Wooler 1 Ponteland United 2 (aet) Bay Plastics Combination Cup, Round One
United made a return visit to Wooler for this first round of the Combination Cup following their win in the opening game of the season.
With five teenagers in the starting 11 and another on the subs bench, this was a young team representing the black and whites.
In the early stages, there weren’t any real clear-cut opportunities but those that did occur fell to Wooler’s Mark Forrest.
United’s midfield of Hibbitt, Doyle and Rae played some delightful football and, using the speed of Cambridge, created opportunities down the right but Wooler’s defence held firm.
The game was fairly even with neither goalkeeper being tested to any extent with Forrest looking the one most likely to get on the score sheet.
United started brightly at the beginning of the second half. Dunn found Cambridge out on the right but his mistimed shot was cleared for a corner.
From Rae’s corner, the ball fell to debutant Spencer, who showed excellent technique to smack it on the volley but right into the back of a defender.
Ponteland were pressing and on 50 minutes Doyle improvised with a clever back-heel in the goal area from Dunn’s cross but the effort was stopped on the line.
Doyle was involved again on 55 minutes laying the ball off neatly to his captain Stevie Rae. The skipper used all of his skill and composure to create an opening before firing into the bottom corner with his right foot to put Pont in front (0-1).
Ponteland were now in the ascendancy as their confidence grew. Hibbitt who had been suffering with a cold was replaced by Bewley with half-an-hour to go.
Then on 63 minutes, with Scott receiving treatment, Wooler had a free-kick 10 yards inside Pont’s half which somehow went over everyone to find Forrest lurking at the back-post and, unchallenged, he went on to slide the ball past Taylor to restore parity (1-1). The match was now in a delicate situation with possibly one goal being sufficient to win the tie.
At the start of extra-time, the speedy Cowan got down the left but his shot hit the outside of the upright and as limbs tired passes started to go astray. The half ended with no change to the scoreline.
In the final period, teenager Skidmore, again deputising for the injured L’Argent at left-back, made a strong run, dribbling cleverly into Wooler’s penalty area, but he hit the side-netting when well placed.
United were starting to have some joy down the left and, with 10 minutes remaining, Bewley made a powerful run down the wing before playing the ball to captain Rae, who again showed his experience and skill in the penalty area to this time shoot left-footed past Avery (1-2).
Minutes later Bewley made another run and was unlucky to see his shot hit the inside of the post and along the goal-line before going out for a goal-kick.
The match was then marred at the death by Dunn, who had already been cautioned.
With minutes ticking away, the teenager took the ball to the corner flag where he was challenged strongly. As the ball went out for a corner, Dunn reacted and naively kicked out for which he received a second yellow card.
Although down to 10 men, Ponteland were able to see the game out and nearly scored again from two opportunities when Cambridge hit the side netting and minutes later, he forced Avery to palm another shot over the bar.
Overall, it was a good win for a very inexperienced and at times naïve Ponteland who showed their ability on the ball against a team of seasoned mature players.
United will only get better as the players become more accustomed to playing with each other.