Another trophy slips away

Action from the Bill Gardner Memorial Trophy Final between Lindisfarne Custom Planet and Ponteland United. Picture by Keith Robertson.
Action from the Bill Gardner Memorial Trophy Final between Lindisfarne Custom Planet and Ponteland United. Picture by Keith Robertson.

Lindisfarne Custom Planet 1 Ponteland United 1 (after extra-time – Lindisfarne win 5-3 on penalties)

Bluefin Sport Bill Gardner Trophy Final

The last month has seen what has been a good season for the team fall flat, with the team losing four of its last five matches since being beaten by AFC Newbiggin in the Combination Cup Final.

This drop in form has coincided with a series of injuries to key players, including Peter Scott, Steve Rae, Tom Phillips, Richard Darwent and Zac Bewley.

Scott was a welcome return for this fixture, but the others miss out with Bewley being most unfortunate after breaking down in the pre-match warm-up.

The pitch looked good after the previous day’s rainfall and with the sun shining for the midday kick-off, a close game was expected.

The first opportunity came after 10 minutes for Ponteland when a long cross from the right by Joe Slade was chested down by Ethan Bewley for full-back Billy Holden, but he skied the ball on the volley high over the bar.

Five minutes later, Holden in an advanced position was again involved, linking with Dunn and Cook before the ball was cleared for a corner off the striker’s toes as he was about to shoot.

On 20 minutes, it looked as though Lindisfarne would take the lead, but Pont’s keeper Walker made a great save, with Joe Slade completing the clearance.

Neither side was dominating, but, with five minutes to go before half-time, United took the lead in the best move of the game so far.

Dunn, down the left, linked up with Holden, who beat his man in the penalty area before lifting a cross to the back post for teenager Havelock-Brown to head home (0-1).

The teams went in at half-time with United with their noses in front, but there was little between the two teams.

The lead was, however, short-lived – three minutes into the second half, keeper Walker came to collect a regulation cross but got under it, with the ball slipping through his hands and fortunately for Lindisfarne onto the head/shoulder of the lingering Liam Mulligan and into the net (1-1).

The unfortunate Walker would catch 99 out of a hundred similar crosses and was clearly distressed by his mistake. He made amends, however, as a rejuvenated Lindisfarne broke down the right and, with forwards up in support, got his hand to a cross with Scott completing the clearance.

Pont had several players struggling with injuries as the game progressed and lost Slade, who had to be replaced by teenager Spencer.

The confident substitute slotted in at centre-back alongside Jones, with Scott moving across to right-back.

With 30 minutes to go, they also suffered a blow when they lost leading goalscorer Gary Cook to a double injury.

On a break down the right and heading towards goal, he was fouled and had to hobble off the field with a damaged ankle and pulled hamstring.

Cook was replaced by Ian Mulroy, who himself was recovering from injury.

Mulroy went into midfield with Havelock-Brown taking up a more advanced position.

Pont then suffered yet another blow, with Hibbitt unable to run and, although he bravely carried on, he was a mere passenger, which in effect reduced Pont to 10 men.

With 15 minutes to go, Pont got exposed as they pushed forward, and with two forwards rushing towards the goal, Walker pulled off a terrific save to block the shot and this time Spencer cleared the danger.

With the teams tiring, extra-time looked inevitable and, with Ponteland effectively down to 10 men, Lindisfarne had the advantage.

In the first period of extra-time, Walker again kept his team in the match with another one-on-one save, then substitute Nigel Morris, for Lindisfarne, got down the left amid strong appeals from the Pont lads for offside, but his shot across goal drifted agonisingly wide of the far post.

Neither team could take advantage of the extra-time and the game moved to sudden-death in a penalty shoot-out.

Storey and Lowery scored for Lindisfarne, with goals matched by L’Argent and Ethan Bewley for Pont.

Nigel Morris also beat Walker but Pont’s Peter Scott then fired over the bar to give Lindisfarne the lead.

Anthony Fawcett kept the lead and Havelock-Brown calmly sent the keeper the wrong way to keep Pont in with a chance.

However, Ben Miley scored the fifth of Lindisfarne’s clinical spot-kicks to clinch the tie to the delight of his on-rushing colleagues.

Lindisfarne overall deservedly won the Bill Gardner Memorial Trophy Final, but were pushed all the way by a spirited United.

Despite reaching two cup finals, Ponteland were left without silverware.

The only consolation was a well-deserved man-of-the-match award to United’s Billy Holden.