Town open season with stirring fightback to beat Esh Winning

Alnwick Town's Tony Brown takes on an Esh Winning player in their opening game of the new season. Picture by Jason Sumner
Alnwick Town's Tony Brown takes on an Esh Winning player in their opening game of the new season. Picture by Jason Sumner
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Alnwick Town opened their 2016-17 Northern League season with a stirring second half performance to come from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at Esh Winning.

The Northumbrians stunned their County Durham opponents with goals from Tony Brown, Liam Brooks, Josh Hay and Brad McClelland to secure the three points.

Town manager Steve Mullen included his new signings and most of last season’s squad, while the home side started with a number of changes from last season following the arrival of a new management team.

Alnwick made a slow and were second best in the opening period, and although they had equal possession, they were caught out by the pace of the home team, playing with two wide players all the game.

Town could have gone in three down at the interval rather than the 2-0 scoreline, but thankfully they were a completely different team after the break, settling into their task to run Esh off the park.

Esh applied early pressure and took the lead on eight minutes when a cross landed at the feet of James Huntley five yards out and he calmly side-footed home, with the Alnwick defence left looking at each other.

Town’s first real chance fell on the quarter hour when Jamie Dixon squared to Brooks, only to see his shot pushed round the post by Esh keeper Mark Hodgson.

But again Alnwick were lethargic and were caught out with a simple move when Brian Harrison scored from close range following a left wing cross, which Town keeper Dominic McMahon made a full length dive to cut out, only to see his effort fall to Brian Harrison, unmarked, to put them two up.

By the half hour Alnwick were playing more as a team, and a move involving Hay and Brooks caught the home defence out, but again the shot went wide.

Ross Gair went close for Town when he ghosted in between two defenders, but was unable to make the move count.

But they nearly went three down when Ryan Burton missed an easy opportunity from only yards out.

The second half started at a frantic pace, this time with Alnwick forcing the game.

And it took only six minutes to make the breakthrough as a cross from the left found Brown 10 yards out and he sent a bullet header past the keeper.

This was quickly followed with an attack down the left, but Brooks saw his bullet shot blocked at close range.

It did not take long for a rampant Alnwick to draw level when Brooks scored.

There was no let up for the under-pressure home defence, which cracked again two minutes later when a terrific three-man move created an opening for Hay to put Alnwick 3-2 ahead.

Esh had no answer to the now fast moving Alnwick attack and dominant defence.

Brooks went close when he out-jumped the home defence, but flicked his header inches wide.

Despite Alnwick’s dominance, Esh Winning were still a threat, and they nearly capitalised on a slick move by Jonathan Yip and Burton, which Alnwick’s back line did well to block at the last second.

That forward foray in the 70th minute proved to be Esh’s last serious attack. There followed a succession of chances for Alnwick, first when Hay set up Brent Aisbitt, whose effort scraped the wrong side of the post, then a Brown effort hitting the upright.

Alnwick deservedly added a fourth near the end when a move down the left saw Hay and Gair create the chance for substitute McClelland to turn the defender and round off a superb second half display.

On Saturday Alnwick are away to Willington, then on the Wednesday they travel to Ryton & Crawcrook, before Brandon are the visitors to St James Park on Saturday, August 20.

Alnwick Town: D McMahon, R Douglas, C Graham, D Lowes, T McPherson, R Gair, J Dixon (B McClelland), T Brown, J Hay (J Jackson), L Brooks, B Aisbitt.