Newcastle Chemfica 2 Ponteland United 4 Northern Alliance, Division One
UNITED were at the bare bones for the visit to Newcastle Chemfica with no fewer than nine players injured or unavailable – but this didn’t impact upon a scintillating display.
On a superb pitch, the visitors passed the ball around with speed and pinpoint accuracy, which was a delight to watch.
Ford and Cook upfront were causing the home team some problems and Pont nearly went in front after 12 minutes when Ford back-headed Armstrong’s long clearance into the path of Cook, but his powerful shot was tipped over the bar by keeper Weatherstone. Then excellent build-up play between L’Argent and Rae finished with Holden just slipping the ball past the far post.
United did have the ball in the net on 15 minutes when the keeper failed to keep hold of Rankin’s stinging volley but Ford was adjudged offside as he tapped the rebound into the net.
The opening goal came after 25 minutes when Flynn burst from defence to surge forward and after a couple of stepovers crossed the ball to Cook, whose shot slipped under the unfortunate keeper.
Chemfica were chasing shadows as United sprayed the ball around.
Findlay fired over after excellent hold-up play by Ford and Rankin’s inviting cross was just deflected away from both Cook and Ford.
On 35 minutes United increased their lead and there was no luck about this one. A series of interpassing ended with Rae laying the ball off into the path of Findlay 20 yards from goal and the teenager fired low and true into the bottom corner for his first goal for the club.
As the half drew to a close Cook got his second. Findlay had battled hard to retain possession and found Ford but the keeper saved well only for the rebound to fall to Cook who made no mistake to make it 3-0 to Pont.
Five minutes into the second half Ponteland increased their lead when Rae’s probing pass found Ford down the left.
The tall striker cut inside the full-back before shooting in off the post for his third goal in three matches.
After this United never quite gained the heights of the first half and to their credit Chemfica kept going and didn’t let their heads drop.
They gradually came more into the game and had a good 15 minute spell as their opponents became sloppy.
With half-an-hour remaining, Steve McLaughlin found space in midfield and after a quick one-two was in on goal to side-foot the ball past United keeper Carter.
Ponteland continued to create chances but these were less frequent, although Holden spurned a glorious opportunity firing wide after excellent work down the left.
With ten minutes to go there was some controversy. Chemfica took a short corner and McLaughlin dribbled towards the penalty area before firing into the box.
The ball struck the unfortunate Steve Rae and the Assistant Referee signalled for a penalty to the surprise and displeasure of Rae and his teammates.
The spot-kick from McLaughlin was saved by Carter but the same referee’s assistant considered he had moved forward and the kick was re-taken. This time the spot-kick was blazed over the bar but again the Assistant signalled that the keeper had moved forward.
The referee had a discussion with him before pointing to the spot again. Carter then saved the third penalty, this time by Spence, but was helpless to stop Spence scoring from the rebound.
The goal gave Chemfica some hope as L’Argent hobbled off with a shin injury and was replaced by Bell. Flynn went on another marauding run charging forward from his own half and after a quick one-two was unlucky to see his rising drive clear the bar.
Ponteland manager Havelock has had some disappointments since he took charge of the club last season but after this performance he will have enjoyed Saturday night and deservedly so and will feel that the team is moving in the right direction.