Town stretch unbeaten run

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Esh Winning 0 Morpeth Town 2 Northern League, Division Two

MORPETH extended their unbeaten run to five games with an impressive away performance.

Esh Winning started brightly and nearly took the lead on five minutes when Duke evaded a challenge and his shot just cleared the bar.

But the visitors started to settle into the game and Howes, who was making his first start of the season, linked up with McAlpine on the left and Johnson in the Esh goal saved his first-time shot at the near post.

Another chance for Town came when they regained possession in midfield and Howes crossed to Patrick, who directed his header just wide of the far post.

With Hall and Keenan, who had been recalled to the side after his injury at Washington in the first game of the season, controlling the midfield Morpeth came close again when McAlpine was played in by Howes and Johnson saved bravely at his feet.

The impressive McAlpine almost gave Morpeth the lead on 20 minutes. He collected a loose ball and advanced towards goal where his shot from 20 yards was deflected inches wide of the post for a corner.

After a Coates shot for Esh Winning just cleared the bar, the away side took the lead on 25 minutes.

Dines beat two defenders on the right and swung in a cross that was met by Howes, who directed his header wide of Johnson into the corner of the Esh net.

Before the game could restart, Morpeth manager Nick Gray was forced into a change in goal as Mundy replaced the injured Hogg.

From the restart, Town regained possession and almost increased their lead as Johnson dived to save McAlpine’s cross-shot.

With Morpeth controlling possession, the home side were becoming increasingly frustrated and Ward went into the book for a foul on Dines.

As the half entered the last five minutes, Esh started to dominate possession for the first time in the game. After a slick passing move involving Thompson, Duke and Coates, Mundy saved a fierce drive from Ward.

The first chance of the second half fell to Keenan, who, after drifting past two defenders, shot narrowly over the bar.

The quality in the hosts’ squad now started to show as they had a dominant spell.

Thompson drove over the bar when well-placed and then Mundy made a fine, diving save from Ward. Coates also went close as his drive just cleared the bar.

Esh substitute Mickle went down the left and crossed to Ward who missed the target when well placed.

Mickle again went down the left flank and forced Mundy into making a save at his near-post.

From the restart, Morpeth went straight on the attack and McAlpine was impeded by Wilson 25 yards from goal. Robinson bent the ball round the wall and Johnson dived to make the save.

A neat interchange by Cairns and Patrick on the left released Keenan through the middle and his shot was diverted out for a corner by Johnson. From McAlpine’s cross Keenan headed just wide of the post for Town.

Esh Winning again started to dominate possession and their slick passing game started to stretch the Morpeth defence.

Mundy again saved from Ward and Mickle then fired in a powerful cross-shot forcing Mundy into an acrobatic save.

On 70 minutes, the home side had a great chance to equalise when Duke tumbled in the box and Johnstone was adjudged to have made the foul.

Ward stepped up and struck a powerful penalty to Mundy’s right, but the keeper flung himself across goal and got a firm hand on the ball to divert it wide. He then collected the ball at the second attempt to complete a fantastic save.

He was soon called back into action as he combined with Hall to make a point-blank save on the goal-line to deny Ward from two yards out.

In the 80th minute, Newton, who had been introduced up-front to give Town a more physical presence, took the ball round Megran on the Esh right and played the ball across the six-yard line to McAlpine – who with his back to goal span and smashed a cross-shot into the bottom corner of the net to make it 2-0 to Morpeth.

With captain Walmsley expertly marshalling his defence and some composed play by Johnstone, Cairns and Robinson, Esh Winning were spent as an attacking force, with the last chance of the game falling to Andrews who forced Johnson into another fine save.

Morpeth team: Hogg (Mundy), Cairns, Robinson, Patrick, Johnstone, Walmsley, Keenan (Newton), Hall, Howes (Andrews), Dines, McAlpine.

Esh Winning have a chance to gain revenge when the two sides meet again in the FA Vase on Saturday. The next game at Craik Park for Morpeth is against Hebburn Town on Wednesday – kick-off is 7.30pm.