Cramlington Town 1 Ponteland United 2 Northern Alliance, Premier Division
GOING into this match, Ponteland were hoping to keep up the pressure at the top of the league after second-place Alnwick could only manage a draw in their midweek fixture at home to Harraby.
Pont named an unchanged side for the visit to lowly Cramlington Town and despite the home team being in the bottom two were under no illusions this would be a difficult game – and so it turned out.
Cramlington have changed their personnel entirely since the start of the season and have some small and nippy players upfront.
Dummett did well to clear for a corner from early pressure and when the ball came in, Christian Priest couldn’t keep his header down sufficiently and the ball sailed over the bar.
The pace was quite furious with Cramlington clearly up for the challenge. Pont only showed fleeting glimpses of their attacking prowess but a good move involving Redhead and Tulip ended with Davidson’s cross being well-saved by keeper Joyce low down.
Dunn and Ford had reasonable chances in the penalty area but both scuffed their shots and Ford headed over from a long corner by Davidson.
Pont then had two good opportunities with Hodgson miscuing a volley and Dunn with the goal at his mercy glancing his header from Davidson’s free-kick wide of the open goal.
At the other end, centre-forward Simon Wilson saw his fierce shot well-blocked by central-defenders Ford and Anzevui.
Half-time came with honours even.
Cramlington lost keeper Rob Joyce at the break with a knee injury and replacement Nairn found himself facing a penalty 10 minutes after the restart.
Ponteland got the breakthrough when Tulip was charged in the back just inside the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot despite protests from the Cramlington players.
Davidson was experiencing some difficulty placing the ball on the penalty spot and was eventually booked by the referee for not getting on with the game.
Despite the delay, Davidson kept his composure and drove powerfully into the net.
It was expected that the goal would relax the league leaders but it just spurred on Cramlington.
Johnny Lowes’ stunning volley forced a brilliant save from Havelock, who reacted well to keep Dummett’s misdirected header out of the goal.
However, 20 minutes into the second half, Cramlington, to the surprise of everyone in the ground, were awarded a penalty given against Ford for a high foot against a crouching small forward.
Christian Priest, the most influential player on the pitch, fired down the middle to equalise.
Both teams were looking for a winner as the game got stretched. Davidson had a deceptive, long free-kick tipped over the bar by substitute keeper Nairn but, with 15 minutes to go, the keeper could do nothing to stop substitute Gate attacking the ball and glancing a header from Hodgson’s corner into the net.
McIvor came on for the hardworking Tulip and through a combination of strength and quality of touch was able to hold up play a little better for the visitors, who could have had another couple of goals towards the end. This would however have been unjust on Cramlington, who themselves felt they deserved something from the game.
With Alnwick winning at Wark this left Ponteland two points clear at the top of the league but having played one more game.