Ponteland United 0 Wallsend Boys Club 4 Northern Alliance, Nike Division One
With both teams having an outside chance of promotion, this was expected to be a close contest with the teams having drawn the corresponding fixture six months ago.
For once this season, United had a full squad to pick from and welcomed back to the club Ryan Potts after recovering from injury.
The visitors showed early intent on two minutes when Jason Walsh got the better of Peter Scott down the left, but United’s stopper playing at full-back brought him down and received an early warning from the referee.
The free kick didn’t pose a problem and United cleared.
United then showed their capabilities going forward, first with Zac Bewley on 12 minutes dribbling past a couple of defenders but his shot was well saved by Richardson.
Then Rae fed Jack L’Argent down the left, and his good cross into the goal area was cleared for a corner. The corner was wasted with the ball curving out for a goal kick before reaching the goal area.
On 20 minutes, Hibbitt also found L’Argent with an excellent ball over the full-back and L’Argent this time played a low cross into the box for Cook but he just couldn’t get enough on the shot to trouble Richardson who saved comfortably.
On 24 minutes the visitors then scored possibly against the run of play.
Play was brought back for a trip just outside the Ponteland area and from the set piece the ball wasn’t cleared by United and Michael Pooley was on hand to take advantage and score.
The dangerous Jason Walsh then brought a good save from Pont’s keeper Walker with Paul Jones helping to complete the clearance.
On 25 minutes, United produced the best move of the game so far.
Teenager Havelock-Brown found Cook galloping down the left and the striker played the ball back to Zac Bewley who teed himself up before unleashing a goal-bound shot which was blocked and away for a corner.
Five minutes later, Cook again got beyond the defence, this time on the right, and cut in on a tight angle but his cross-come-shot went all across the goal and away from danger.
Half-time came with United somewhat unlucky to be losing but with all to play for in the second half.
The second half continued just like the first with no real clear-cut opportunities.
The visitors were holding a strong back line but with the skills of Cook and Bewley one expected a Ponteland breakthrough at some stage.
Tension, however, was beginning to build as both sides recognised the importance of the match.
L’Argent was brought down twice in the space of 30 seconds by Jordan Robertson and the two players were cautioned after L’Argent’s understandable reaction. Hibbitt and Wallsend’s Cowx also found themselves in the book as they came together following a challenge.
The game all changed as a contest on 65 minutes. Substitute Nicky Whitelaw raced onto a ball with Pont’s keeper Walker and with the keeper being favourite, the forward managed to get there first and steer the ball into the net.
As the players got up from the ground, Walker was alleged to have pushed Whitelaw in the face and was promptly shown a red card which the player contested vehemently.
Teenager Rory Spencer, who had been excellent and composed, donned the goalkeeper’s jersey and was unfortunately beaten five minutes later by Michael Starkie to effectively kill off the game.
Despite a three-goal lead, the incidents didn’t stop. Wallsend’s Sean Cowx who, despite being on a yellow, was shown a straight red for a reckless challenge with only 10 minutes remaining.
Ponteland didn’t really go for damage limitation after their dismissal and kept the game open which was their undoing and conceded a fourth by William James on 85 minutes.
Despite the defeat, the performance by United at least until the 65 minute was good and the outcome may have been different if they had taken the chances which came their way especially in the first half. The promise and expectation evaporated in minute 65 of the game.