Ponteland turn giantkillers to make cup semis

Wallsend Town 1 Ponteland United 2 Sagicor Northumberland FA Senior Benevolent Bowl

PONTELAND advanced into the semi-final of the Benevolent Bowl by beating Premier Division opponents Wallsend Town.

United made two changes from the side which beat Blyth Town last time out bringing in Martin Lamb and Jack L’Argent for Paul Jones and the absent Richard Kent. Liam Anderson was moved into the centre up-front to partner Dan Wright.

Just as at Blyth, United conceded early when Ian Graham provided a cultured finish to side-foot a volley past Taylor.

It took a little while for Ponteland to settle on the soft and bobbly pitch as Wallsend played some good controlled football in the first 15 minutes, with Lee Garwood and Craig Burk in particular looking dangerous upfront.

In fact, Garwood had a great chance to increase the score but Taylor saved brilliantly to frustrate the experienced forward.

Ponteland, however, looked dangerous themselves when going forward and, after defending a Wallsend corner, they broke quickly with Findlay playing an excellent ball down the right to former Town player Rankin and his great cross just evaded Stevie Rae in front of goal.

Another astute pass from Findlay found Anderson down the left but his shot at the near-post was well saved by keeper Rikki Donaldson.

With Garwood the target man and Burke’s speed and movement, United had to keep concentrating at the back which they did with timely interceptions.

Burke did get free after 35 minutes as he jinked down the left but his cross floated over the crossbar.

The opposite pairing upfront for Pont, Anderson and Wright, were also working tirelessly and bringing their midfield into play.

A powerful run down the left by L’Argent ended with his cross being flicked towards goal by Anderson but Donaldson managed to tip the shot round the post.

With half-time approaching, Garwood, who was proving a handful once again, wriggled free but was again thwarted by Taylor diving low to his right.

Ponteland would be satisfied after the early setback going in at half-time only one goal down but with both sides having chances, it remained anyone’s tie with the next goal crucial.

In the second half, Wallsend made an early substitution with James Garwod replacing Jordan Jones but the systems remained unchanged.

After some good Pont passing, L’Argent was released down the left and after a forward surging run, his cross was just too high for Anderson at the back-post with the goal beckoning.

The pace of Wright and L’Argent down the left was starting to open up and stretch the Wallsend defence and an equaliser looked certain when Wright broke clear but Donaldson spread himself well to block the striker.

On 65 minutes, Wallsend brought on Tom Malloy for Paul Mills but, with goalkeeper Taylor in commanding form and Peter Scott throwing himself to block Garwood’s shot, Ponteland started to believe that this could once again, as at Blyth, be their day.

Good interplay between L’Argent and Wright ended with a cross reaching Anderson but the ball got caught between bodies and Anderson’s back heel had insufficient power to trouble the keeper.

With 20 minutes remaining, Rankin found himself clean through on goal but again it was the keeper who came out on top. Davidson then replaced L’Argent and, with quarter of an hour to go, Cook replaced Rankin.

On 80 minutes, Stevie Rae in the heart of the Ponteland midfield played a neat ball to Hodgson, who delivered it over the top to Anderson, who took a touch before planting the ball into the bottom corner to equalise. Rae then had the ball in the net only to be given offside.

Pont had their tails up and pushed forward more than at any time in the match.

Anderson turned provider as he went down the right and squared the ball into the path of Cook, who gleefully fired home (1-2).

Shortly afterwards, Rae had another chance to make the tie safe but was denied by Donaldson.

For two cup games in succession, Ponteland had come from behind to clinch victory and reach their third semi-final of the season and keep their excellent run of form going.

It was again another overall sound display, with the defence, backed by Taylor, looking solid and composed, the midfield neat and tidy and the pacy forwards always having a chance of scoring goals.

There is a greater strength in depth and the longer a game goes on, any of the substitutes are capable of making a difference if needed.