Proud Alnwick Town boss Paul Yeadon praised the efforts of his players for a brave display in the FA Vase, after they were narrowly defeated by higher-level opponents.
The black ‘n’ whites pushed Bradford-based Albion Sports all the way, but were edged out 3-2 in the competition’s first qualifying round on Saturday.
Playing in front of a decent St James’ Park crowd, hosts Alnwick battled back from two goals down before Karl Hall broke home hearts with his second-half winner.
Yeadon, whose side also hit the woodwork, said: “It was a really good performance and I am proud of the players. We showed great character to come back from 2-0 down. They were a good side and I think we just ran out of steam. We had a hard game on the Wednesday before the Vase match and we just couldn’t find that extra gear.”
Match-winner Hall was the thorn in Alnwick’s side, scoring two goals on the day.
He opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a volley before team-mate David Brown doubled the lead just after the half-hour mark.
But Town fought back with two goals just before the interval.
Albion defender James Stansfield headed into his own net from a Kieran Hogg cross to give the hosts a lifeline.
Then on the stroke of half-time, Town levelled. Kieran Hogg was once again the architect, crossing in for Liam Armstrong to nod home.
Albion weren’t to be denied and regained the lead just before the hour mark. Liam Ormsby rounded Alnwick keeper Dan Mullen and passed to Hall who slotted in for his second.
Town nearly made it 3-3, but James Jackson’s header from an Armstrong cross hit the bar.
Despite the defeat, it was an encouraging display from Northern League, Division Two side Town, against a strong Albion side, who went into the Vase clash having won all five of their league fixtures this season.
They compete in the Northern Counties East Football League Premier Division, which is the equivalent of Northern League, Division One – a tier above Town in the footballing ladder.
Yeadon believes the performance bodes well for the rest of the season and epitomises Town’s decent start to the 2013/14 campaign, which sees them in the top-half of the table. It is a huge improvement on last year’s struggle at the foot of the table.
He said: “Playing teams like Albion and being near to them gives us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season, especially as we have progressed a lot since last year.”
Town are away to Norton & Stockton Ancients in Division Two on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.
They were due to play Jarrow Roofing on Tuesday night, but the fixture was postponed because of Jarrow’s cup commitments.
Alnwick (v Albion Sports): D Mullen, D Lowes, T Macpherson, L Armstrong, K Elliott (M Robinson), A Makin, T Brown, K Hogg, S Hogg, J Jackson, J Lowes (C Kidd). Subs: D Hills, P Murray, B Brooks.
Match sponsor: Mark Ryder Plumbing and Heating.
Match-ball sponsor: Andy Law Builder.
Man-of-the-match sponsor: Rob Porteous Roofing, Scaffolding and Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Specialists.
○ Alnwick Town beat Brandon United 4-1 on Wednesday, September 4, in Division Two.
It was the black ‘n’ whites’ third away win of the season and they are still to lose on their travels, having taken 11 points from 15.
The St James’ Park side took the lead in the first half through Alex Makin, but by the interval the hosts had levelled it up.
But Town ran riot after the break and goals from Jake Lowes, James Jackson and Dale Kennedy secured the three points.