With last Sunday's defeat to Admiral Park still raw today's game was an opportunity to bounce back and get our season back on track. Bootle as we witnessed last season will always provide a stern test and will keep on pushing until the final whistle and again this proved to be no exception. With games coming thick and fast squad rotation came into effect with Sam O'Neill and Gift Sibanda missing out with starts for James Boner alongside Dan Edge at the back and Ben Devlin moved into midfield following his cameo at left back on Easter Sunday. These changes saw Kaleb Sweeney move further forward as part of the front 3 alongside Zico and Alex McDonald.
We started the game superbly and only for wasteful finishing should have been 2 or 3 up in the opening 10 minutes. Alex McDonald failed to beat the keeper with 2 efforts and Jude Carroll found himself in unknown territory when Anthony Cooke's excellent long range effort was tipped onto the bar and the rebound looked like he had a tap in. The ball appeared to hit his knee and stay out. Despite being in control and dominating possession Bootle still offered a threat on the counter attack and they got their rewards for staying in the game just before half time to take the lead against the run of play.
Changes were made at half time with the introduction of O'Neill, Sibanda and Walker and we began to look more composed. The full backs offered great width and the game opened up. Captain Paddy Clegg was up for the battle putting in some bone crunching challenges and it was his deflected effort that come back to Kaleb who saw the ball creep in to level the scoring in the 47th minute. It took just 3 minutes for us to score our second which came via some excellent midfield play from George Walker who set Kaleb on his way down the left flank. He found Zico Williams who picked his head up and substitute Gift Sibanda tapped home for his 6th goal of the season. Zico then got in on the act when Anthony Cooke crossed for a far post finish to put us 3-1 up and settle a few nerves on the hour mark. Credit to Bootle though who yet again rolled their sleeves up and managed to score a second after a defensive mix up but minutes later Alex McDonald who came back on went on a direct run into the box, the defender slid to make a challenge which made it's way to Sibanda who got the merest of touches to score what was a landmark goal. It was our 500th career goal and saw our number 11 move level with Alex on 7 goals for the campaign. It should have got better for him however when Jude Carroll's superb cross was headed home only for the referee to rule the goal out with Anthony Cooke in an offside position. It was a very harsh decision given that Cooke didn't touch the ball and it denied what would have been a very well deserved and impressive second half hat-trick. What was deserved however was Bootle's absolute rocket in the last minute which gave Joe Wilson absolutely no chance. It was a top class strike and could have given Bootle a lifeline only for time to go against them.
On reflection although the scoreline was close it was a fully deserved win for our lads and puts us on 10 points in 4th position. We now have an opportunity to build on this with another contest lined up vs Admiral Park who currently sit top of the league on Thursday night.