Carlisle City 3 Ponteland United 1 Northern Alliance, Premier Division
SECOND-placed Ponteland United faced a difficult away fixture against third-in-the-table Carlisle City, who were also looking to do the double over United having been the first side to beat them in the league this season back in October.
Both teams were unchanged. The tone of the game was set by the very first challenge when Ponteland’s Kerr flattened Jamie Heath.
The free-kick wasn’t cleared very well by Ponteland and the ball came to Lucock who fired wide.
Within minutes, Heath obtained his revenge by a late tackle on Salter.
Ponteland won the first corner of the afternoon taken by Davidson but the ball was cleared to the edge of the box and Woolnough completed the clearance.
On eight minutes, Hetherington conceded a free-kick to Ponteland just by the corner flag but, on this occasion, Bradley punched Davidson’s cross away.
The game was being punctuated by a series of free-kicks mainly to the visitors and another cross from Davidson was headed bravely away by Robbie Mather.
The game was evenly balanced in the first 20 minutes but on 21 minutes Pont took the lead.
The hard-working Tulip chased a long clearance by Powell and wriggled his way along the by-line before squaring to Gate who swept the ball home from 10 yards.
Five minutes later, City had their best chance of the opening period when Lucock, after some neat play down the left, delivered a fine ball to the back post but Rooke’s diving header went wide.
At the other end, yet another Davidson corner travelled across the goalmouth and Pont’s captain Ford wasn’t too far away with his half-volley on the turn.
City ended the half strongly with Driver and Murphy combining well but Ford defended well.
Half-time: Carlisle City 0 Ponteland United 1
In the second half, an early free-kick from Heath was deflected for a corner off Gate, putting the visitors under immediate pressure.
The 47th minute corner from Lucock was collected cleanly by the reliable Powell but as he turned towards the goal to protect the ball it somehow finished in the back of the net with the keeper claiming an infringement. This was dismissed by the referee.
Shortly afterwards, Lucock delivered a similar corner and this was headed into the net by Driver but the referee this time blew for a foul by Heath.
City had their tails up with their confidence lifted by the early equaliser in the second half.
On 63 minutes, the Sky Blues went in front.
A long free-kick was missed in the air by Ford, possibly unsighted by the bright sun and the ball dropped at the feet of Jamie Heath who controlled the ball instantly before firing past Powell.
Ponteland were becoming increasingly frustrated as they tried to get back into the game but the game was sewn up on 72 minutes with a fine goal by Murphy.
A right-wing cross by Gillford Park’s Stephen Skinner, making his debut for City, was chested down neatly by Kilgour into the path of Murphy who finished clinically from 18 yards. Ponteland made a double change, bringing on Turner and Wood for Tulip and Davidson.
Ponteland pressed forward to try to get something out of the game but their frustration spilled over when Dunn burst through but was charged off the ball by Hetherington.
The Pont striker made a strong claim for a penalty, which was turned down by the referee but the striker’s continuing protestations got himself booked, with Turner also joining him in the referee’s notebook for contributing unnecessarily to the debate.
City had increased their tempo in the second half and fully deserved their victory and this was a severe blow to Pont in their attempt to stay in touch with league leaders Alnwick Town. Davidson and Kent never got into the game and Kerr and Gate were never able to dominate the midfield.