Ponteland beaten in extra-time after stirring comeback
After the previous week's league fixture in which Walker beat Ponteland by the odd goal in five, the two sides met again on Saturday in the quarter-final of the Scotts Les Todd Benevolent Bowl.
Walker made two changes with Ethan Tait retaining his place and Jordon Ray coming in for Matthew Haydon and Mikel Thompson.
Pont had to make several changes with Rue, Short, Nisbet, Satterthwaite and Fenwick all unavailable, and they gave a debut to keeper Craig Whinham.
After wind and heavy rainfall in the morning the conditions were no better at kick-off with rain continuing unabated.
Walker settled quickly and were spraying the ball around the pitch before forcing the first corner of the game with five minutes on the clock, but the kick was wasted with the ball going into the side netting.
Zac Bewley at the other end played a ball out to Cook who got beyond his marker down the right before pulling the ball back to Havelock-Brown who skied his shot way over the bar.
Last week’s player of the match Michael Baxter for Walker was then in the action, drilling a left foot shot from the edge of the area but just outside the far post.
The opening goal came after 15 minutes but was somewhat controversial and unfortunate for Whinham.
He palmed out another powerful shot from Baxter and then looked to have the ball safely in his grasp as he dived on top of it under pressure from Salim. But somehow the ball came free and Salim side-footed it into the net with Whinham and Pont’s defence claiming the keeper had control of the ball but the referee allowed the goal to stand after consulting with his assistant.
The goal gave Walker confidence and they should have scored again with a quick break but failed to take advantage of a three-on-three situation when Ethan Tait on the left did not find a colleague with a cross with Pont’s defence fully stretched.
However, on 22 minutes Tait made amends, receiving a ball down the left and going past two defenders before slipping the ball neatly past Whinham.
In a rare Pont moment in that first half hour, a typical Zac Bewley dribbling run ended with him shooting high and wide over the visitors bar.
United had another scare when Holden played the ball back to Wynham and his well struck clearance hit the on-rushing Baxter but thankfully for Pont the rebound went wide and out for a goal kick.
The teams went in at half-time with Walker looking good value for their lead.
Things got worse for Pont five minutes into the second half Baxter showed his ability with a Bewley type run past three players but was then fortunate that his shot took a massive defection and past the unfortunate Whinham and into the net.
This was effectively game over, but Pont thought differently.
Bewley picking the ball up in midfield from Cook and played a through ball to Havelock-Brown who slipped it past Krosbo with 25 minutes remaining.
Shortly afterwards Bewley made another good run before passing to his brother in the penalty area with only the keeper to beat but Krosbo saved easily.
It was much better from Pont, but Walker remained dangerous going forward.
Waters brought an excellent save from Whinham and then Ethan Tait found himself through on goal and past the keeper but the ball rolled away and out for a goal kick.
With ten minutes to go Pont were awarded a penalty for a push on Johnstone and Havelock-Brown converted the spot kick to make it an exciting finish in the heavy rain.
Whinham then produced a magnificent save, diving high to tip a Balmain shot destined for the top corner over the bar.
With five minutes to go Pont equalised with captain Glenn Ford heading in Bewley’s cross to bring about a remarkable come back.
Players had given their all in this second half and the initiative had now transfered to Ponteland with Walker becoming increasingly unsettled after throwing away a three-goal lead.
Two minutes into extra-time Ethan Bewley scored a fine individual goal by going past two defenders and shooting past Krosbo to put his side in front for the first time in the match.
The lead, however, was short lived. Teenager Spencer, who had come off his sick bed to play and clearly suffering as the game wore on, casually dwelt on the ball and was robbed by Salim ten yards outside the penalty area. His first shot was well saved by Whinham but the ball came loose and as the keeper put his hand on top of the ball Salim hammered it onto the underside of the crossbar and into the net to restore parity.
In the second period of extra-time, players were being blocked by tired bodies striving to get the winning goal.
A spark of life came from Baxter eight minutes from the end when he summoned up enough energy to run at the Pont defence and from the right side of the penalty area drilled a shot and on this occasion unlike the first half it nestled into the bottom corner of the net.
Still Pont kept plugging away and almost equalised again when Havelock-Brown fired wide from Johnstone’s pass.
As they pushed bodies forward, Pont left themselves vulnerable at the back and Jason Bates took full advantage five minutes from the end to make the score 6-4 in his side’s favour and put Walker through to the semi-finals of the competition.
For those spectators who had braved the elements and got drenched in the process, they had seen a remarkable comeback from Pont who showed tremendous character to bring about a tense and exciting finish, which seemed unlikely at the end of the first half.
The teams meet once again in a fortnight’s time at Ponteland in the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup.