Alnwick Town endured their first defeat of the Northern League Division Two season with a 1-0 loss at Darlington RA on Tuesday night.
A Mark Sims goal dented the Northumbrians’ fine start to the season, which had seen them go unbeaten in their opening three matches.
Frustratingly, it was Darlington’s first points of the campaign.
But Alnwick will hope to bounce back against lowly Washington on Saturday, who are winless in the league this term and lost 5-2 to Ryhope CW in midweek.
While the black ’n’ whites may have seen it as an opportunity missed against Darlington, they made their superior form count against Esh Winning last Saturday.
Ruthless Alnwick smashed the basement club 5-1, inflicting a third straight defeat on their opponents. An Adam Shanks hat-trick, plus goals from Brad McClelland and Keith Douglas, secured the victory against the division’s whipping boys, who, before last night’s clash with Birtley Town, had conceded 21 goals in three games.
Alnwick went into the match on the back of a fine 2-1 midweek win over Willington and Reserves keeper Sean Straker replaced the injured Dan Mullen in goal. He made a fine reaction save from Adam Knowles from point-blank range early on.
At the other end, Town worked the ball nicely between Shanks, Tom Macpherson and Stephen Hogg, but could not find an end product and the ball went wide.
Visiting Town did break the deadlock on the half-hour thanks to a quick break. Tony Brown was put through on the left and drove a hard cross-ball through the penalty area to Shanks at the far post, who scored with a half-volley from 10 yards.
Esh equalised on the stroke of half-time. Paul Clarke appeared to push the Alnwick defender before passing it to Alan Young who duly converted the chance.
Town regained the lead early in the second period. Esh centre-half Luke Thompson attempted to head back to home keeper Steve McIntyre, only to see Shanks nip in and head past the keeper to make it 2-1.
The black ’n’ whites took control of the game in the 50th minute when Douglas split the home defence with a through-pass to McClelland who rolled the ball past the advancing keeper.
The visitors got their fourth from the spot. Shanks was pushed in the back to earn the penalty, before stepping up to score his hat-trick.
Town’s last goal came in the 70th minute when Kieran Hogg put Douglas through on the right to score.
Alnwick (v Esh Winning): S Straker, M Mbiavanga, K Hogg, D Lowes, T Macpherson, K Elliott, K Douglas, T Brown, A Shanks, B McClelland, S Hogg. Subs: R Straughan, D Mullen, B Robertson, B Murray, D Atwell.