss added.
“There was some lethargicness to some of the players, it’s not acceptable to me, but it’s understandable after Saturday for 99 minutes against a National League North team.
“They’ve come into this game on a huge pitch, against an awkward but a good side, work hard, organised, hard to break down and they frustrated us. But a fair point.”