By Chris Sweetman
GOALS from James Askey and Ryan Baxter gave Newcastle Town a much-needed win as they beat Bootle 2-1 at the Berry Street Garage Stadium. Newcastle went into the game desperately hoping to end a run of three straight away defeats, and build space between themselves and the relegation zone.
The visitors also handed debuts to three new signings, with Joe Thompson and Luke Walsh starting, and Max Chimenes on the bench Newcastle started brightly, and took the lead midway through the first half as Askey headed in Oliver Ritchie’s free kick.
Baxter extended the lead on the stroke of halftime, as he raced on to Will Lloyd’s through ball and produced a smart finish.
Bootle came back strong in the second half, laying siege to the Newcastle goal for large periods. However, their own wastefulness and smart goalkeeping by Newcastle’s Joe Slinn meant that substitute Connor Millington’s goal was all they could produce as Newcastle held on to secure the win.
Playing with the wind in the first half, Newcastle began the game quickly, with Nathan Morley’s early cross flying just ahead of Baxter.
Minutes later, an interception saw Newcastle surge forward, but Walsh’s shot was straight at Bootle keeper Archie Cunningham. Another Newcastle break – sparked by Lloyd – saw Morley in shooting position, but his shot was blocked by Jacques Welsh.
The visitors were dominating the opening exchanges, but Bootle possessed their own threat – especially on the break – as proved when Slinn had to be alert to beat Arthur Lomax-Jones to a long ball.
However, Newcastle were racking up the chances, with Thompson firing over, before Morley volleyed wide.
Then Morley was played in behind, but his shot was blocked for a corner, before Bootle went the other end and Lomax-Jones forced a save from Slinn. Newcastle went back on the attack, with and excellent build up leading to Cunningham being forced to cut out Walsh’s cross himself.
Minutes later the visitors took a well-deserved lead, as Ritchie’s free kick delivery hit the perfect area for Askey to head in for his first goal of 2023.
The lead was just reward for a strong opening half hour from Newcastle, and they nearly had another from a second free kick, but Morley’s shot went over the bar.
Bootle were pushing for an equaliser, with Slinn called into action twice in quick succession – first to save Eddie Clarke’s shot, and then to claim a cross to diffuse the host’s pressure.
The rest of the half was largely scrappy, with neither side able to keep hold of the ball long enough to build pressure, and both reliant on breaks for chances.
However, with half time imminent, Lloyd broke free in the centre of the field, and his pass slipped Baxter in behind the Bootle defence, and he rounded Cunningham before sliding the ball home.
The goal was Baxter’s first since he was recalled from Stone Old Alleynians, and meant the Newcastle took a comfortable cushion into the break.
With Newcastle now playing into the wind, Bootle started the second half at a canter, with Jack McGowan breaking and setting up Ben Rydel, who chipped straight to Slinn.
Rydel fired over moments later, before Newcastle launched their first stack of the half, with Walsh and Lloyd combining to feed Morley, who volleyed wide.
Minutes later, Lloyd broke again and fed Morley, who cross for Baxter, but his shot rebounded away off a defender.
Immediately afterwards, McGowan got in on goal for Bootle, but Slinn made himself big to save, before Welsh fired a powerful shot straight at him.
Bootle were starting to take control of the game, but they were showing a frequent inaccuracy with their final ball, which allowed Slinn to claim most of them.
It was becoming clear that Newcastle may have needed a third goal to secure the points, and they thought they had just after the hour mark as Baxter headed in, but he was offside, and the goal was disallowed.
Bootle then had another spell of pressure, but once again showed a lack of accuracy with shots fired well over, or crosses being perfectly placed for Slinn to claim.
However, Bootle finally got the breakthrough with ten minutes to go, as Millington (who had just come on for Rydel) pounced on a Newcastle clearance to hammer home from the edge of the area.
The goal invigorated the hosts, who pushed hard for the equaliser, with another substitute Sam Taylor proving a real outlet.
However, despite getting themselves into better shooting positions, Bootle were unable to get any attempts on target, with Taylor and Lomax-Jones both firing wide.
Instead, Newcastle rode out the storm to secure a vital three points and move within a point of Bootle.
Newcastle stay 15th in the table, but crucially are now five points clear of the relegation playoffs and have closed the gap on the midtable group.
Newcastle’s long run of away matches ends on Tuesday against Witton Albion, where they have a chance to rise as high as ninth, before they hosts Skelmersdale United on Saturday.