Nelson given a reality check on their return to league football

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REFORMED Nelson have faced a tough baptism back in the North West Counties League, losing twice and conceding 14 goals in the process.

On Saturday they lost 9-1 at home to Irlam.

In the first half, there was little evidence of what was to come after the break.

On a perfect pitch prepared by the home groundstaff, play opened at a fast pace, and early exchanges were even.

However, after 15 minutes, an indirect free kick was turned into the Nelson net by Lee McNally.

Nelson then forced three corners in succession, but they led to nothing.

Midway through the half, Irlam broke away down the right, and although Baldwin saved the initial shot, McNally forced in the rebound.

Irlam’s keeper then saved at full stretch as Nelson looked for a way back into the game, before Hafeji Khalim headed over from a good position as the Blues went in 2-0 down.

After the break, Nasir Hussain saw his lob bounbce back off the top of the bar as Nelson started well, but shortly after McNally completed his hat-trick, and two minutes later Liam Sweeney made it 4-0.

To their credit, Nelson kept plugging away, and only a minute after coming on as a substitute, former Clitheroe striker Jerrome Matthews headed in a consolation goal.

Hussain then hit a free kick just over, before the floodgates opened, with Irlam seemingly able to score at will.

First Daniel Butters scored the visitors’ fifth, and Chris Palmer added a sixth past a bewildered home defence.

In a rare Nelson attack, substitute Shakeel Butt shot over, but it was soon 7-1 as substitute Gary Prescott stroked the ball home.

The Blues then gave away a penalty which Palmer converted with ease.

Adam Pegg then got in on the act by notching Irlam’s ninth from fully 30 metres out, rounding off something of a reality check for the Blues’ management team as they adjust to life back at this level.

However, despite a 5-2 defeat at Rochdale Town on Tuesday night, there were encouraging signs, with the Blues twice taking the lead before fading.

They might have taken an early lead through Matthews, but after rounding the keeper, his shot held up in the long grass - on a pitch used by rugby league side Rochdale Mayfield.

But Dennis Hill put them ahead with a fine left-foot strike after five minutes, following a short corner.

Debutant Carl Busby in goal did well to keep the hosts out, before Martin Payne was denied a second as his shot hit the side-netting.

Hill then rattled the bar, before Anthony Rutlidge had a goal chalked off for off-side.

As half-time approached, former Blue Chris Ogunyode centred for evans to equaliser.

After the break, Matthews netted for the second successive game from Majid Ahmed’s cross, before a harsh penalty award saw Hodson level from the spot.

Evans raced away to net his second after Hill lost possession in midfield, and after Highton hit the foot of the post for Town, Evans completed his hat-trick, before adding a fourth to put a flattering sheen on the scoreline.

Busby certainly didn’t deserve to concede five after a superb display in goal.

Nelson are at Ashton Town tomorrow.