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Sayer’s late strike sees Morpeth Town defeat league leaders Shildon

Ben Sayer, who scored a later winner for Morpeth Town.
Ben Sayer, who scored a later winner for Morpeth Town.

A strike one minute from time saw Morpeth Town inflict a first league defeat of the season on leaders Shildon on bank holiday Monday.

Ben Sayer’s goal secured the Highwaymen a 1-0 win in the EBAC Northern League division one contest.

After Lee McAndrew had been denied by an unbelievable goal line header by Gary Brown, Steven Anderson knocked the ball into the path of Sayer on the edge of the area and he hit a curling shot with the outside of his right boot just out of the grasp of Lewis Graham and into the bottom right hand corner.

The result leaves Town second in the table, one point behind the Railwaymen, who did have a 100 per cent league record before the game.

Morpeth made two changes to the side that was knocked out of the FA Cup by Newton Aycliffe on the previous Saturday, with Dan Taggart and James Novak replacing McAndrew and Chris Swailes.

The home side came out the blocks firing on all cylinders, almost taking the lead in opening three minutes.

Kyle Fryatt’s low cross found Michael Rae, whose effort was blocked by Shaun Henderson, but the rebound fell to Lewis Wing 15 yards out on the left and his curled effort left Karl Dryden stranded as the keeper could only watch as the ball clipped the top of the bar and went over.

Some suspect defending then presented Shildon with another chance to take the lead.

David Hiftle was caught in possession by Rae who reached the edge of the area before rolling a shot wide of the post after being closed down well by Michael Hall.

Morpeth then gifted the Railwaymen a third guilt-edged chance in the opening 10 minutes.

Despite numerous opportunities to clear, the Highwaymen failed and the ball was eventually played to Rae on the left. He broke to the byline before picking out an unmarked Brown at the back post, but the defender was unable to slide the ball into an empty net.

After the frantic start, the visitors began to get themselves in the game.

At the mid-point of the first half, Town went close to breaking the deadlock. A 25 yard free kick from Keith Graydon skimmed the wall before rolling into the path of Sean Taylor, who skied an effort from 10 yards out.

Taylor then turned provider, his 40-yard diagonal ball from the right wing almost found Michael Chilton at the back post, missing the striker by mere feet.

At the other end, Ben Wood broke into the penalty area but Hall made a well-timed challenge to clear the ball.

With Shildon pressing on the half hour mark, a miss-placed pass by Sam Hodgson allowed Sayer to break, his 50-yard pass found Taylor breaking in behind the Shildon rearguard but the strikers’ second touch allowed Graham to smother at his feet, turning the ball behind for a corner.

The home side were a whisker away once more as the clock ticked towards the interval. A right wing corner found Rae on the edge of the area and his right foot effort went just wide.

More sloppy play from Shildon allowed Jordan Fry the chance to try his luck. He stole the ball from a wayward pass before playing a one-two with Taylor but could only lof an effort over the bar.

The Highwaymen were beginning to take control of the game. Captain Graydon going close just before half-time with a 25-yard effort that was deflected behind for a corner. The resulting set-piece saw defender Hall attempt to get a header on goal, but in the process he hurt his shoulder, forcing him off with minute remaining in the first half.

There was still time for Shildon’s Daniel Groves to go close. The marauding run of the full back was found by Rae, but his powerful shot went just over the bar.

The second half brought the introduction of Billy Greulich-Smith for the home side, and his physical presence caused problems immediately.

A long ball from the back was aimed for the Morpeth penalty area, Dryden calling to claim but was unable to as Greulich-Smith and Hiftle also challenged. The ball fell to the substitute with an open goal to aim at but he squandered the effort under pressure from Hiftle.

Shildon won a free kick on the right edge of the penalty area after an hour, but full back John Brackstone hit a tame effort straight into the arms of Dryden.

The final half an hour saw Morpeth crank up the pressure.

McAndrew and Novak combined down the right hand side allowing the latter to reach the byline before crossing to Chilton on the penalty spot, his right footed effort was blocked on the line by Brown to deny the Highwaymen.

By now Morpeth had lost their second centre half of the game. Substitute Chris Swailes, who had replaced Hall, had suffered a back injury, forcing Fry into a makeshift centre back role.

Graydon was the next to go close, latching on to a bouncing ball 22 yards out, but his half volley was powerfully hit but always going just over the bar.

On a rare attack at the other end, Fryatt picked out Greulich Smith with a right wing cross only for the striker’s over head-kick to sail high.

On 73 minutes the hosts went close to opening the scoring. A left wing free kick was whipped in right footed by Wing, just evading the boot of Wood at the back post.

Shildon somehow managed to keep Morpeth at bay on 83 minutes. Firstly a left wing Novak effort hit the crossbar before falling to the feet of Taylor, the striker’s effort was blocked by Graham on the line. The rebound fell back to Taylor who found Novak unmarked 10 yards out. His left footed effort was blocked by one of three defenders on the line, with Groves getting the vital touch to deny Town.

The relentless pressure finally told in the 89th minute. Taylor’s right wing cross was missed by Steven Anderson but fell to McAndrew at the back post, who took a touch before unleashing a powerful left footed strike at goal, only a diving header on the line by Brown denying him. The header sent the ball high in 18-yard box, Anderson was the first to meet it, stretching to relay the ball to Sayer on the edge of the area and he finished in style.

Despite the hard work for 90 minutes, Morpeth almost let it slip from the restart. Brown’s acrobatic effort falling tantalisingly over the bar.