Newcastle University 0 Wallington 1 Northumberland Minor Cup Semi-Final
A SINGLE goal was enough to send Wallington through to the final of the Northumberland Minor Cup on Saturday.
In a highly-competitive and well-spirited semi-final, both sides put blood and sweat into the match that was settled mid-way through the first half by Jake Walton’s fourth goal of the season.
The Greens were given a boost before kick-off with the news of Al Sorrie’s return after 12 weeks out with an ankle injury.
He partnered Ben Fenwick at the back while Mark Jewitt made way to allow Justin Millican to move forward into centre-midfield.
The pristine surface at Cochrane Park was perfectly suited for both sides who like to get the ball down and play and they started confidently.
The trio of Sam Walton, Dan Thompson and Jordan Nellis settled into an early groove and their intricate triangles eventually forced an early opening for the latter but his shot was tame. At the other end, the University were keen to hit the Greens on the counter-attack with their pacy front and wide men.
With ten minutes gone, full-back Trevor Baston kept the scores level with a great last-ditch challenge, which denied what looked like a certain opening strike as a Newcastle University striker was bearing down on goal.
What turned out to be the winning goal did not come as a shock, but Wallington were grateful for an important slice of luck.
After some good build-up play, Sam Walton found himself in a bit of space in which to shoot at goal. His wayward shot was blocked, but fortunately the ball found itself back at his feet just outside the box.
Instead of winding up for a second time, he coolly played it square to his brother who had come inside searching for a touch. From just over 20 yards, Jake Walton drilled his shot goalwards and it almost made its way through a crowd of players unscathed before it took a late touch off a student defender.
With the goalkeeper already committed in a premature dive, the deflection altered the ball’s course and saw it loop over him into the corner of the goal.
The home side almost instantly hit back. A free-kick from the left was met by a striker, whose clever flicked headed just zipped past the post with keeper Chris Straker stranded.
A second goal was desperately sought and Millican did well to latch onto Fenwick’s clever quick free-kick only to see his effort cleared off the line.
From the resulting corner Chris Moffitt saw a half-volley saved, while from the subsequent spill from the keeper, Millican lashed it goalwards from all of seven yards. The cheers went up from all on the Wallington bench as the shot appeared to hit the net and bounce away, but inexplicably the referee waved play on.
Both sides had chances to score early in the second half. For the Greens, Sam Walton and Thompson both had attempts sail harmlessly over. Sorrie lasted an impressive hour before fatigue finally caught up with him, allowing Jewitt to take his place. This in turn gave Moffitt a bit more freedom and the midfielder almost netted his first strike of the season when a cleared corner fell to him about 30 yards out.
With one swing of the right foot, his dipping volley looked destined for the top corner before an acrobatic leap from the keeper tipped it over.
This had followed an equally athletic shut-out moments before when he scrambled across his goal to deny Fenwick’s powerbolt from 40 yards that ended up with him plunged into the back of his own net.
The visitors had more chances to seal it late on as the home side pushed forward, most notably an audacious 70-yard effort from substitute Josh Gilmartin, who spotted the keeper well off his line. From the moment it left his foot, it looked as though it was only heading one place until it bounced inches wide of the post.
The Greens defended resolutely throughout, restricting Straker to very little activity and with it a welcome clean-sheet for the first time in four games.
They will now face Newcastle Chemfica in the final in May.