Whitchurch Alport 2
Carlisle City 1

Alport maintained their unbeaten start to the Hallmark Security North West Counties League season on Saturday but could have won by a lot more.

A crowd of 202 at Yockings Park saw the home side dominate and go 2-0 up at the break when they really could have been five or six ahead. City got themselves back in the match early in the second half, which it made for a nervy ending, but the hosts held on.

The visitors’ preparation could hardly have been worse. What should have been a  three-hour journey turned into a four-hour one due to an incident on the motorway, and the coach did not pull into Black Park Road until 40 minutes before kick-off.  

When the game did get under way, City were behind in less than two minutes. A superb move down the right ended with Nick Marley fizzing the ball in at the near post and for Luke Walley to give Whitchurch the perfect start.

And when Ben Mills – a 24th minute substitute for the injured Si Everall – was felled in the box, it gave Mike Blundell a glorious chance to make it 2-0 on the half-hour.

However, Blundell’s spot kick clipped the top of the bar and went over, with keeper Michael Ballantyne diving the other way.

It was the striker’s first penalty miss in three years, but he responded well to lash the ball home two minutes later from a Stevie McNichol corner.

The goal inspired a 15-minute purple spell which could easily have seen Mills bag a quickfire hat-trick and put the game to bed.

He was unlucky to see a shot smack the base of a post but was guilty of a poor miss when Blundell’s cross should have brought a third goal for the home side in first-half stoppage time. But with the goal at his mercy, Mills could only find Ballantyne.

After the restart, Robert McCartney got Carlisle right back in it with a shot from outside the box which went into the net via an upright.

At the other end, Ballantyne made a great save to deny Mills from a powerful header and made a more routine stop to thwart Marley. Danny Read made a cracking save to push a shot wide but that was the closest City came to nicking a point.

And with Alport always a goal threat, Ballantyne had the last word with another really good save to turn over a great Mills effort.

On another day, Mills might have scored five or six goals and few would argue that Alport deserved the three points – despite a plucky effort from a decent Carlisle outfit.

For more reaction, see this week’s Herald.