United are stung by second-minute goal

Ponteland United 0 Blyth Isabella 1 Northern Alliance, Division One

With defender Scott away on holiday, Joe Slade returned to the starting 11 as did Ethan Bewley, following his two-match suspension, and Ian Mulroy, having recovered from illness which kept him out last week.

The visitors took a shock lead after only two minutes when they stretched Ponteland down the right, and when the cross came in from the goal-line, Daniel Hislop was amazingly on his own with time to control the ball before firing past Walker (0-1).

The same player showed his pace and ability shortly afterwards, going down the right before cutting in, but this time his left-foot shot went way over the bar.

At the other end, Joe Slade overlapped down the right and he too got to the goal-line but couldn’t quite turn the ball back sufficiently for Pont’s leading scorer Cook.

After 15 minutes, Clark was brought down in midfield. Although he struggled on for a few minutes, he eventually had to leave the field and be replaced by Dunn.

This brought a tactical change, with Rae moving inside and Dunn out to the left.

The composure and experience of Rae in midfield gave Pont an element of control, after their sluggish opening period as they looked to get back into the game.

On 20 minutes, Cook received a pass from Zac Bewley and neatly went round the keeper and, somehow, with the goal at his mercy, the ball got stuck under his feet and the opportunity was lost.

Five minutes later, Slade found Ethen Bewley down the right and the teenager quickly brought the ball under control before crossing for Cook, but the striker didn’t quite connect.

On 35 minutes, Blyth, who were having some success down the right nearly increased their lead when they won a free-kick.

From the set-piece, they headed goalwards but the ball clipped the top of the bar and over.

Hislop and Jordan were showing good touch and speed for the visitors. Hislop nearly scored again when he dribbled past Jones, but his shot was off-target and didn’t trouble Walker.

Despite their lowly position, the visitors were giving good value and Spencer had to intervene a couple of times to clear danger, Walker tipped a goal-bound flick from an in-swinging corner over the bar.

Half-time came with Blyth marginally in front, but with Ponteland thinking they could and should be able to do much better.

Ten minutes into the second half, Rae picked up a weak clearance from keeper Stanwix and dribbled past two defenders before getting sight of goal but shot wide.

Blyth were being pushed back and it just seemed a matter of time before Pont would score.

Zac Bewley cut in from the left and shot well over the bar, and then his younger brother Ethan combined well down the right with the overlapping Slade, whose cross was met by Dunn, but his shot was well blocked by stout defending.

On the other wing, good build-up play with L’Argent and Zac Bewley ended with Rae shooting over the bar with his left foot.

With half-an-hour remaining, Rae curled a free-kick to the back post, where it was met by Spencer, but he couldn’t quite direct the ball on target.

The match was now being played almost exclusively in Blyth’s half, as Pont pressed but there was a reminder with 20 minutes to go when their danger man Hislop got free of the Pont defence and headed for goal but his shot lacked any direction or power to trouble Walker.

The centre-forward on another run then tweaked a hamstring which took the sting out of their attack, as they then looked to hold on to the slender lead which they had taken as long ago as the second minute.

Despite not having the running power of Hislop, Blyth still showed endeavour on the break and full-back Aisbitt got well forward and clipped the top of the bar from distance.

With 15 minutes to go, Pont brought on Darwent for the injured L’Argent and Taylor for Ethan Bewley to provide more physical presence upfront.

The latter nearly worked when a cross by Rae was collected by Taylor to the left of the goal area, but his powerful shot was well blocked and as he struck the rebound goalwards defenders put the bodies on the line to keep their side in front.

Time was ticking away and, after two headers from corners went straight to the keeper, it looked more and more likely that it wasn’t going to be Pont’s day.

Although Blyth deserved the points for a hard-working performance, having taken the early lead, Pont will wonder how they failed to get something out of this game.