Ponteland United 3 Newcastle University 1 Northern Alliance, Nike Division One
This was one of only three Northern Football Alliance games which survived the weather, and although the pitch would cut up it was undoubtedly playable, and an end-to-end exciting game was in store for those spectators who braved the chill.
With keeper Walker working, Stuart Taylor returned to start in goal for the first time since December 6, when United lost narrowly to today’s visitors in the NFA Minor Cup.
Scott returned as central defender in the absence of Paul Jones (holiday), and Zac Bewley returned in place of Chris Hibbitt who broke down in the warm-up.
On the bench for United was recent signing 17-year-old Tom Liddle and, with the county game off, another teenager Havelock-Brown.
Taylor was soon in action denying the Students in the second minute.
United had forced a corner but the Students cleared and broke quickly down the left with Jordon Cross.
He had centre-forward Oliver Walker running fast down the middle in support and, although the cross found him, the ball was deflected slightly by Slade, which allowed Taylor to advance from goal and save Walker’s strike with his legs.
On 15 minutes, Pont took the lead following a good run down the right by Zac Bewley, who played the ball to the edge of the penalty area for player-manager Steve Rae.
The boss dibbled past three players before pulling the ball across goal for Ethan Bewley to tap in at the far post (1-0).
Three minutes later United doubled their lead.
Again, Ethen Bewley was involved, slipping the ball through the defence for Gary Cook to take it forward and round the keeper and into the vacant net (2-0).
On 20 minutes, the Students got a free-kick 28 yards from goal in a central position. The attempt from Jordon Cross was easily caught by Taylor.
Five minutes later, Walker tested Taylor with a shot destined for the bottom corner, but the stopper got down well to push the ball round the post and away from danger for a corner.
The Students had come back strongly from their early set-back and, with their pace, strong running and good movement, looked threatening when counter-attacking.
In one such attack after half-an-hour, James Golby was through on goal and slipped the ball past the advancing Taylor, but also, thankfully for Pont, wide of the upright.
Pont then had to re-adjust when Slade limped off.
Substitute Havelock-Brown came on down the right, with Zac Bewley taking up a central-midfield role, with Rae dropping to full-back.
Scott thwarted the Students as they pressed before half-time with a great challenge deflecting the ball for a corner.
The corner kick was hit low to the edge of the box where the ball was hit on the turn but high over the bar.
In yet another lung-bursting move down the left, Alex Ames played a long, crossfield ball into the path of his opposite wingman Jordon Cross , who had got beyond L’Argent, but again Taylor came out to block the shot.
It had been an entertaining first half and, with both teams possessing pace upfront, it had developed into an open game.
Although Pont turned round two goals up, the game was far too open for comfort with the Students showing enough of their ability, with and without the ball, to remain a threat.
The next goal was likely to prove decisive.
Into the second half and it was Pont who had the first chance when Zac Bewley was played through on goal, but his shot was well saved by keeper Readman for a corner, which was cleared easily.
However, from another Bewley corner, the ball cleared everyone and was heading for goal but cleared off the line by the defender doing his covering job.
Ten minutes into the half, United gave a debut to teenager Liddle, who went to left-back, with L’Argent moving forward to left midfield and Ethan Bewley going up top to replace the tiring Darwent who had worked hard.
With half-an-hour remaining, the move had its rewards.
L’Argent linked up with Cook, who turned well to play in Ethen Bewley, facing goalwards, and the improving teenager dinked the ball over the advancing Readman to give Pont some needed breathing space (3-0).
With 25 minutes remaining, University had a corner which was cleared, but only to the visitors on the edge of the area and the well-struck shot cannoned back off the upright, with Taylor on this occasion beaten.
With 20 minutes to go, the Students pulled one back.
The central defenders had played well but, on this occasion, were too far apart when a ball was played through for James Golby, who ran beyond the defence and shot under the body of Taylor (3-1).
This gave some encouragement to the visitors, but United dug deep to keep the two-goal margin.
Liddle had settled in well at full-back despite not playing with his team-mates before and Havelock-Brown gave the team good balance on the opposite side, with his good control and selfless play.
With University willing to stretch the game, United always had a chance at the other end and, in one move, Cook was denied by a good challenge from substitute Morley, conceding a corner.
From the set-piece, the ball came to Scott, who saw his shot on the turn hit the angle of crossbar and post and down to L’Argent, who looked destined to score with a clear aim at goal but his shot flew wide of the upright.
It had been a pulsating game and, although United rode their luck at times, they had taken their goals well, always looked a threat with keeper Taylor playing his part with some timely and vital saves.