Ponteland United 3 Cullercoats 2 Northern Alliance, Nike Division One
This was only one of two games played in the top two divisions of the Northern Football Alliance on Saturday, with unsettled weather bringing wind, rain, sleet and sunshine all in one afternoon.
The weather, however, didn’t detract from an entertaining game. With Ian Mulroy unavailable with a chest infection, Ponteland made one change, bringing in Richard Darwent to lead the attack.
Confident Pont got off to a flying start with a goal on three minutes. Teenager Rory Spencer found Tom Clark in midfield and he, in turn, sent leading scorer Gary Cook speeding away down the left and in towards goal before firing past keeper Dean Avery (1-0).
Nine minutes later, Pont doubled their lead and, again, it was Cook who beat Avery to a through-ball from Darwent and went round the keeper before pulling the ball back to Zac Bewley to shoot home (2-0).
United were on fire and nearly added a third when L’Argent overlapped down the left and fired a cross just in front of the outstretched leg of Cook in front of goal.
Cullercoats were stung by Pont’s blistering start but got back in the game on the quarter-hour mark. Jones looked to have been pushed as he went to head a ball clear but nothing was given and the ball fell kindly to Daniel Irondale in front of goal and he gave Walker no chance (2-1).
Five minutes later, it was almost all-square when the visitors’ leading scorer John Amos got free down the left but his effort to flick the ball past the out-coming keeper didn’t have enough power to reach the goal and the danger was cleared.
Half-time came with Ponteland deservedly in front but still all to play for and the next goal was likely to be crucial. Neither team was willing to concede and fought for every ball.
However, clear goal-scoring chances were limited in the initial period of the second half but there was a game-changing moment on 65 minutes.
The referee had already had a quiet word with Pont’s Dunn but shortly afterwards the teenager put in an aggressive challenge which caused annoyance to the visitors. The teenager was shown a red card, which handed the ascendancy to the visitors.
Despite being reduced to ten men, United still battled away and with pace in their attack were always capable of getting something at the other end.
Strangely, it was Pont who were having the chances and they did have the ball in the net with 15 minutes left. Zac Bewley was free down the left and, although his shot was saved by Avery, the ball dropped to Cook who fired home only to see the assistant referee standing with a raised flag for offside.
They certainly made their task easier with 10 minutes remaining when Cook who had been a danger all afternoon fired a ball across the pitch into the path of Ethan Bewley who let fly from 18 yards and the ball flew past Avery to give Pont the cushion they needed (3-1).
Well into added time, Cullercoats did get a penalty in a crowded penalty box and Amos got a consolation goal, firing into the bottom corner (3-2).
However, time had run out for the visitors and Pont claimed a good three points against a team which, before this match, was five points above them in the table.
This was a good all-round display from Ponteland who had to dig deep after being reduced to ten men. Rae showed composure in the middle of the park but Pont’s back four kept concentration throughout, with teenager Spencer putting in another promising display beyond his years and, with Bewley and Cook upfront, United have a couple of match-winners they have been lacking for a couple of years.