Alnwick Town 1 Norton and Stockton Ancients 1
Northern League, Division Two
Alnwick Town bounced back from Saturday’s defeat against table-topping North Shields with a battling draw against Norton and Stockton Ancients on Tuesday night.
Things started well for the Northumbrians when Tony Brown put the hosts into a sixth-minute lead from the penalty spot.
Ancients drew level in the 75th minute thanks to a header by captain Michael Jameson.
Both sides had good chances to take all three points in this entertaining Northern League, Division Two fixture.
Town’s best opportunity to make the game safe came midway through the second half.
With the score at 1-0, Keith Douglas was played through, but after rounding keeper David Knight he put his shot narrowly over the bar with the goal gaping.
It was a big moment. Not long after, Ancients equalised. And the visitors looked the more likely to make something happen after that.
Karl Charlton hit the bar with a header, before Town keeper Dan Mullen saved well with his feet from Nicholas Martin.
Despite being pegged back, Town will still be pleased with the draw. The point moved the black ‘n’ whites up one place in the table to fifth-from-bottom and they now have a tally of 32 from 34 games.
The hard-fought draw also saw Town extend their recent run of good form, having lost only once in the last six – and that defeat came against the league-leaders.
What will no doubt please manager Derek Atwell is the way his side defended when sixth-placed Ancients equalised with 15 minutes to go.
The hosts stood firm and resolute to hold out for a well-deserved point. Particularly impressive for the home side was keeper Dan Mullen and right-back Gloire Mbiavanga.
Mullen pulled off a number of saves, including that stop against Martin late on. He also acrobatically tipped a fierce shot from Marcus Laing over the bar – albeit the referee had already blown up for a foul.
Mbiavanga meanwhile gave an assured performance at full-back and made a last-ditch tackle in the box to deny a goal-bound Ancient effort in the second period.
At the other end, Town had their moments, with Douglas going closest in each half. In the first period, he tried to curl an effort into the far corner, but his shot skimmed the bar.
Then came that second-half opportunity. After taking the ball round the keeper, his pushed his shot narrowly over from just inside the box.
Town may look at Tuesday’s match as an opportunity missed, but they will be pleased to draw against a higher-placed Ancients side who beat the black ‘n’ whites 4-1 earlier in the season.
Next up is Whickham at home on Saturday.
Alnwick: D Mullen, G Mbiavanga, K Hogg, B Murray, T Macpherson, K Elliott, D Lowes (J Jackson), T Brown, T Vickers, K Douglas, C Graham. Subs: A Makin, B Brooks, R Straughan and S McMullen
North Shields 3 Alnwick Town 0
Northern League, Division Two
Three second-half goals were enough to condemn Alnwick Town to their first defeat in five games at league-leaders and promotion favourites North Shields on Saurday.
Town were without forwards Dale Kennedy, Tom Vickers, and former North Shields favourite Keith Douglas. There was a first league start for youngster Adam Jobson in the centre of midfield, and only a second start for winger Dominic Schiavetta.
The defeat dropped Alnwick one place down to 19th in the table on goal difference, but with other sides around them dropping points, the defeat could have been worse.
In yet another game which was ruined by the windy conditions, Alnwick held their own in the first 45 minutes, restricting the league-leaders’ efforts on goal.
The closest Shields came in the first half was a long range effort from Dean Walker that skimmed the top of the crossbar. Alnwick’s only effort in the first half came just before half-time. With Tony Brown being fouled around 25 yards out, Kieran Hogg’s effort was blocked, and the rebound was drilled at the keeper by Kevin Elliott.
Shields took the lead 10 minutes after the break, as Michael Tait got on the end of a dangerous free-kick.
An unstoppable volley by Ryan Carr a few minutes later put Shields 2-0 up, before the game was sealed late on thanks to Dan Smart.
Alnwick had efforts in the final couple of minutes, but were unable to pull a goal back. A late substitution also saw manager Derek Atwell make his first appearance for the club.
There was no disgrace in losing to the champions elect, but Alnwick will be disappointed following a strong first-half showing where they defied North Shields’ lofty league status.
Alnwick: D Mullen, G Mbiavanga, K Hogg, B Murray, T Macpherson, K Elliott, T Brown, A Jobson, C Fawcett, D Schiavetta (D Atwell), A Makin (D Lowes). Not used: B Brooks.