Mellor Thirds took a giant step towards reaching the Whitehead Cup semi-final by drubbing Division B rivals Bedians 6-2.

But they owed a huge debt to keeper Jamie McGregor who made vital saves when the game was still in the balance.

In the early stages of the Cup games are played on a league basis, with the winners of each of four groups going through to the semis.

Bedians adapted quicker to the 4G surface and dominated the first 30 minutes.

But as soon as Mellor found their rhythm the passing and movement proved too much for the men from Didsbury.

Kev Murray, who was inspirational up front in a 4-5-1 formation almost gave Mellor the lead in two minutes, side footing Man of the Match Lewis Jeffs' free kick wide from a central position 14 yards out.

Kev Murray wore boots made for Andy Carroll


Bedians began to threaten with some good close passing.
But on 18 minutes Mellor carved out another chance, Murray holding the ball up well and switching the play to feed Rick Axford on the left wing whose cross shot was wide.

Bedians then sent in a dangerous cross of their own that bisected Mellor's area.

Tom Bradley was proving a handful to Bedians' left back but two muscular raids failed to penetrate the visitors' back line.

On 21 minutes a rare error by Ste Whelan might have proved costly but Craig Fairfield blocked a shot at the expense of a corner.

On 23 minutes McGregor made the first of a string of fine saves, plunging to his left to get a strong left hand to a low shot destined for the bottom corner.

A minute later Jeffs put in a 30 yarder which Bedians' keeper saved comfortably.

Jeffs was pulling the strings in Mellor's midfield but his colleagues were not making the runs to give him passing options.
On 28 minutes an error by Steve Baguley saw a gap open up in Mellor' s rearguard and this time the Bedians' forward gave McGregor no chance with a fine low drive.

On 31 minutes a Jeffs' free kick on the right was a little too heavy and went straight out. Two minutes later Bradley finally got beyond his full back but his cut-back was cleared.

Jeffs then sent in another long range effort that was deflected for a corner.
On 34 minutes Baguley was on hand to clear the danger as a Bedians forward was about to pull the trigger.

From the resulting corner Bedians missed an easy header.
A minute later a superb flowing move saw the ball switched from Bradley to Whelan and then on to Rick Axford in the inside right channel and his shot arrowed into the top left hand corner of the net for 1-1.


Rick Axford finds the top corner


Bedians came again and on 40 minutes McGregor had to dive full length to his left again to turn a fierce drive away.
It was end-to-end now and on 42 minutes Jack Kuehl's run on the left wing set up Kev Murray who held off two defenders to drive the ball low and hard inside the near post for 2-1.

There was still time for McGregor to make a third stop, low down.

Mellor began the second period as they had ended the first.
Nick Broadway sent in a shot on the turn which Bedians' keeper saved at full stretch.

On 48 minutes after good work on the right by Rick Axford Murray got his shot away under pressure and saw it canon off the far left hand post and in for 3-1.


Murray scores with a low drive


Bradley had another excellent run on 50 minutes but his cross was cut out by the keeper with Murray waiting to pounce.
Bedians squandered a sharp headed chance from 15 yards out.

Then Murray looked certain to score when a last ditch tackle denied him.

A Mellor move down the left broke down and Bedians launched a piercing counter attack which ended in a clinical cross shot which found the far corner of Mellor's net for 3-2.

The revival was short lived. Jeffs put over a free kick and Fairfield, appearing late at the far post, headed the ball across the keeper and into the far corner. 4-2.

Marcus McNulty then replaced Bradley.

On 61 minutes Murray flicked on a long kick out, Whelan fed Axford and the winger's unerring volley found the net for 5-2.
Bedians began making errors in the back line but up front they still presented occasional problems.


Axford's volleyed goal


The longer the game went on, however, Andy and Jack Kuehl grew in confidence to bottle up the wings.
And Fairfield and Baguley were quick to snuff out any threats in the middle.

Bedians did break through on 65 minutes but McGregor was quick off his line and diverted the forward's shot for a corner with his legs in a one-on-one.

From a corner Bedians missed a sitter on 66 minutes.
Tom Bright replaced Murray on 68 minutes and might have had a hat trick.

A minute later Matt McNulty came on for Broadway.
On 72 minutes an incisive Mellor break saw Whelan cross from the right, Bright dummied, and Marcus McNulty was free to make no mistake with a powerful shot for 6-2.

Tom Bright then sent in a blistering shot on 75 minutes only to be denied by a great save.
On 81 minutes Bright missed from three yards.

On 84 minutes McGregor made his best save of the match plunging high to his left to turn away a stinging 25 yarder.
Bedians fashioned two half chances, Andy Kuehl snuffing out the first danger with an overhead kick, then Baguley blocked a goalbound drive.

Finally, Tom Bight then lobbed over the bar when he should really have netted.

The Firsts lost 3-2 against Spurley Hey away after leading 2-0. Adam Barlow and Dave Whelan scored. Tom Byrne was Mellor's star man, with Jack Hilton not far behind.


Nick Broadway's shot on the turn

Murray and Broadway threaten

Murray misses an early chance

Jamie McGregor collects the ball

Jeffs' free kick is a little too strong

Broadway and Whelan await a corner

Tom Bradley on the charge






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Adam Barlow, scored for the Firsts
Dave Whelan scored for the Firsts
Rick Axford, two goals for the Thirds

Lewis Jeffs....Thirds' Man of the Match

Kev Murray....two more goals for the Thirds
Nick Broadway, hard working in midfield
Jamie McGregor, great saves