Pont’s power closes gap at the top

Richard Kent on the ball for Ponteland against Shankhouse. Picture by Keith Robertson.

Richard Kent on the ball for Ponteland against Shankhouse. Picture by Keith Robertson.

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Ponteland Utd 2 Shankhouse 0 NORTHERN ALLIANCE PREMIER DIVISION

PONTELAND moved to within a point of Alnwick Town at the top of the league after victory over Shankhouse.

They made one enforced change from the side which comprehensively beat Stocksfield last week, bringing in teenager Marc Findlay into midfield for Dean Gate, absent through work commitments.

With Shankhouse’s pitch unplayable due to frost, the fixture was switched to Ponteland as neither side had played each other this season. The visitors put early pressure on Ponteland when a short corner on the right was crossed high into the box and not dealt with initially by the defence until Redhead managed to clear after two Shankhouse attempts had been blocked.

The visitors also played in a dangerous-looking in-swinging free-kick from the left but the ball travelled through to Powell with James Armstrong just failing to get a touch.

At the other end, the hard-working Kerr found Davidson down the left and his cross was collected by keeper Coleman low down at the near-post in front of the onrushing forwards.

Davidson had Pont’s best chance in the opening period, moving in on goal from Ford’s volleyed pass but his shot went wide of the far post.

After 20 minutes, Pont suffered a blow when reliable left-back Dummett had to leave the field with a pulled hamstring and was replaced by Chris Flynn.

Flynn was quickly into action, stopping the speedy Armstrong in his tracks, but the ball fell kindly to the winger, who produced an excellent left-foot shot which was palmed away for a corner by Powell.

The first half was evenly contested, with both defences restricting their opponents to very few chances.

The second half started with Shankhouse in determined mood and, despite the difficult surface, they passed the ball well.

A hand-ball by Ford just outside the box gave them an opportunity but the defensive wall did its job and the strong free-kick was blocked. Powell then pulled off a terrific one-handed save, diving to his left.

Some anxiety had crept into Pont’s play but throughout the team they continued to battle hard to get back into the game and gradually they got on top.

Davidson played an excellent ball to MacDonald, who turned neatly but his shot went wide.

However, on 68 minutes, the deadlock was broken. A free-kick from the right by Redhead was headed on to Tulip, who found Davidson in on goal and the winger confidently fired past Coleman.

Having got their noses in front, the team noticeably relaxed. Turner came on for Kent and almost had an immediate impact. Kerr, as ever in the thick of things in midfield, won the ball before releasing it to Turner.

The substitute cut inside and then played an exquisite ball into the path of Davidson but on this occasion his shot went agonisingly past the far post, with keeper Coleman beaten.

Wood then came on for Davidson, with Tulip moving to the left as Pont continued to search for a second goal to kill off the game.

Tulip nearly did it but shot wide from Wood’s defence-splitting pass and MacDonald had a fierce volley blocked superbly by Coleman.

With three minutes remaining, Pont doubled their lead. Turner was once again provider, rolling the ball into the path of Tulip, who clinically despatched it into the bottom right corner for the in-form striker’s fifth goal in four matches.