Shilbottle Reserves FC...2 Longhoughton Rangers FC...1
Sportsworld North Northumberland League, Division Two
WITHOUT a win in three months, Shilbottle Reserves finally recorded their first victory in nine attempts, but they had to overcome a hard-working Longhoughton side.
Longhoughton started superbly, swarming over a ponderous Shilbottle midfield. The battling spirit shown by the lads demonstrated how much they have grown as a team this season, resilient, determined and most importantly, enjoying their football.
For 45 minutes, the two teams were matched evenly – mostly a scrappy affair with minimal chances falling to each team. Aaron Beattie had the first of the chances that fell to Rangers with his shots peppering the goal from long range. Fellow central midfield partner Tom Fleet did well to contain the Shilbottle midfield with some strong tackles and excellent interceptions.
At the back, Simon Thorpe was as solid as a rock, cleanly winning tackles, dominating aerial battles and linking up well with the midfield. Special mentions must go to the fantastic strike force of Dom Chapman and Rory Wood. Despite not having a goal to show for their efforts, they most certainly ran their socks off for the whole 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, David Troy, still regaining match fitness after injury, was played out of position and did exceptionally well considering only three defenders were played at the back.
Shilbottle ended the half with a series of corners. This time though, Rangers defended them well, perhaps something they could have crumpled under at the start of the season.
A couple of defensive slip-ups allowed Longhoughton to get behind the back four of Shilbottle, however they were still yet to test the home side’s goalkeeper, as Giles and Linighan recovered and made some great challenges to deny the visitors
Shilbottle brought on James Jackson, who came in to the centre of midfield allowing Jordan Lowes, to switch to the right handside of midfield. For this Shilbottle Reserves looked the better side, with Jackson and Dawson in the midfield setting the tempo.
Ten minutes into the second-half, Shilbottle broke the deadlock with a corner whipped in by Lowes falling to Jackson, who scored.
Shilbottle added to their lead not long after when a long kick forward carved open the Rangers defence for the first time in the game.
Danny Donohoe made a run across the visitors’ defence and Dawson fed the striker, who controlled the ball then unleashed a 25-yard shot past the stunned Longhoughton keeper.
There was nothing stand-in keeper Carl Beattie could do about it. Taking into account Beattie’s lack of experience in nets, he performed well throughout the game by pulling off some good saves when called upon.
However, Rangers team spirit shone through and they reduced the deficit late in the second half. The away support erupted into a roaring, cheering dance of celebration.
It cranked up the atmosphere another notch, especially after a succession of attacks from Longhoughton put intense pressure on the home defence.
Shilbottle had the lead, but it was slender.
Their confidence was crumbling and their crowing support silenced. In the dying embers of the game, Peter Murray had a strong penalty shout after being hacked down in the penalty area. However, the referee decided not to award Rangers a penalty-kick.
Everyone knows that results are all that will ever matter in this business, yet even in defeat, there were signs of a young team beginning to flourish and show their full potential.
Longhoughton Rangers: C Beattie, D Troy, G Leng-Jackson, S Thorpe, T Flanighan, T Fleet, A Beattie, P Blacklock, P Murray, D Chapman, R Wood, L Robinson.
Shilbottle Reserves: Team: J Rutherford, K Lowes, C Linighan (C), J Giles, G Robson, J Donohoe (J Jackson) J Lowes, D Dawson, J Dixon, G McCann (L Pattinson), D Donohoe (W Scott). Man-of-the-match: Jordan Giles.