Top two share the spoils

Action from Alnwick Town v Ponteland United. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Action from Alnwick Town v Ponteland United. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Alnwick Town 2 Ponteland United 2 Northern Alliance, Premier Division

WITH Alnwick Town three points behind league leaders Ponteland United, but with two games in hand, this was a crucial match in the final run-in.

More than 200 people turned out in force to watch an enthralling and pulsating encounter between the top two teams in the league.

The teams started their campaign on Auust 14, when Alnwick Town visited the Leisure Centre and came away with a 2–2 draw.

Ten of their starting 11 which started that game started the match today. Liam McIvor, who has recently returned to action from a long-term cruciate ligament injury, missed the game with a hamstring problem which was a big blow for Ponteland.

It was the league leaders who got off to a good start with midfielder Dean Gate nipping in to clip the ball in off the post from Kents excellent cross after good work by Redhead.

The eight minute lead was, however, short-lived for two minutes later Tony Brown stooped to head a low corner powerfully into the visitors’ net. The half continued at a pulsating pace with the five-man Alnwick midfield looking sharper than their opponents but despite their greater possession found the United back four resolute.

On 25 minutes, the home side got their noses in front, albeit in a fortuitous manner. A free-kick on the edge of the centre circle was floated forward and the ball glanced off the top of Gate’s head and over his keeper Powell to give Town some encouragement.

A careless pass by Davidson went to Town’s Chris Moffatt in a central position, but thankfully for Pont he dragged his shot wide of the upright when well-placed. Moffatt was then thwarted by keeper Powell, who got down well to push the Alnwick forward’s volley from Scott McMullan’s cross round the post.

Alnwick were in the ascendency and Dale Kennedy missed the best chance of the half, finding himself in front of goal following a slip on the turf by the reliable Anzevui put under pressure by Hodgson’s casual ball but the striker also missed the target. Powell then made a couple of crucial saves to keep Ponteland in the game to deny both Kennedy and Moffatt.

Almost before half-time, Pont nearly equalised when Kent’s volley from Ford’s knock-down was brilliantly tipped round the post by Brooks and then Kent’s control just let him down at the vital moment allowing Brooks to gather.

Half-time: Alnwick 2 Ponteland United 1.

Five minutes into the second-half, Hodgson volleyed past keeper Brooks from 23 yards to restore parity.

Pont pressed for a third and a neat move involving Dunn and Dummett ended with Tulip clipping the overlapping Dummett’s cross just over the bar.

A clearance was charged down by Davidson and Brooks pulled off another good save, tipping the ball for a corner to keep the scores level. From the corner, the ball was cleared to Kent, who found Davidson, but he was just unable to flick it over the on-rushing keeper with the goal at his mercy.

Willis came on for Davidson and his more direct play forced Alnwick on the back foot and they conceded a free-kick just outside the box near the goal line. No one was able to get on the end of the low cross and the danger was cleared. Alnwick rarely threatened Ponteland in the second-half and managed to hold on for a well-deserved draw.

It’s probably fair to say that Ponteland, from their second-half display, looked the likely winners, but it was a fair result and both teams deserve credit for producing an entertaining match which because of its importance in the league run-up was more like a cup tie.

A word of mention most be given to match referee Stuart Kyle, who was excellent throughout, although his role was made easier by the sportsmanship of both teams.

The draw was probably a better result for Alnwick than Ponteland but both teams have some difficult games ahead and the league title is by no means over.