10-man United grab a share of the spoils

Ponteland United 3 Birtley St Joseph’s 3 Northern Alliance, Division One

UNITED started the new season with a tricky encounter against newly-promoted Birtley St Joseph’s at the Leisure Centre ground.

Boss Havelock, who had missed most of the close season coaching in Switzerland, gave debuts to Amir Nehar and striker Liam Anderson.

The visitors showed in the early stages why they had been promoted with some good passing on Ponteland’s large pitch.

On 20 minutes, we saw the danger of Anderson when he collected a flicked pass from Rae and got his shot away but just wide of the post.

Troughton for Birtley had to leave the field injured and was replaced by Damien Stevens and he had only been on the field for a few minutes before he was through on goal but slipped his shot just wide of the upright.

The miss proved costly – on 25 minutes, United took the lead with a well-worked goal.

Nehar found Anderson, who turned his man and sped for the goal-line before squaring unselfishly into the path of Dunn to side-foot home.

Ten minutes later, Anderson again found Dunn racing clear of the defence towards goal but he was denied by a last-ditch tackle.

Moments later, Ponteland should have increased their lead and again it was Anderson heavily involved. His shot from the right was well saved by Paul Barrett but neither Dunn nor Davidson could force home the rebound.

Rae was booked towards the end of the half after a minor scuffle with Irving.

Half-time came with United just deserving their narrow lead. Pont carried on in the second half where they left off, with Davidson being denied by Barret after being teed up by Dunn after an excellent run.

It then all went wrong for Ponteland when they were awarded a free-kick 10 minutes into the half.

Something happened in the penalty area and Rae was shown a second yellow, reducing his side to 10 men.

It then went from bad to worse when Guy equalised from a cross by Cuthbertson.

This gave the visitors some encouragement but Pont should have restored their lead when L’Argent advanced down the left, crossed an inch-perfect pass in front of goal but, with the goal at his mercy, Dunn somehow got the ball stuck under his feet and the chance went begging.

No sooner were Ponteland ruing the missed chance than Birtley were in front through centre-forward Cuthbertson.

Despite the man advantage, they didn’t keep their lead for long, with Anderson drilling a shot into the net from the left three minutes later.

It was an even contest despite the disparity in numbers and Ponteland preferring to attack than defend in numbers.

Their instincts were rewarded with 15 minutes remaining when Scott leaped high above everyone else to head home Hodgson’s corner to put them back in front.

United looked to shore things up and, as the minutes ticked away, it looked as though the 10 men had done sufficient for a deserved victory but almost with the last kick of the game Lee Cuthbertson hit an unstoppable half-volley into the far corner giving Blair no chance.