Wallington 3 Ponteland United 0 Kicks Leisure George Dobbins League Cup Semi-Final
THE snow on Saturday caused havoc once again with the Northern Alliance fixtures in the North East, but Scots Gap was not as badly hit as other areas and the match between the two Division One sides went ahead.
And it was The Greens who went through to the final after they blew their opponents out of the water in a dazzling first half that gave the home spectators something to dance about on a bitterly cold afternoon.
With Holden, Lamb and Kent working and the influential Armstrong along with manager Havelock away, United travelled north to face a team that only two weeks ago beat them in a close encounter on their own patch in the league.
For Wallington, a groin strain ruled out Chris Moffit from the game while John Paxton’s injury again forced him to watch from the sidelines.
United’s Hodgson was the first to try his luck with a strong strike from distance, which keeper Matty Lees saved comfortably. Then on eight minutes, Jones was penalised just outside the Ponteland penalty area and Taylor had to palm away Jake Walton’s excellent free-kick.
From the resultant corner, Jordan Nellis’ delivery from the right was flicked on at the near-post by Ben Fenwick straight into the path of his defensive partner Justin Millican, who took one touch before lashing the ball high into the net from eight yards.
The early pressure was with Wallington, but on 15 minutes, Dan Wright was through on goal and the equaliser looked inevitable, however Lees threw up an arm to thwart the striker.
And Pont were made to pay as the hosts went 2-0 ahead.
Chasing a ball he had no right to win, Nellis outpaced and outmuscled a Ponteland centre-half down the right-hand side.
Slaloming his way past him, he cut the ball back cleverly and Gilmartin was on hand to finish high into the net to bring up his sixth goal of the season.
Ponteland suffered a further set back when key striker Wright limped off with a calf strain just after the goal was scored to be replaced by Anderson.
On the half-hour mark, Wallington gave United a hill to climb when Sam Walton buried his shot from 30 yards after a quick Kyle Reardon throw-in and Alex Slack assist.
It would have been a perfect view of the goal for home keeper Lees as Walton glided forward in the centre of the pitch before arrowing his right-foot shot low past the keeper, who stood frozen (possibly literally) to the spot.
Snow started to fall and resulted in the yellow ball making its first appearance of the season, although thankfully for the home side it eased up and the game did not have to be stopped.
With half-time approaching, United produced a good move when Rae found Rankin and his cross was met by Anderson but the keeper saved well. Then Rae himself was through on goal but again Lees did well to ensure his team went in at the interval with a three-goal cushion and in full control.
In the second half, a resurgent Ponteland improved but still found it difficult against the Wallington back-line. They enjoyed more possession, with the home side happy to soak up the pressure and hit them on the counter in search of the game-clinching fourth goal.
Rankin hit a free-kick which was straight at the keeper and then Findlay had a shot which went over the bar. With only five minutes gone in the second half, Davidson replaced Hodgson in an attempt to push Ponteland forward but Wallington always looked dangerous on the counter.
Sam Walton slipped in his brother Jake after a long stride upfield, but his younger sibling could only find the side-netting. Ten minutes later and an even better chance to seal a final date with either Blyth Isabella or Heaton Stannington came about when Reardon’s crossfield run was picked out expertly by Trevor Baston.
The full-back’s lofted pass fell perfectly into the path of Reardon, who beat the offside trap but not the keeper as he palmed his shot just past the post.
Willis came on for Cook for the last 30 minutes and his first contribution was to fire a shot which had Lees diving across his goal to turn the ball round the post for a corner.
The hosts also made changes as Aaron Hicken replaced captain Slack, while Davy Featherstone returned for his most recent cameo when he replaced Gilmartin.
United continued to press and string a few passes together, but apart from forcing Lees to make one more good save, they did not create any other clear-cut scoring opportunities or build up sufficient intensive pressure to trouble the Wallington defence, which managed to keep a clean sheet.