Percy Main 2
Ponteland United 3
NFA Senior Benevolent Bowl
UNITED made two enforced changes for the semi-final of the NFA Sagicor Senior Benevolent Bowl on Saturday, bringing in Rankin for the injured Jones and Holden for the absent Kent from the team which beat Northbank last week.
Stuart Taylor, in goal for Ponteland, found himself picking the ball out of the net within a minute before any of his team-mates had even touched the ball.
A cross from the right caught his defence cold, with Scott Pocklington getting on the blind side of Rankin to fire the Cottages in front.
Main were eagerly looking for a second and a free-kick from Pocklington cleared the bar without troubling Taylor.
However, the lead only lasted a few minutes as Dan Wright charged a defensive clearance and cut inside, before laying the ball back to strike partner Billy Holden to level the scores.
On the quarter-hour mark, United were in front when Davidson played a superb ball into the run of Wright, who simply steered his header past McGregor.
Shortly afterwards, United stretched the Main rearguard with a lightning break by Holden down the left, with both Wright and Anderson in full support. Holden’s cross found Wright, who collected and turned, but his shot was part-blocked and the ball just evaded Anderson at the far-post with the goal at his mercy.
On 20 minutes, Scott won the ball in midfield and it fell to Wright just inside the Main half.
With instant control and quick feet, he accelerated away with the ball through a gap and headed towards goal.
As keeper McGregor approached, he shot firm and true with a confident finish to suddenly turn this tie upside down and put United firmly in control.
Main’s threat was down the left with Pocklington and, on 30 minutes, he received a short corner before shooting low into a crowded goalmouth.
Taylor did well to parry it away, but the ball fell to centre-back Michael Haley, who skied it over the bar when it was easier to score.
Ten minutes before half-time, the home side had their best chance when a mix-up between L’Argent and Armstrong allowed centre-forward Christopher Bell a clear run towards goal, but Taylor timed his dive at the feet of the striker to perfection and collected the ball.
United pressed just before half-time with Rae getting on the end of a Davidson corner, but his volley was well blocked.
Some calmness was restored at the start of the second half, with Pont looking in control and Main not causing Taylor any real problems.
A quick throw found Rankin down the right but his cross to the near-post was saved by McGregor.
Hodgson failed to control a ball in his own half on the pitch which was starting to cut up and substitute Robert Rodgerson, for the home side, advanced towards goal, but he shot well wide of the target.
Then Ryan Laws tried his luck with a free-kick just outside the black-and-whites’ area, but he slashed his shot wildly again without troubling Taylor.
With just over 20 minutes to go, United had their best opportunity in the second half to make the game safe.
Wright burst down the right before playing in Holden inside the penalty area. It took a series of four blocked tackles to deny the striker as he turned one way then the other to create a better opening for himself, but in the end, it all came to nothing and the danger was cleared for a corner.
With 15 minutes to go, Main made a determined effort to try to salvage something from the game, but inevitably were leaving themselves vulnerable and exposed to the speed of the visitors’ attack on the counter.
Anderson down the right for Pont had another good opportunity to put the game beyond Main, but his shot from a good position went wide of the goal with both Holden and Wright waiting patiently for the pull-back.
Then with 10 minutes to go, Main’s star man Pocklington tried his luck from distance and his sweet strike flew into the top corner to give his team hope in a tense finale.
With Main giving everything, it was Pont who still had the better chances at the end when Rae put Anderson through, but he sliced his right-foot shot wide and then Willis was free down the left and cut inside before hitting the outside of the post with McGregor beaten.
The referee, who had had a good game, blew the final whistle and all players trudged off the field with Ponteland having more spring in their step and, despite Main’s efforts at the end, fully deserved to reach the NFA Sagicor Senior Benevolent Bowl final in an excellent game on an increasingly-difficult surface.